How showing up on Clubhouse got me to SXSW

I have long held the belief that simply showing up accounts for about 80% of my success. 

Showing up, being curious, and listening louder than I speak has always opened doors that enabled me to take the next steps in my career. 

There is no better proof of this belief than the circumstances that led to my invitation to speak at SXSW this year. 


On January 25, 2021, I joined Clubhouse through an invitation from my colleague and friend, Dana Fonteneau

Clubhouse is a social media app that allows users to participate in audio conversations in real time with other users from around the world. On the platform, users can create or join “rooms” where they participate in live discussions on a variety of topics, ranging from business and technology to sports and the arts.

Although the platform still exists, for three months in 2021, Clubhouse was networking gold. During that time, I participated on numerous panels for conversations about the state of classical music.

Occasionally, there were over 100 people in the room for one of my conversations, which was awesome. 

Most of the time though, I simply had conversations with one other person on the panel and a handful of guests who would pop in and out of the room. I always found the deep conversations with a few people to be incredibly interesting and profound.

Clubhouse was a huge part of my weekly routine, until it wasn’t. Like so many others, I let Clubhouse fade into the background as other things took priority in the Spring of 2021. I haven’t been back on the platform since. 

On January 29th, 2023—almost two years to the day I joined Clubhouse—I received the following email from the incredible Thea Paraskevaides from Artists& that I originally thought had to be some kind of mistake.

Hi Nate,

We met on Clubhouse in the Classical Musicians of CH rooms, and you connected too with AyseDeniz recently! I hope you are well.

I’m getting in touch as I’m presenting a first of its kind classical music showcase at SXSW festival in Austin this 16th March. But also a discussion panel on ‘The Future of Classical — embracing the modern audience’ with other industry speakers including TikTok. I’d love to invite you to join our panel, if it’s something you’d be interested in taking part in? Aurora Mendez who you might also remember from CH is moderating our panel; from Clubhouse to SXSW!

All the very best,


Excuse me what?

A connection I made by showing up to Clubhouse conversations got me an invitation to speak at SXSW?!

Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself on a panel with three other lovely humans discussing the future of Classical Music at SXSW!

Except it wasn’t out of nowhere. 

The invitation came because I showed up. 


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Indigo De Souza rockin’ a 1am set at SXSW.

Although I was told that the conference was a much smaller version of itself after the pandemic, I found the entire experience to be blissfully overwhelming. 

There was music everywhere. 

I’m a music omnivore, meaning I will listen to just about anything if the performing artist has a beautiful story to tell. That makes a festival like SX a dream come true. I was at the conference for less than 36 hours so I clamored to fill almost every second of time listening to amazing artists and taking in the incredible vibes. 

The experience culminated for me in a panel discussion about the future of classical music. Over the course of an hour, we explored the strengths and limitations of the current concert experience and ways to build new audience numbers. 

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Left to Right: Nate Zeisler, Aurora Mendez, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Sheema Siddiqi

I was joined by three lovely panelists for the discussion: 

  • Aurora Mendez, a classically trained violinist, educator, and Web3 developer hosted the panel. 
  • Ayanna Witter-Johnson, is a classically trained cellist, composer, and singer-songwriter.
  • Sheema Siddiqi is an artist community manager, focusing on artist partnerships at TikTok

In our wide-ranging conversation, we covered ways that modern consumption of music impacts how people might listen to Classical music, especially in the era of Spotify, digital downloads, and vinyl record sales. 

I was most excited to have a deep discussion about ways that classical musicians could pave their own path toward finding community. Whether building an online audience or filling a performance venue, we all agreed that community was one of the most important elements of a thriving career in the arts. 

Here is a link to our conversation. Take a listen and let me know what you think! 

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Alexandra Wittingham performs during the Classical Music Showcase at SXSW. Photo Credit: TyneSight Photography

After the panel discussion, the day was capped off by a six-hour Classical Music Showcase curated by the incomparable Thea Paraskevaides who pulled the entire experience together. Thank you, Thea!


Here are some quick takes on the unforgettable experience I had at SXSW. 

  1. Show Up. Say yes more than you say no, especially early in your career. You never know when it will turn into a bucket list opportunity like receiving an invitation to SXSW.
  2. People Care About Classical Music. I was so happy to see well over 100 people in attendance for our conversation. I think there is a lot of curiosity about how the art form fits with the rest of the music industry. From my perspective, with the advent of streaming services, people are willing to come along for the ride and listen to all different kinds of music, which is an ideal situation for Classical Music to be a more integrated part of everyone’s listening portfolio. 
  3. Follow Your Own Path. One thing that rang true during the panel discussion is that Classical Musicians must follow their own path if they want to find happiness in their life and career. If you want to perform in an orchestra, great. If you want to perform crossover music and build an online following, also great. The point is that in 2023, nothing is off limits, you just have to be willing to put in the work. 
  4. Be Authentic. Build your community around your purpose and be authentic about the type of art you want to create instead of trying to be something that you are not in order to chase fans. If you are authentic and true to yourself, your audience will come. 
  5. Classical Music Should ALWAYS Be At SXSW. There is no reason that Classical Music should not be represented at SXSW every year. The nature of how the music is presented, the variety of music offered, and, most importantly, the willingness of listeners to go hear music that they would not normally hear at SX makes for a perfect opportunity for Classical Music to shine. 

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts about the state of Classical Music and its role in a place like SXSW. 

More Stuff From Me!

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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