Entrepreneurship and Career Development

Entrepreneur of the Month

Matthew VanBesien

Entrepreneur of the Month


William Harvey in Auer HallAlumnus William Harvey arrived in Bloomington in 1997 to study violin with the legendary Mimi Zweig. Little did he know then that his studies and training would propel him into an extraordinary and groundbreaking career that includes world-wide accolades for his cultural diplomacy, a not-for-profit organization Cultures in Harmony, and innovative teaching position in Kabul, Afghanistan. The virtuoso violinist and composer recently took time to answer questions from Project Jumpstart about his work as a cultural entrepreneur. Please note that William Harvey’s impressive biography follows the interview.

Jumpstart: What inspired you to start your organization, Cultures in Harmony?

Harvey: After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I wanted to do what I could as a musician to prevent future such tragedies. One lesson learned that day is that we as Americans cannot ignore what the world thinks of us. Through bilateral cultural diplomacy between the US and the rest of the world, we can strengthen the people-to-people ties that affirm what we share.

Jumpstart: How does your current career compare to what you envisioned for yourself as a music student?

Harvey: My career has taken a very different direction from what I imagined. When I studied at Jacobs School of Music (Pre-college '01, B.M. with Highest Distinction '04), I still thought I would become a concert soloist. These days, in addition to my work as founder and director of Cultures in Harmony, I teach violin and conduct the orchestra at Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul.

Harvey in Pakistan

Jumpstart: Project Jumpstart aims to support entrepreneurial activity within the Jacobs School of Music. How important do you feel the spirit of entrepreneurship is to a musician?

Harvey: It is essential for today's musician to be an entrepreneur. While articles in the US typically bemoan the impending demise of classical music, as they have for many years now, it remains vital elsewhere: I live and teach in Afghanistan. Interest is on the rise in Central and South America. I have friends who teach in Kuwait, Palestine, and Sudan. Don't merely think outside the box: throw out the box. Who needs boxes anyway?

Jumpstart: How has the value of entrepreneurship helped you throughout your career?

Harvey: I have always felt that it is more interesting to create a job than to find a job. 

Jumpstart: What advice do you have for musicians who would like to create an entrepreneurial project in music? 

Harvey: Be organized. Musicians often like to be "artsy" and can shy away from the level of attention to detail that is often considered baseline in the rest of the world. Be prompt. Omit no detail. Use correct spelling and grammar. Consider all logistical elements of a project and prepare for them in a sufficient amount of time. 

Harvey in Zimbabwe

Jumpstart: Please describe how being connected to the IU JSOM has affected your career

Harvey: My career would have taken a vastly different direction without my study at IU JSOM. My teacher there, Mimi Zweig, has remained one of my strongest supporters, and I still go to her for advice on everything. At IU, I became connected with the Bloomington Muslim Dialogue Group, and through them, made my first trip outside Western Europe and America: to Turkey in 2004. I have enjoyed returning to Bloomington since my graduation to teach violin at IU String Academy in 2008 and 2013. 

More about William Harvey

William Harvey's Career

American violinist, conductor, and composer William Harvey has appeared as violin soloist at Carnegie Hall with the New York Youth Symphony and has performed concerti with orchestras in the Philippines, Mexico, and USA. Since March 2010, he has served as the Violin and Viola Teacher at Afghanistan National Institute of Music. He is one of the two founding conductors of the Afghan Youth Orchestra, which he has conducted seven times for President Hamid Karzai. In February 2013, he led AYO on a historic tour of the USA that he also coordinated and for which he raised the funding. On that tour, he conducted AYO in his own arrangements at sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. The tour was featured extensively in major media including the New York Times, CNN, ABC, and NBC. In March 2012, Harvey conducted AYO on the season finale of Afghan Star, which was the most-watched TV event in Afghan history, with 15 million viewers; he did so again for the season finale in March 2013. In 2011, he was a guest judge and performer on Afghan Star. His guest appearances on this show and in other Afghan media have made him instantly recognizable on the street to most residents of Kabul.

He has served as concertmaster of the Spokane Symphony, faculty at Indiana University’s Summer String Academy, and a Fellow at Carnegie Hall’s Academy. As a conductor, he has led youth orchestras in Qatar, Mexico, Tunisia, the Philippines, and the USA. Mr. Harvey’s compositions have received over a hundred performances. In 2006, his Cuerpo Garrido won Columbia University’s Bearns Prize. Mr. Harvey earned his M.M. from The Juilliard School and B.M. from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

In 2005, Mr. Harvey founded Cultures in Harmony (CiH). In 2010, CiH was named a Best Practice in International Cultural Engagement (along with the Kennedy Center & Library of Congress) by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy. CiH workshops in Pakistan, Qatar, Egypt, the Philippines, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, and Mexico have benefited thousands of young musicians. Mr. Harvey has lectured about CiH at the British Parliament; at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, Germany; at the Escuela Superior de Música in Mexico; and at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. He lives in Kabul, Afghanistan, where his interests include community service projects and Bollywood movies.