Hack Music LA, The LA Phil, and Finding Relevance

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of mentoring students and serving as a fist round judge for Hack Music LA, a Los Angeles Philharmonic sponsored event that brought students from a multitude of backgrounds together for 48 hours of work to compete for prizes through a new venture competition. The weekend was filled with talks, workshops, mentorship and ultimately, a chance to pitch an idea to a panel of judges.


Students self-selected into inter-disciplinary teams, based on their particular interest. From there, they were given time to quickly develop their ideas. It was incredible to see the diversity of thought that came when musicians, entrepreneurs, gamers and coders mixed together to work on a common goal.

Lead by Kathleen Stetson, a graduate of the New England Conservatory and MIT, and Shana Mathur, Chief Marketing Officer at Los Angeles Philharmonic, the event was another effort in a long line of amazing initiatives pushed forward by the Phil in order to allow them to continue to be at the forefront of influence, innovation and relevance.

IMG_20171008_114334.jpgIn a field that specializes in looking back, the hackathon helped the LA Phil–and by extension, classical music–look forward, effectively broadening the definition of success for the organization and opening the doors to a new, diverse group of individuals.

In my mind, this type of event is exactly the type of interdisciplinary work that we should be encouraging our college campuses. This was an opt-in event, meaning that the student participants involved were deeply interested in this type of cross-disciplinary work.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I predict that the pursuit of entrepreneurship by our artist students is probably about 5% of the student body at any given institution. While I am still not convinced that there should be a school-wide mandate for an entrepreneurship curriculum, we owe it to our students to provide opportunities like the hackathon to those that are energized and driven by this work.

This type of work helps our music students broaden their career opportunities by working in collaboration with others and developing a common vernacular. Getting students together from a number of different backgrounds allows an exchange of ideas and also an ability to find common ground with other disciplines.


Taking the lead to host this hackathon did its job of continuing to define the LA Philharmonic as the most relevant Symphony Orchestra in the United States. The value of the experience had a beautiful secondary outcome: It allowed students to try out a concept, learn from their experience and become inspired by the thought of cross-disciplinary work.

What experiences are you exploring on your campus to encourage cross-disciplinary work? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Published by Nate Zeisler

Nathaniel Zeisler is passionate about supporting and developing the careers of artists and artistically minded entrepreneurs. Serving as the Director of Community Engagement and Adult Studies at the Colburn School, Zeisler is working to build a program that offers a menu of services and training to world-class artists who seek sustainable careers, through engagement activities in Southern California. In 2004, Nathaniel founded the Envision Chamber Consort; an organization dedicated to presenting music as a form of contemporary communication. Continuing to pursue connections between the business and arts communities, Zeisler co-founded and led Arts Enterprise, an organization that helps students find sustainable careers in their chosen field. Additionally, Dr. Zeisler served as the assistant professor of bassoon and professor of entrepreneurship at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. As a musician, Nate served as the principal bassoonist of the Ann Arbor Symphony and performed as second bassoonist with the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit. Nathaniel earned his doctorate of musical arts and master’s degree in bassoon performance from the University of Michigan and bachelor’s degree in choral and instrumental education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

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