Improvising is vital in jazz and entrepreneurship, noted Tate Berry, UMKC Student Entrepreneur of the Year. A double major in jazz studies and business administration, Berry is well-versed in both.
“Composing music is a very long collaborative creative process, which has given me the skills to look at intricate problems from a distance and develop unique ways to approach these problems,” he explained in his acceptance speech Oct. 12 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management Entrepreneur of the Year awards ceremony. “I found that music and entrepreneurship coincide with each other, allowing me to recognize opportunities (and) identify needs. And I want to capitalize on that benefit, so that way I can benefit the music industry and beyond.”
Click here to read more about the Entrepreneur of the Year awards, which also honored BacklotCars co-founder Justin Davis.
The best improvisers, he elaborated, can take a concept and play it or make it a 1,000 different ways.
“In jazz, I can take the same concept in two-five,” he said. “I can approach it differently. I can resolve it differently. I can put it in different keys. So that really translates over — for me — to business.”
Berry — who is from Lansing, Kansas — won the Honorable Mention Outstanding Creative Venture prize in the Regnier Venture Creation Challenge earlier this year for a big band concept, one of two ideas he has to harmonize his passions of music and business.
Tate’s Burnin’ Big Band, according to the Regnier Challenge site, is a 17-piece progressive big band merging multiple genres of music and is dedicated to progressing the musical art form. It would offer a variety of services, including live performances, merchandise, and event creation.
“It’s going to double as an event planning business similar to Kansas City Jazz Orchestra,” Berry said. “But a lot bigger emphasis on getting more small businesses involved. It’s going to take a large marketing stance on social awareness issues in America, such as race, gender, LGBTQ+, and neurodiversity.”
He also wants to start an affordable music and entrepreneurship studio.
“(It will teach) a lot of the survival skills and business skills that music school doesn’t necessarily teach,” he added. “But it will also serve as an alternative to music school instead.”
According to UMKC, the Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award highlights one student out of many who exemplifies entrepreneurial spirit and action impacting the Kansas City community in the future.
“Oh man, it’s mind blowing,” Berry said about the honor. “For me, it’s a recognition of my hard work, but it’s also motivation to where I can keep pushing myself to better myself. But also see what I can do to give back to the community, especially since the Kansas City community — especially from the Bloch school — has been so supportive of what I want to do.”
He’s loved his experience in the Bloch school — where he served as Student Association President for two years — and gained leadership, problem solving, and event planning skills, Berry said.
“Every class I’ve taken at the Bloch school has either helped me as a businessman or it’s given me an idea for a business concept or something I can do in my music as well,” he added. “It’s just really just a fantastic place.”
All that jazz
Berry — who started playing instruments when he was 11 — has expertise with all the woodwind instruments, as well as piano, but mainly gets called on to play the baritone saxophone.
Music, he said, has helped him through a lot of adversities in life, including depression and an Autism diagnosis.
“Music means a lot to me in terms of it’s a great way to express yourself,” he continued. “It’s also a great way to cope with a lot of things I’ve been through.”
On top of being a full-time student who is set to graduate in the spring, Berry keeps himself busy in the Kansas City music and business scenes. He is the artist-in-residence at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, where he teaches jazz theory, improvisation, and sound development. Plus he composes and arranges for the jazz ensemble. He also teaches music business at Kansas City Area Youth Jazz and he is an artist and next-generation clinician for the Artist Recording Collective record label.
Audiences can also catch him playing around town in the band Brass Rewind, which plays covers of 1970s and 1980s horn bands like Chicago and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Plus he’s working on forming his own band.
He also does freelance marketing and graphic design work for several small businesses in the area.
“Music and business have been my passions; I didn’t really have a high school band growing up,” said Berry, who pursued music individually in high school after he said the band director told him he’d never get into the jazz program at UMKC. “So I participated in DECA and all the business initiatives in high school. So I didn’t want to leave that behind, but I also wanted to pursue a future in music.”
While he’s currently focused on graduating, Berry said, he plans to continue to pursue getting his business concepts off the ground in the future.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.