Internal statement from the principal of the Royal Academy of Music (London) and the president of the Students Union:
You may be aware that a new member of staff circulated and unauthorised document and a followup email to all students earlier this week. It contained one individual’s observations on professional practice which do not represent the views of the Royal Academy of Music.
The contents of these communications were unacceptable and the member of staff has been dismissed from post with immediate effect.
See if you can identify exactly which parts of this helpful document got the staffer summarily dismissed. It does contain some rather good professional tips, especially in the final paragraph, and not everyone is happy with the staffer’s abrupt dismissal. For those who can’t find the tripwires, we’ll publish the students’ objections tomorrow UPDATE: it’s here). Meantime, here’s the offending memo, lightly redacted to remove identifying names:
Networking Pathway Notes
Just some ideas….
Generally, when musicians are asked to describe a musician with a good reputation, a typical response is:
‘Great musicianship coupled with reliability’
‘Modesty connected with good playing’.
The implication is that building your reputation is about fitting-in and be adaptable. Considering the way you look, the way you behave, how you respond to one another musically, what you say, and what you do not say.
Everyone knows that having a good reputation is important. But how do you get one?
At the very least you need to consider the following tips
- Have secure excellent musical skills, being seen to easily deal with a wide range of musical styles.
- Hide personal stress and tensions, and give the appearance on and off the concert platform of absolute poise and control.
- Choose your deputy wisely. Pick someone almost as good as you so you are considered better.
- Be highly proficient, display outstanding confidence when performing in front of an audience.
- Thank the fixer, or whoever hires you for the work, at every opportunity.
- For you instrumentalists, when sight-reading, look as if you have played it a hundred times before.
- Be polite-Be friendly.
- Avoid emotional displays.
- Be punctual.
- Be reliable.
- Be good company.
- Be collegial.
- Build teamwork skills.
- Join in with the sectional humour. Brass is pubs and pond life is tea queues.
- Be positive.
- Build so much trust that you are invited back.
- Be loyal, and stick with the original date you are offered.
- Be resilient. If it is an outside date try not to complain about the weather.
- Be discreet; what’s on tour stays on tour.
- Be easy going.
- Do not look like they are trying too hard to be charming as this gets you the reputation of being obsequious.
- Know how hierarchies work. For example, how principal players, players ‘down-the-line’ and ‘extras’ are expected to behave. For example, never talk to the carver if you are not playing principal.
- Become familiar with shared understanding of anecdote, caricature, stereotype and jokes. Google them and look on you tube if this is not your culture. For examole, you may hear terms like this:
Fixer = (orchestral manager)
The boys = (other orchestral musicians)
Snow blindness = (no work in the diary)
Kiss of death = (talking to the conductor)
Plan Z = (practise)
Snow blindness = (when a musician has no work in the diary)
B-team = (extra and deputy players who are perceived as second best)
Squeaky = (referring to contemporary music which may sound like a squeaking gate)
Pond life = (string players)
Down-the-line = (playing 2nd, 3rd or 4th rather than playing principal)
Heavy metal = (brass players)
Carver = (the conductor)
Muddy fields = (performing in an open-air venue, such as park or stately home)
Gypos (short for gypsies) = violinists specifically
- Be known as someone with the self-discipline to work alone. If there are cliques at tea-time, wander off by yourself rather than clinging-on.
- Sometimes be willing to take the responsibility of the tuning problem for the whole section, to be friendly and to give the impression of high integrity to colleagues.
- Constantly adjust your sound and pitch to the ever-changing environments of each occasion. And never be belligerent about tuning.
- Accept criticism and rejection and forget about it the next time you meet the offender.
- Consider the clothes you choose to wear off the concert platform, as well as on.
- Look young, up-together and cool in rehearsals, and smart in concerts; this is a superficial and ageist world.
- Give work back to those who have offered you work. Give a leg-up to youngsters and they may remember to pay you back one day.
- Build social skills to enable many friendships and alliances.
- Establish an image of organization and efficiency.
- Avoid drugs like beta blockers and over-drinking.
- Non-conformity is frowned upon nowadays. The days of the hooligan have gone.
- There is an expression: ‘Loyalty won’t get you anywhere’. Expect nothing from others but be loyal yourself.
- If you want to be a leader you have to look the right character; to stick your neck out and to be thick-skinned.
- Remember, nothing succeeds like success. Never tell people you have no work.
- Go to the pub, golf, play bridge, join facebook, Linkd in, twitter, and be clubbable.
- Bring the corkscrew on tour.
- Have the ability to read a map despite satnav when you are sharing a lift.
