Cheryl founded CBE Music, a music creation and sonic branding firm, providing music for films, commercials, web series, promotional videos and sonic solutions for companies and brands of all sizes (From Honey Nut Cheerios to single-person blogs and small businesses). She has produced her own piano pop records, toured around the globe and has had dozens of TV placements. Passionate about supporting musicians, Cheryl hosts popular workshops, video trainings and other valuable resources on her website In The Key Of Success.

Carrie: When did you first realize your love of music?

The story goes like this: my parents took me to a sample piano class just before I turned three years old. I was sitting in front of them, watching the lesson, when they turned to each other to whisper their surprise in how focused I was. At that moment, I turned around, put my finger to my lips and hissed “SHHHH!” They said that was the moment they knew, and probably the same time I knew music was for me.

Creative Spirit Cheryl B. Engelhardt | Artist Strong

Photo by Silas Rossi

It was during this moment Cheryl and her parents realized music was her love and passion. (Click to Tweet)

Carrie: How did you discover your interest in composing music? (perhaps to combine with the first question)

I used to sit at the piano as a little kid and bang out really weird piano pieces. I never added lyrics or wrote pop songs (except for the occasional early-aged attempts) until after college. I wrote a lot of dark stuff. I even wrote my college essay on being a happy kid but writing all this dark music, and how that must have been the outlet for my upsets. Composing came early. Scoring, on the other hand (writing music to picture), came when I was taking some editing classes in college- I wanted to have music for my video projects, so I started creating it.

Carrie: Can you describe your creative process to readers?

Sit down. Write. Send. Revise. Repeat.

Creative process is: “Sit down. Write. Send. Revise. Repeat.” (Click to Tweet)

Carrie: How do you know when a piece you are composing is finished?

The time is up. If I’m writing a record, I always let my fans know when it will be done. If I’m writing a film score, there’s a team waiting for me. I am big on integrity- doing what you say you’ll do by the time you say, and also on accountability. If someone knows I’ve given myself a timeline, it gets done. Otherwise I could tweak forever.

Carrie: How do you take risk in your art?

I always say yes. This in and of itself brings about lots of risks- for example, I just accepted a job musical directing the musical La Cage aux Folles (the movie The Birdcage is based on the play). The music is completely out of my style of writing, conducting, or arranging, so it will be a challenge to dig in and understand the swing of it. Other times, I will get a small idea in my head that I cannot ignore and it turns to reality. This happens so often I actually have to be careful what I think! (This has led me to a 2 week tour around Switzerland, arranging and recording a 2-clarinet, 2-cello and piano mashup of 20 TV themes, and producing one song a month for a year for my fans.)

Carrie: Can you please to describe to readers, what exactly is CBE Music?

CBE Music is my music creation and sonic branding company. It is the LLC I formed when I went freelance as a composer. It started as my artist web page, way back when (which I’ve swapped over to and then I turned CBE Music into a service company. I provide the service of helping my clients say what they want to say and add to the impact of their ad, film, promo video, etc etc, through music. I teach my clients to speak in feelings instead of music, and that it’s possible to get a piece of music that represents their brand within a reasonable budget. Now, instead of standing for my name, I like to think of CBE as standing for Catalyst for Brand Expression.

Carrie: When did you realize your knowledge and expertise could help other musicians?

When I went to Barnes and Noble, looking for yet another book on the record industry to add to my growing shelves of resources, I realized I wanted a brief synopsis of what works and what doesn’t in ONE PLACE. I took this idea to a few music conferences where I spoke, and someone told me I should turn my workshop into an e-course. Once I did this, I started to really see my methods, and through all the trials and errors, what works and what doesn’t. A lot of it comes down to clarity on your intention – what you truly want for your career, and why you want it. And a lot of it also comes down to creating structures for yourself where you are taking actions that matter. When I discovered these two things, I couldn’t keep it to myself. I know so many struggling artists that are looking for the same resources I was, so I decided to start providing them.

Creative Spirit Cheryl B. Engelhardt

One of Cheryl’s many programs she offers via her website In The Key of Success

Carrie: What is the one thing you really want musicians to take away from your program In the Key of Success?

My ecourse “In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump Start Strategy” was the start of my creative-career resource website and the focus is like what I said in the previous answer- to get clarity around what you are really committed to in your career and how to take actions that will get you results you want. When I am coaching artists or composers or other creative career types one-on-one, we also dig into what the road blocks are, and how to start to recognise them on your own and bust past them.

Carrie: Can you please share one story of positive outcome from one of your workshops/courses?

I had one participant in a course who loved music and had NO idea how to apply himself to having a career. He was teaching private lessons for $25 an hour in New York City, barely making rent. After the 2 hour workshop, he was clear on his direction- he wanted to be a composer and collaborate with filmmakers. I worked with him over 5 weeks (one hour session a week) to get specific actions, work on his website, pitching, etc, and within 9 months, he is paying his rent 100% through composing jobs. He wrote this to me a few weeks ago: “This all feels very much like someone taught me to rub two sticks together and I am now standing somewhat incredulously in front of a roaring fire!”

Carrie: How do you balance between all of your many projects?

I have a healthy relationship with my calendar. I treat it like my life depends on it. I trust my past self, who scheduled tasks and actions to take for today, and always think about my future self- will Cheryl-one-week-from-today be psyched that I schedule this task and completed it? If so, then it goes in my calendar. I am also a fan of GIANT sticky notes )1.5 feet squares) that I write the week’s big jobs on and post it on the wall above my computer, just to keep everything present for me. When I get the urge to catch up on Scandal, I look at that weekly list and if it’s not all complete, no go.

“When I get the urge to catch up on Scandal, I look at that weekly list and if it’s not all complete, no go.” (Click to Tweet)

Carrie: If you could select any musical composition(s) to help describe who you are/the story of your life, which would you choose?

Well, I did write a jingle just for myself. It’s adorable. It’s me a year ago.

I also am super proud of my orchestral arrangement and lyrics of my song “Steaming Hearts.” It was written over time, (it started as a poem until the song wrote itself!) when I was angry at my long-distance boyfriend (now husband) but somehow knew I’d get over it. I’d be okay. Even if we broke up, I’d be okay. No matter what, there was hope. So even though it’s a super dark song, there’s a silver lining aspect. I’m kind of a silver lining gal, so this song piece of music feels much more than a song to me.

Carrie: Who/what inspires you?

My dad. Then my calendar. Then my moods. But in reality, I’ve adapted a saying that I stick to: there’s no such thing as inspiration, just action. So if it’s time to write, write. Sometimes you feel like it more than other times. And that feeling has the name of “inspiration”.

Carrie: How do you define Creativity?

I’d default to Webster for this one.

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you take action and commit to your creativity? What piece of advice can you actively take and practice in your creative life? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.

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