Running Start Spotlights

Jenny Heemstra

September Interview

Jenny Heemstra, BM Piano 2000

Jenny shares how she was able to use her entrepreneurial skills to create Kolkata Classics, a western classical music concert series in Kolkata, India that also provides health and social services. To bring this project to life, she has collaborated with a variety of people, peformers, and orginzations, to produce something indispensible to her new community. Check out the video below which was recorded live in Kolkata, India as part of this concert series. Also, check out a recent news article the MSU College of Music featured on her:


How would you describe your professional identity in a sentence?

As a professional pianist, I am dedicated to giving a quality performance, open to change, and being a lifelong world explorer.

Can you summarize your current entrepreneurial projects in a sentence or two? 

I am exposing the masses to high quality western classical music and cultivating a new audience in India. I believe a person cannot thrive unless mind, body and soul are healed. To achieve this I partnered with health care providers and NGOs to provide health and social services in parallel with our concerts.

How has your career, project, or initiative been growing and developing since you graduated? Since last year? What are your next steps as you go forward?

After moving to Kolkata, I began building the community organization by contacting artists in my professional network and inviting them to perform here. Many agreed to participate in Kolkata Classics and were intrigued by the idea of using Western classical music to bridge cultures and provide enriching experiences for groups who would otherwise not have access to classical performances. Artists donated their time and talents for two weeks. In turn, foundation sponsors agree to cover travel costs and other logistical expenses.

In the upcoming year, I will be moving from Kolkata. Until then, I will continue to build the Kolkata Classics trust and concert series, and create a sustainable community program for future organizers. I want to spend as much energy as I can with the health series, with strengthening our relationships with our venues, schools and audiences. The bond of community here is amazing. I am determined to leave a legacy for others to build on.

How did the College of Music prepare you to embark on your career?

MSU truly prepared me as a musician and gave me the opportunity to make an informed decision on how I would shape my career. I also met so many students from abroad. I loved getting to know people from different backgrounds. 

What do you think are the most important skills to have as a 21st century musician? As an entrepreneur?      

People skills.  An artist must wear many hats and be proficient at many things.  One must be a great player and a business person; be able to manage concert logistics, work a crowd, and still find time to practice to give an amazing performance.  

It seems you were able to make something huge out of nothing, in a foreign place, and it looks like all you had to do was ask. What would you tell students with an idea that don’t know where to start?

So much of what I accomplished is directly proportional to how much time and energy I invested in relationships with people. Fostering meaningful relationships helped people trust and believe in me and my goals to the point that friends and contacts wanted me to succeed. Accept that plans will be revised, changed and never even used but, more importantly, know where you want to go or what you want to do. You will figure out how to get there.  Expect miracles, dream big and have faith in yourself. Go after what you want, not what you think you can get. At times I am convinced I succeeded by sheer willpower.