On the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth day of Cellomas

My teacher told to me:

This one’s for the college bound youngsters, from my own experience and witnessing others. You never know who’s watching.

Oh, musicians. We have our personality knobs turned up to 11, don’t we? Everywhere I turn, be it a sound stage, church gig, or even Twitter, I see fledgling musicians making themselves less attractive to their colleagues and more experienced professionals; a.k.a the people that will eventually be in a position to hire them. I can assure you (although I bet you could have guessed) that I have made an impossible number of embarrassing gaffes trying to look cool, or knowledgeable, or not scared. This blog’s candor is a result of that, in fact. I decided to try to be as authentic as I possibly could, so if I made some sort of faux-pas, at the very least, it would be derived of sincerity and not posturing. So far, so good! Anyway, here are the top 5 things I see repeated over and over that pretty much guarantee that you won’t be popular among fellow musicians or contractors:

1) Complaining.

It does not make you look cool! Instead, you look whiny. I remember admiring this one gal my first semester in AYS, and it seemed that everyone else did, too. For an entire rehearsal, I shut my trap and just observed (never a bad idea, btw) and noticed that she was a decent player, but more striking was that she only had good things to say. Zero complaints! Who wouldn’t want to be around someone like that? Too many twentysomethings complain about working a day job, low paying gigs, early rehearsals, etc. May I suggest you go ahead and quit now, then? Because the life of a musician entails those things…forever. And it’s a great life, if you’d take your cool whining and devote that energy to gratitude. If you’re not tough enough to hack it as a musician, think about mine workers. Boxboys. Armored truck drivers. Marines. And you’re going to whine about an 8am call time? Go change your diaper and don’t expect me to call you when I’m looking for a pro.

2) Showing up late.

Never do this. Ever. Expect your car to break down. Expect your instrument to need repair. Expect those pants to be navy and not black. If your gig is 30 minutes from your house, leave 2 hours ahead of time. Your excuses are not entertaining. I was late for a college gig and not only did I move from principal to the end of the section, I was relieved of my duties after the concert. And I was truly sick! Threw up at intermission! Nobody cares. Deal with it!

3) Drawing all of the attention to yourself.

Oh man, this one kills me! And it still happens in professional gigs, too. There’s one gal in town who talks the most, laughs the loudest, gestures the biggest… you get the picture. People hire her because she’s a known entity, which is fair enough. But lots of people steer clear of her because no matter what’s going on or who is in the room, she is the center of all activity, and a distraction. And God help you if you detract from her spotlight, like I did at a recent gig. At first I was really hurt and surprised that she went nuts on me, but then I realized that a knife in the back is still quite informative. In the end, realize that being the center of attention is not where you want to be in a musical environment. Attention is not always positive, and not appropriate in a team role.

4) Making assumptions.

Powerful people don’t always announce their arrival, drive a showy car, tower over you at 6 feet tall, or wear fancy clothes. While waiting for a guest conductor with a thick accent and nearly unpronounceable last name, a bassoonist joked about a habit he had. Quietly. To me. During the rehearsal, he made mention of this habit and was quite red faced and hurt. It seemed that it was a function of a chronic disease that he had been struggling with. The bassoonist looked sheepishly over her stand at me, and I was left to wonder how he found out. It was only after he had become faculty at the place that the woman who everyone thought was the new maid was discovered to be his wife and translator AND special envoy to either NATO or the UN. She had been walking around before the rehearsal in oversized jeans and a t-shirt: because her luggage had been lost. The next time we saw her was at the concert, looking like a picture out of Vogue in a sharply tailored suit. I am only glad that I didn’t laugh at what the bassoonist said, because she is still someone I run into every few years. A complete class act, she always greets me with warmth.

5) Gossiping about the people who do the above things.

A gossip is only popular at the water cooler. Then you are regarded with suspicion.

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2 Responses

  1. But complaining with a good bass guitar is called singing the blues, and it's an art form. So, it's all in how it's done!

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