|Posted on May 28, 2012 at 1:45 AM|
Musicians are humans and just like every human in the world, we like to complain. We like to dig our heels in. We like to say “NO!” when it’s just as easy to say, “let’s try it.” So, today’s post is Don’t Be an A**hole. Please.
Let’s start with saying, “let’s try it” instead of saying “no.”
We are all painfully aware that the arts are struggling right now. Struggling to get funding, struggling to get audiences, struggling to pay their artists, struggling to make a career out of what you went to college for. The only good thing about this struggle is that we are starting to get really creative with how we promote and present ourselves. And it’s not just the artists who are starting to get creative and think outside the box. It’s also the executive directors, the marketing directors and the development directors – the folks not typically associated with right brain creativity. But they’re getting creative and they want…no, need our help. If every time they come up with a decent idea, we say “no”, they’re going to eventually stop asking for our help. Perhaps they’ll start demanding the help or perhaps they’ll just give up altogether. Either way, we as the folks who produce the art that people experience need to be open to new ideas. In addition to being open to new ideas, we need to bring our creativity to the brainstorming table, not just expect the other people to come up with ideas. Don’t be an a**hole if someone comes up with an idea. Give it a chance by thinking it through or by bringing a different idea to the table. Don’t shoot it down and then get angry that they aren’t doing enough.
On the flip side of the coin for the management types, include your artists in these brainstorming sessions. They are artists, after all. They are paid to be creative, so encourage them to do just that. And don’t just include them for the sake of including them. Really listen to their ideas and be open to the fact that they may just know what they’re doing. If you hand down tasks from on high without their input and creativity, they will get frustrated and feel used and invisible. You are not the only creative ones in the organization, so make sure that there is a lot of input from the production side of things. In this day and age of budget cuts, we need to work hand in hand to achieve our goals not fisticuffs.
**Gets off soap box**
Along a similar vein of being open, don’t be afraid to look silly.
**Considers soap box, moves it over slightly, and steps back on**
A novel idea that orchestras are trying are playing with the attire and dress code. Perhaps the performance is all music from the 50s, so the musicians are asked to dress in 50s costumes. Will you look silly in a poodle skirt? Oh, yes. Will the audience appreciate it? Totally! It’s a little thing and they like it. It also humanizes the musicians, making them more approachable. Do you need to go out a rent/buy a $50 costume? No. There are ways to create homemade costumes on the cheap, but you have to give it a try first.
At a young people’s concert, perhaps the education director asks the entire orchestra to cover their ears at a certain part. Do it! Do it with enthusiasm! Kids love that stuff! Don’t be an a**hole and roll your eyes at the fact that you’ve been asked to do something silly and undignified. Especially at a young people’s concert, silly and undignified is a wonderful way for kids to learn that the orchestra isn’t just boring old people playing music by boring old dead people.
**Considers the ground and decides to stay on the soapbox**
Be gracious. When the audience applauds, smile. When they tell you how wonderful your conductor is, agree (no matter what). Make them feel appreciated. Don’t ever complain in front of an audience member. When orchestra members congratulate you on your solo, say thank you with some semblance of sincerity.
**I really love my soapbox. It’s comfy up here.**
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Have you tried to be an education director or marketing director for an orchestra? It’s a tough job, especially if you don’t have an assistant or an intern. Think about what they’re dealing with before you decide to have a cow about something they’ve asked you to do. Maybe an opportunity materialized and they’d like to take advantage of it. Remember, they need your help. If it’s in your contract that you need 30 days notice and they’ve only given you a week, consider helping this person and the organization out. I’m not saying you should let them take advantage of your schedule, but if you don’t have any previous plans or if you have plans that can be easily moved, consider taking the gig. They will owe you one and they won’t forget it. If there comes a time that you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, set up a meeting, lay out your issue in a calm and rational way. If you truly try to not be an a**hole, they will appreciate your words and will respond accordingly. That goes for all parties, in fact, not just the artists. Always try to see things from the other side of the coin and ask yourself, “Is it fair that I’m feeling this way? Or did I misinterpret something?”
These are all pretty obvious, aren’t they? However, especially in the orchestra world, there seems to be this mentality of “us versus them” from all parties. As soon as one “side” does something a**hole-y, then the other “side” does something and it becomes a gigantic downward spiral. However, if you refuse to be an a**hole, then no one can accuse of doing just that.
And that goes for everyone.
**Puts soapbox away for the week**
Stay tuned for next week’s entry, KNOWING YOUR VISUAL HABITS, where I discuss why it’s a really good idea to videotape yourself and practice in front of a mirror.