- Wear earplugs and avoid complaining about the noise.
- Don’t complain if all the necessary players haven’t been booked.
- Play your part, do your thing, head down, don’t complain and keep quiet.
- Keep a list of dressing room and Wi-Fi codes. Everybody will love you.
- Slink discreetly out of double bookings.
- Let the people know when you are running late. Don’t use the starter-motor excuse.
- Be generous with petrol money when car sharing.
- Always dress as smartly as the principal in the section.
- Aim not to have cases or bags on stage.
For those of you who say:
I’m Shy/I’m uncomfortable/ I’m introvert/I’m quiet/I feel awkward networking
Here are some Key tips:
- Focus on ‘giving’ rather than ‘getting’. Offer to help in some way
- Be present.
- Networking is over life-time. Think long-term. Go slow.
- Listen more than you talk. Conversation balance-think of tennis
- Be honest
- Take action immediately. Send email as quickly as you can
- Build friendships
- Go to an event with a small goal
- Take the first step
- Don’t be negative
- Once you’ve connected, move on
- Connect people with each other. Both will be grateful
- Be curious about what is the mutual benefit
- Keep moving
- Asking advice, for example, ‘That’s interesting, tell me more’.
Prestige could,arguably, be seen as completely different. It is about the context. For example
A physical possession (such as a Stradivarius)
An accomplishment (such as being a prize winner or an award winner)
A role holder (such as a principal of a university or an orchestral leader)
Having attended a prestigious school, university or conservatoire
Having being taught by a world-class teacher
Involvement in the in the recording industry and pop culture if one is a classical musician, and vice versa
Prestige is clearly influential, and the possession of it brings advantages. Prestige is a currency; having prestige attracts more prestige.
Prestige is derived from what people think of you. Prestige is about being perceived to excel. Some people seem to be more important than others, and prestige is at the heart.
Prestige brings cliques-and in groups, and everybody else is seen to be, or feels an outsider.
Prestige comes in a wide variety of forms:
It may be reflected in money, titles, by one’s own achievements, by inherited status, salaries, status, dialect and accents, masonic handshakes, having been to elitist public schools, such as Eton, Menuhin or Purcell school, having a fine instrument, such as a Stradivarius.
- Achieving an accomplishment, such as being a prize winner or an award winner.
- Being in a position to hire or fire, such a fixer
- Running your own successful group or festival
- Be adjudicators for professional competitions or eminent awards.
- Learned at a prestigious conservatoire and studied with an eminent player.
- Brass players who come from British brass band tradition and Salvation Army backgrounds are well thought of.
- Being an orchestral leader or principal player.
- Be really well known for having been around for years as a prestigious player. Or be well-known for being recommended by someone who has.
So how do you build prestige?
Discussion points…is this a good or bad idea…?…
- Seek out important people to eat with between the rehearsal and the show. Be seen to be part of the in-crowd.
- Use your ready-built family connections.
- Be recommended by a world-class teacher or player.
- Drink with the right people and become ‘one-of-us’.
- Be involved in the high-end recording, film sessions and pop industry.
- Signal that you are a high quality product. Brand yourselves and namedrop.
- Make a list of eminent people you know, or who you have studied or worked with and find ways to attach yourselves to them. Be in touch with them often.
- Join network groups and connect with your particular niche.
- Appear in a photograph with an important member of the music world, or on social media.
- Apply for as many prizes and competitions as possible. Be seen around the high-end competition arena.
- Be generally seen to be around anyone important.
- Make a list of eminent people you know, or who you have studied or worked with, and find ways to attach yourselves to them. i.e. contact them to ask advice, or arrange a lesson or better still, arrange meet to buy them coffee and ask their advice,
- Find out about network groups. Find and connect with one’s particular niche
- An appearance of prestige can be overtly gained through a public display of one’s expertise through social media
- Apply for as many prizes and competitions as possible
- Use visible sign of membership, such as named orchestra stickers on your instrument cases, club and association ties, conservatoire scarves, lapel badges and cufflinks, etc. Wear them with pride.
- Know the right people. Play golf and fit the role of a person who excels.
Prestige is not always necessarily about actual excellence. It is sometimes about luck. This can be seen in Ginsburgh and Van Ours’ study of the ranking process in competitions. The research was carried out between 1952 and 1991 in the Queen Elizabeth Piano Competition. This international music competition is considered one of the best and most demanding in the world. The research findings showed that musicians who performed at the beginning of the competition were less likely to be ranked in the top group. So the findings of this extensive research indicate that although it pays to do well in competitions, the order and timing of the appearance of the participants in the competition also has an influence.