|Posted on May 23, 2012 at 2:30 PM|
We all know to play nice with the conductors, the executive directors and the personnel managers. I mean these are the people who’ve hired us to play music and could ensure that we never work for them again if we perform badly or act like jerks. But these are not the only people who deserve our respect and congeniality.
A wise man (my dad) once told me that you should always make friends with the people who work behind the scenes - custodians, secretaries, stagehands, you name it. Over the past several decades of my dad’s career as a public school music teacher, he has gone out of his way to make friends with the custodians and all the secretaries in the main office. He hasn’t always done this with the administration.
Those behind the scenes can be your greatest allies or your worst enemies depending on how you treat them. If you are kind to these folks, they will be more willing to go out of their way – maybe even break some rules – to help you out. If you run roughshod over them, they can make your life a living hell (and with good reason).
It’s a sad fact that our society ignores, takes advantage and is blatantly rude to the people behind the scenes. These folks deal with stupid, rude, inconsiderate people all day. For a custodian, they deal with people leaving trash everywhere and leaving their room a mess. For a secretary, it’s rude parents and teenagers. Stagehands get yelled at for mixing up chairs or putting a stand in the wrong place.
Simply put, just because they aren’t making the music for the audience or teaching your children, they are still an integral part of what we all do. Show them the utmost respect. And frankly, isn’t this a good idea for life?
Let me give you an example. There is a wonderful stagehand that works with one of the orchestras I play in. Let’s call him Frank. All of the percussionists in this orchestra are really friendly with Frank and treat him as an equal. In response, he does his very best to make sure they have all the gear they need in the right place. Granted, Frank isn’t a percussionist so this isn’t the easiest for him. But he always tries. Also, since I’m not a local musician, eating out at restaurants all weekend gets expensive so I bring a cooler full of food with me. Frank lets me store my vittles in his fridge backstage. I can’t tell you how big a help this has been for me and it’s all because I take time out each concert cycle to say hello to Frank, ask how he is and commiserate with him if it’s a huge stage set-up.
When was the last time you thanked your stagehands for being so quick with striking the piano from the stage and putting the 1st violins’ chairs back? Does it really matter if it wasn’t perfect?
When did you last thank your custodian for emptying your office’s trash?
Yes, I know it’s their job to do these things. But it’s your job to play music and doesn’t the audience thank you for it with their applause? Don’t they approach you after the concert and congratulate you?
The audience doesn’t get to know our backstage friends. So in lieu of a standing ovation, let your local stagehand, custodian and secretary know how much you appreciate what they do. We all want to feel appreciated and those behind the scenes deserve to feel that way, too.
Stay tuned for next week’s entry, DON’T BE AN A**HOLE, where I ask musicians to not be, well… you get the point.