Recently I had an experience that may be of interest to beginning players out there. Conversely, I think that these are the same steps that are taken in taking on any new project or endeavor so this can be adapted to getting a job, or any other collaborative process.
I was asked if I’d participate in a local production of a new play. I knew the director and knew that he did really great work and said I’d be happy to help out.
Step 1. Have a skill set and Be seen.
People need to know who you are and know what you do in order to know to contact you. This also means that you need to know people in your area.
The director asked me to show up and meet with himself and the playwright. I did so. He informed me that another musician was coming who would also be working on the production.
While we sat there drinking tea. We talked about the project. I talked about how we could use sound and the roles of everyone there. The other musician never showed.
Step 2. Show Up / Follow Through / Don’t Flake
This is the biggest step. I can’t tell you the number of people who loose gigs because they just don’t show up.
A lot of it is people psyching themselves out and thinking they don’t have the skills, so they won’t get the gig so why bother?
Here’s a tip – no one ever feels 100% ready. Show up anyways as prepared as you can be and do what you do at the highest level you can. Then at least you won’t spend years later living in regret wondering what could have happened.
This advise is closely followed by – show up on time. Consider this quote from Anthony Bourdain:
Show up on time. I learned this from the mentor who I call Bigfoot in Kitchen Confidential. If you didn’t show up 15 minutes exactly before your shift, if you were 13 minutes early, you lost the shift, you were sent home. The second time you were fired. It is the basis of everything. I make all my major decisions on other people based on that. Give the people that you work with or deal with or have relationships with the respect to show up at the time you said you were going to. And by that I mean, every day, always and forever. Always be on time. It is a simple demonstration of discipline, good work habits and most importantly respect for other people.
(You can read the entire interview here and this is perhaps the only time in my life I will link to Men’s Journal magazine).
So while we were waiting and discussing the overview, the director suddenly said, “Ok it’s almost 6 o’clock – Did you bring a guitar? Are you ready?”
“No I didn’t bring a guitar. I thought we we’re just talking. Am I ready for what?”
“Are you ready to meet with the cast? I want you to meet with them before I cast them and have them all in a room for rehearsal”
We walked downstairs to the studio and there was a group of 14 people there. I was introduced to the cast and then given the floor.
Step 3 – Work WITH people, Adapt and Do You
When thrown into situations like this, I’ve found that you just have to adapt to the needs of the people you’re working with and then work with the skills you have. Since the play was about a Liberian child soldier, I felt that percussion was going to be a key element in the production. I moved out some tables and then had people step in time and perform interlocking rhythms based on some West African drum patterns that I learned and adapted them to the situation to see where the actor’s rhythmic skills were.
Then I had them hold pitches and move them around to a few different chords so se where their ears were.
The whole thing was over in about 15 minutes. The atmosphere in the room was electric. They were psyched about what we were doing.
A day later, I was listed as the musical director for the production.
Step 4 – Do The Work
This is what separates the professionals from the amateurs of the world.
- Professionals develop a set of skills and understand what those are.
- Professionals show up.
- If they know what they’re showing up to – they prepare for it as best they can as time allows.
- If they don’t know what they’re showing up to – they adapt their strengths to the situation at hand.
- Once professionals get the gig – they keep it by doing the work the gig requires. If they need additional skills – they develop them to the point that they need to. The professional guitarist who plays well but needs to sing backup for the gig will shed those vocal parts as much as needed to keep that gig.
That’s it for now!
As always – Thanks for reading!