Balancing two careers for more than 10 years, Steven Cohen, ’14 & ’15, continues to combine and stretch his talents in music performance and business in the MBA@Nebraska program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. While taking eight-week courses in the fully online degree, the New York native focused his entrepreneurial efforts and found success commissioning music with composers from all around the world.
“Working with living composers to create new, major works for the horn is very important to me,” said Cohen, who received undergraduate and master’s degrees in music from Nebraska. “The world of classical music has so many composers who should have their works heard. I’ve had the privilege of working with many composers for 10 years, including for my debut album, ‘Cruise Control,’ which featured five world premieres commissioned and written for me.”
Much like a business partnership, Cohen shared that the commission process requires collaboration, between musician and composer. After commissioning a piece from Kevin Day, an internationally renowned composer based in Miami, Florida, and Toronto, Canada, Cohen returned to Lincoln, Nebraska, to perform it. Then he traveled to the University of Wisconsin to repeat his performance for the College Band Directors National Association North Central Division Conference.
“Kevin writes so well for soloists with ensemble. I reached out to him to gauge his interest in writing a horn concerto,” said Cohen. “Two years later, ‘Windborne: Concerto for Horn & Wind Ensemble’ was completed and I was thrilled to share it with the university and Nebraska arts communities.”
Carolyn Barber, Ron and Carol Cope Professor of Music and director of bands and the wind ensemble at Nebraska, shared how the title, “Windborne,” perfectly described the piece.
“It (Day’s commissioned work) seems to fly and has different qualities like a fighter jet, zooming around, and then the second movement is very ethereal and gentle. It has tremendous momentum,” Barber said. “It’s a good combination between composer and soloist.”
Taking commissioning to an international stage, Cohen manages numerous projects and partnerships. This includes working with composers to write music for his horn ensemble, NU CORNO Ensemble.
“Since founding the group in 2015, we’ve maintained relationships with composers around the world and presented concerts through the International Horn Society. My work also led to scholarship and lectures at major national and international conferences, as well as teaching residencies at college and universities throughout the United States,” said Cohen.
When the pandemic shut down face-to-face performances and events, Cohen started exploring educational options. Recalling his business minor courses as an undergraduate student, he selected the MBA@Nebraska, which Financial Times ranked #1 as the Best Value in the U.S. for 2022.
“The impact my undergraduate business professors had on me led me to explore the MBA@Nebraska. Seeing Elina Ibrayeva on the MBA faculty made Nebraska the clear choice, as I wanted to learn more from her,” he said. “Taking courses taught by incredible professors, like Geoffrey Friesen, Roberto Stein and Jenna Pieper make the MBA@Nebraska program exceptional.”
The ability to schedule courses around his personal and professional life also allows Cohen to further his education without compromising his dual careers.
“The program is extremely flexible for anyone looking for a good work-life-MBA balance. The MBA@Nebraska is designed with the student in mind, and it brings together students from all walks of life. Having the opportunity to meet peers from different fields and learn with them and from them has been fantastic,” Cohen said.
In the program, he utilizes his experience in the technology sector at Apple, Best Buy and a Nebraska-based startup, NaviSavi. He also formerly worked at Moncler, an Italian couture fashion company, and Monica and Andy, a luxury startup in Chicago.
“Each company appreciated and found interest in my work in music and encouraged me to maintain my passion in that field. I enjoy finding moments where I can bring one field into the other,” said Cohen, who currently works for Vacheron Constantin, the world’s oldest continuously operating watch manufacturer based in Geneva, Switzerland.
“The tremendous correlation between music and the art of watchmaking makes my role an absolute dream job,” Cohen said. “I’ve already put my MBA to use as many of the skills, specifically from finance, come into play daily,” he said.
Even though an online student, Cohen noted the importance of connecting with the College of Business community.
“My advisor, Kerri Hiatt (associate director of Business Graduate Programs and senior MBA advisor), has been there every step of the way in designing the best program and guiding me through this degree,” he said. “Dean Kathy Farrell (James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business) takes great care in engaging with students and makes sure we know her door is always open.”
Farrell met with Cohen last spring and commended him on earning his third degree at Nebraska.
“Through our MBA@Nebraska, Steven broadened his abilities in sales, finance, management and more to advance both his careers and new opportunities in the future. Those skills help when negotiating performance contracts, leading a team or collaborating on commissioned work with people around the world. That’s the power of business education.”