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Networking by Yvonne Smith

1025a be nice

Yvonne Smith and the viola section at the 2013 Grant Park Music Festival

 

Making connections and networking is a huge part of any musician’s career, and the process begins as soon as we begin our musical education. However, the art of networking is rarely emphasized until college or later after we’ve already had (or missed) several professional opportunities. I have been fortunate to have opportunities to perform in professional settings while a student as well as many knowledgeable mentors (including my parents) to offer advice in several professional situations. While I still have lots to learn, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts about networking as a professional while still a student.

Work hard

People who have loads of natural talent may get the attention at first, but the people consistently called back for work are the ones who work hard. Hard workers don’t have to broadcast that they work hard. Their high level of preparation and attention to detail speaks for itself. Which brings me to my next point . . .

Keep your mouth shut

Both my parents are professional musicians, and “work hard and keep your mouth shut” is somewhat of a family motto when it comes to playing music. Harsh? I don’t think so, because remembering this phrase has been key for me in fostering healthy networking relationships. In general, nothing good comes out of excessive talking, especially in a business where everyone knows someone who knows everyone. Not only is it important to refrain from gossiping and complaining about each other/the gig/the conductor/your stand partner, it is also important to avoid talking about yourself and what you’ve done in the past unless someone asks you directly. Those who talk at great length often do so because they feel they are lacking validation from others. We all need validation, but save those long conversations for your friends, family, or significant other. In professional situations, be courteous and friendly, but keep your interactions positive and short. You’ll garner more respect automatically because you aren’t giving others the impression that you need them to validate your musicianship or your existence.

Be prepared

People who come prepared to gigs are much more likely to be invited to do other things. Make every effort to listen to the music and/or study the score before the first rehearsal, whether you are sitting principal or last stand. No matter how “involved” your part is, people notice when you take time to learn your part and how it fits in to the rest of the group before the first rehearsal, even if it’s just your stand partner who invites you to sub for him on a gig he can’t make.

Be happy to be there

A positive attitude goes a long way. No one likes to be around someone who doesn’t want to be there, and therefore, that person usually doesn’t get asked back for gigs. What kind of person do you like to be around? Who makes you feel the most at ease? Strive to be that person when you are in a professional situation, and people will take note.

1025b Be nice - Yvonne Smith

A view from an opportunity I had this summer

Go the extra mile; be patient

Networking takes time because people are involved. Just like it takes time to build a friendship, it takes time to build a network. Take the time to invest in others—this can be completely away from the music. Thank them for being a great stand partner or for sending a gig your way. Be genuine. Treat people how you would love for someone to treat you. People like knowing that they are valued, and they will remember that you treated them well. Your kind actions may seem frivolous, and you might think that no one notices. However, patient, consistent work pays off. This past summer I was given the opportunity to travel and play in a festival with all expenses paid as a last minute sub by a person I had met at a festival the previous summer. I was extremely grateful for this opportunity and for networking in general, and I hope that I can do the same for someone else in the future. Music is such a wonderful way to make lasting friends and impressions, so make the most of your opportunities!


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