Social Butterfly or Caterpillar?

by Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

Dear Edna:

How important is the social aspect of one’s career—hanging out at receptions, meeting and greeting other artists at concerts (not my own), cultivating potential donors and charming presenters—in contrast to the time one needs to spend alone with the music? I am not the most social person and I find this public aspect enervating and distracting, but think it may be necessary if I am to be on the “inside track.” Please advise! —Not quite a social butterfly

Dear Not quite a social butterfly:

Although there is no denying that building a successful performing career depends on countless hours of musical preparation, it has become virtually impossible to sustain a successful career without recognizing the importance of good will and interpersonal relationships. A manager may get you your first engagement with a given orchestra or concert series. Your chance for a reengagement may well depend not only on how well prepared you were and how well you performed and engaged with the audience but also, what sort of impression you left on the presenter, their staff and even their donors. (See last week’s blog, “The Art of Reengagement.”) A post-concert reception will generally take up no more than an hour of your time (an informal dinner, a bit more). Donors absolutely love to meet the artist personally, to have an opportunity to ask questions, and to get an idea of an artist’s life offstage. It gives them a privileged feeling and makes their contribution all the more meaningful. It also allows them to brag to their friends that they met artist X—something that is seemingly minor, but incalculable in value to them. You don’t need to reveal anything that would make you feel uncomfortable.  A little speech by you thanking the donors, as well as the presenter for inviting you to perform on their prestigious series is certain to melt everyone’s hearts and leave a wonderful memory of your visit in their minds. This becomes all the more important if your concert was a debut with that orchestra or series and if you don’t have a manager.

Regarding meeting and greeting artists at other peoples’ concerts, this is a wonderful way to open new doors or learn about opportunities that could be extremely meaningful to you. Examples might be meeting a composer whose music you might want to commission, or if you are a composer, securing a possible new commission; learning of a new festival, concert series or performance ensemble that is in the process of formation; meeting a conductor or contractor who might be helpful to you; meeting a presenter who might take an interest in you – the possibilities are varied and seemingly endless. And if you’re really lucky, you may get invited to join the artists for a meal after the concert.  Artists love to let their hair down after a concert and enjoy good food, good wine, great jokes and inside-the-industry stories. That kind of bonding gives potential new colleagues a chance to get to know you and become acquainted with what you are doing, leading to future possibilities for collaboration. In such a case, if it is your nature to be shy, put on your best Academy Award-winning performance and join wholeheartedly in the fun. You can always get up an hour earlier tomorrow to be “alone with the music.”

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© Edna Landau 2011

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