My mother used to tell us, having good manners was not showing off how ‘fancy’ you are but showing respect for other people. You said, “excuse me” if you bumped into someone or made a rude noise or wanted to leave the room. You said, “please” and “thank you” if you wanted something or were asked if you did and received whatever it was. You stood for your elders, or the President of the United States or a guest and gave your seat to someone who needed it more than you. Manners are not knowing which fork to use,when, but a way of showing people you care by your behavior.
Lately, I’ve been talking about professionalism with my musician friends. In the music business, just what is professionalism? I’ve always thought it to be very similar to having good manners, respect for your fellow musicians and their time. Others feel it also means getting music in a timely fashion or knowing a rehearsal schedule in advance.
The term is thrown around amongst my friends in conversation but I want to know what it means to those I work with, too. I know conductors who expect their players to be ready to drop other obligations for their newly scheduled rehearsals. I know singers who think nothing of not giving music to their accompanists, still expecting perfection. I know musicians, in fits of pique, “venting” to musicians who got the job they didn’t, screeching, “it’s not fair” when it probably is. We all have worked with people who feel *they* are the professional but who behave any way but professionally.
I am boring, I admit, because I hate drama. If you sing for me, you receive a rehearsal schedule before rehearsals ever start and an absence sign-up sheet and most, if not all, of your music. You will know five days before every rehearsal what we will be working on so you can work on only that and nothing else. I won’t call extra rehearsals if I can help it and if I do, it will be known to all as soon as possible. If you audition for me, I will calmly tell you if you did, or didn’t, make it when I told you I will tell you. Oh, and no matter what happens, *save the drama for your mama*, because I won’t tolerate it–this isn’t the set of “Glee.” And that’s it exactly–many people, even those who are the supposed “professionals”, think it is the drama and the last minute changes and the lack of schedules because their ensemble should be the only important thing in your life makes you a “professional musician”. I believe it to be the opposite.
The true professionals in my life have been those who respect my time and theirs as well. It is not only letting me know what the rehearsal schedule is that makes them the professional but it shows they are organized and thinking ahead. We all have occasion to have to do things at the last minute but when it is always that way or appears to be that way, it is rather unsettling. And makes me wonder if they are as *professional* as they claim to be.