Telling the Truth about Injuries

By: Edna Landau

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Congratulations to Patricia Goodson who is Third Prize winner of the Ask Edna First Anniversary contest, affording her a free review of her resume. I am grateful to all of you who submitted questions and will be answering many of them in the coming months. Please keep them coming!

Dear Edna:

How should one handle having an injury? I recall a friend being advised to keep a hand problem quiet as presenters might avoid him, thinking he might cancel. He found himself unable to commit to concert dates because he did not know when, or even if, he would be up to playing again, and he felt nervous about revealing why. As it is not uncommon for musicians to suffer from some sort of career-slowing injury at some point, should we have contingency plans ready? — Patricia Goodson

Dear Patricia:

As with so many situations in life, I think that honesty is the best policy. I have heard of artists who were unable to perform due to a hand injury but who publicly canceled their concert due to the flu.  This can become problematical if the injury doesn’t heal as quickly as anticipated. The flu no longer seems like a credible reason. And who wants to stay home for weeks on end to cover up for a hand injury? Based on my experience, most presenters are very understanding about artists suffering injuries. They take it in stride and may agree to canceling or rescheduling the concert without giving a specific reason. However, they may be pushed by the press for more information, in which case a sprained wrist, infected finger or even tendinitis or a bone spur will not be a cause for alarm. Matters get a little more complicated if an artist has a chronic hand problem and the prognosis for complete recovery is uncertain. Even then, it is best for the artist or manager to be up front with the presenter, saying that they want to help them avert any last minute problems and therefore they are putting them on notice that the concert date could be in jeopardy. In such cases, the presenter might look for a substitute artist who is available, if needed. The presenter wouldn’t be booking the artist if they didn’t admire them and value having them on their series. Consequently, they will wholeheartedly hope for their recovery. If an artist or manager is dishonest with a presenter, only revealing the truth at the last minute, it could cause resentment and erode the trust that had existed between both parties, thereby making the presenter a bit hesitant the next time the artist’s name comes up.

As for contingency plans, I don’t think that most people go through life worrying about what they would do if they could no longer enjoy their current profession. They will hopefully have disability insurance, which will help to mitigate the potential financial loss that could accompany an injury. Artists should also have disability insurance. Beyond that, many artists also teach, or could turn to teaching, if necessary, in relatively short order. They might prefer to go in a totally new direction, such as artistic administration. I think there are enough pressures on any performing artist that they don’t need to live with the constant fear of possible impending injury.  They should trust that if faced with an unexpected disability that brings an end to their performing on stage, they will have many colleagues and friends who will offer their support and help them transition to the next phase of their career.

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© Edna Landau 2012

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