“The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.” Albert Schweitzer
I tootle along in the local music world, trying to be professional, trying to be kind. My singers will tell you they have rarely seen me upset in rehearsal, even working with some difficult people. I may have a hissy fit later or in the privacy of my own home but not in front of my singers during rehearsals, not in front of other musicians, not in public. And my working relationships with other arts organizations or other working musicians is cordial if not warm and fuzzy!
Imagine my surprise and shock to be snubbed in public by someone whom I thought was my friend, if not a real “bosom buddy,” and someone I have a fairly nice working relationship with. She’s a fine accompanist and quite a good musician but she is a soprano, and every once in a while, she lets her “inner diva” fly. I didn’t do anything to her I am aware of but she’s the type to play the “soprano card” quite often. I might not even be aware of whatever slight she thinks I made. I recommend her, I talk her up and have even used her as a coach but something or somebody had her panties in a twist, and I was the one in the firing line. We were at a local arts event and not only did other people see her behavior to me, but they also remarked about it. I was as embarrassed as could be and left early because I was afraid she would do something else to embarrass me. She has complained to me, back when we seemed to be friends, she doesn’t always get the jobs she wants–maybe her behavior in this instance is why and it’s a pattern.
It really wasn’t fair, but I will guarantee you, the next time I see her, it will be as if nothing has happened. And that has me in a quandary. My instinct is to ignore it and behave normally the next time I see her but should she be allowed to behave that way to me? To anybody? My mother used to say two wrongs don’t make a right but if I behave as if nothing happened, will she feel she can do whatever she wants to me again in public? This is not grade school or even music school–sometimes, I don’t think there is a difference–this is real life. And a petulant soprano who has been allowed to get away with this behavior in grade school or music school will certainly think they can get away with this when they are out of school. The only way I can think of to handle this is to behave normally in public, but not recommend her when someone asks me for the name of an accompanist or a coach anymore. She is a wonderful musician, but I can only wonder what she thought she was doing.
Unfortunately, I had to reject a singer auditioning for me last fall and not for the reasons you think. He has a lovely voice which would be a great addition to our group, but his attitude was awful. I have a very simple audition procedure and he wouldn’t go along with it.
I really believe a chamber choir is a different animal from the usual large choral group. It’s more like a string quartet or other chamber ensemble, especially in the ‘getting along’ aspect. And because I believe that my auditions are designed with that in mind. I vocalize the person after talking a bit to relax them. I have them sing a patriotic song–I give them a choice of two–with and without vibrato and ask them to tell me which is which. I have them sight read a small portion of something we will be singing for that concert cycle and give them every chance to do well. Sometimes, I will sing a part with them–soprano, alto or tenor–if I have any doubts about them being able to hold their own. I interview them and they interview me. This part of the audition process is the most telling. And it’s more about what you CAN do in the future for me and not what you DID DO in the past for someone else.
With this particular auditioneer, it was a question of his not being willing to do what I asked. He insisted on singing a prepared solo and not the patriotic song. He didn’t feel he should have to sight read and didn’t want to be interviewed. Surprisingly, he had no problem interviewing me! It was with real regret I decided he wouldn’t be a good addition because his voice certainly would be. I didn’t want to have to fight with him or have him fight with my other singers–I could tell he would make us all miserable.
I added the interview portion to my audition after our first concert cycle because of a similar experience. This singer’s husband taught music history at a local liberal arts college, and she felt she shouldn’t have to sight read for little ol’ me. Because she was a good musician in other ways, I accepted her. She was a nightmare to work with and wasn’t reliable to boot. I decided there and then to interview everyone.
I’m sure the fellow I heard last fall doesn’t understand why he didn’t make the MMS. But the very fact he probably doesn’t understand is the reason.
Re the accompanist, was alcohol possibly involved? It can make me people batty!
Marie Grass Amenta says
Thanks for your comment, Tim. Could be, she does love her cocktails!