“Comfortable shoes and the freedom to leave are the two most important things in life.” Shel Silverstein
How many times have you felt you weren’t important enough? Or put another way, how many times has someone made you feel unimportant?
Donald* conducts a symphony chorus in a mid-sized city. It’s a nice job; he prepares the chorus for concerts several times during the symphony subscription year. He is paid quite well and also teaches at the nearby university. He gets along with the music director of the symphony orchestra, Jonathan*, and is even respected enough to be asked to suggest choral repertoire. The Executive Director of the orchestra, Marsha*, is a huge fan of Donald’s because he does what he says he will do, when he says he’ll do it. And his rehearsals run smoothly; they also begin and end on time.
For each concert featuring a large choral-orchestral work, Donald has about six to eight rehearsals, sometimes more, depending on the work. The chorus is excellent, something Donald works hard on since they are not auditioned. Yes, this symphony chorus is NON-AUDITIONED but you would never know from the way they sound. Jonathan is always pleased with them and with Donald’s preparation.
Unfortunately, this will be Donald’s last year with the symphony chorus. And he is a little sad but not too sad. Because, while Jonathan and Marsha think he is great, the Symphony Board did not and did not renew his contract. Why? Because they say he doesn’t earn his paycheck. His supposed “preparation” doesn’t count because it is behind the scenes and unknown to Board members. After his audition and the first few rehearsals he directed, no one from the Board has come to even one of his rehearsals to check up on him. They have NO IDEA what he does to prepare the chorus, the rehearsals or his consultations with Jonathan. The orchestra and chorus are conducted by Jonathan, with preparation by Donald, so Donald doesn’t usually conduct in front of the Board or the audience. They ignore him at concerts. They make him feel small, snub him and make sarcastic comments about the chorus. He is a non-entity and they will ignore him if he comes to a concert when the chorus isn’t singing.
Last spring, at the last subscription concert of the year (after the Board made a big deal about not renewing his contract) Jonathan broke his ankle at dress rehearsal on concert day. With no time to get anyone else, Donald stepped in. The orchestra was relived. The Executive Director was happy and Jonathan was happy too, or as happy as he could be with a broken ankle. The chorus sounded great. And the Board was stunned.
They were stunned because Donald stepped up and did a good job. They were stunned because when they questioned orchestra members about him, they were pleased with Donald. His conducting of the choral work AND the orchestra alone was quite fine. They couldn’t believe it. Several weeks after, they offered Donald his job back and were stunned when he refused their offer. Why did he refuse? Because the university offered him the position of Dean of the Music Department and he doesn’t think he could do both. He’ll become Dean soon after his last symphony concert. Plus, he is tired of being treated the way he is treated by the Board.
Here’s a lesson; treat everyone involved in your music organization well. Understand what they do and don’t imagine how they do it. You might need them someday and they might not be as much of a gentleman as Donald is.