Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do You Really Need To Say Yes?

Now that the busiest time of the year is winding down for many some of us, this is a useful time to ponder the circumstances in which turning down an engagement might just be the best thing. Geraldine Boyer-Cussac has just written a very informative post on 4 money situations where you need to think twice before saying yes to the gig, with the following list of questions to consider when people call:

1. How much does it pay?
2. Does it even pay?
3. Is there more to it?
4. Does it have a set amount of hours?

In addition, I always ask myself these four non-financial questions:

1. Does it overlap with anything already in my schedule? (The first question I ask myself these days)
2. Do I have enough time to learn the music? (Because I have to balance my artistic and financial targets with realistic limits on how much I can actually do)
3. What follow-up work can I get from this? (Because let's face it, we're in for the long haul)
4. Will they even notice if I play really well? (Often people don't, and this upsets me to no end)

What questions do you ask people when deciding whether or not to take a gig? What questions do you ask yourself?


  1. I would also include the transportation as a part of the consideration. First: how long will it take me just on transportation, and second: If I will have to spend extra money on the transportation (I usually prefer to have prearranged transportation or the pay for the gig is enough to cover a taxi ride)

  2. Joanne - you write a blog about collaborative piano....on Tumblr. That is so awesome.

    Yes, transportation and distance are extremely important. I'm playing a gig up in Bradford tomorrow afternoon, and negotiated a higher rate so that the drive would be worth my while.

  3. Good thoughts! I'll bet many of us have taken work and then wished we'd asked some of these questions first!

    I will also add the question that haunts me lately... "Will this gig be worth the time spent away from my family?"

    As much as I love my work, I am very conservative when it comes to hours spent away from home. If the money isn't good, and the music is sub-standard, I'd rather hang out with my husband and kids!

    Just last week I turned down a job because it simply did not sound fun.

  4. Thanks Rhonda! I'm constantly learning how important it is to spend time with family, and often make gig decisions based on that limited free time.

  5. Anonymous12:27 AM

    I landed upon this post, funny enough, after experiencing this situation:

    I recently took upon a gig that required me to prepare an opera as a rehearsal pianist (4 acts, rather popular). It's a friend's production, so I took up the offer. In a span of 24 hours, I realized the gig was:
    - unpaid
    - had a pretty intense schedule (including 18 hours of rehearsal over the long weekend next week, plus additional rehearsals over three weeks)
    - required me to prepare the entire opera in less than three days, with cuts, and not in its original language. The score is also not in the best shape (notes cut out from text changes mostly).

    I mentioned to the friend that this was a tall order, was very reluctant and overwhelmed. I guaranteed no success, but was willing to help. Come first (and tutti) rehearsal (two days later), we couldn't get beyond the first glitches my playing over 20 minutes: tempi were off, wrong notes, etc... I think I achieved a 60% if I were to be academically graded. The friend (who also was MD-ing the show) stopped and replaced me at the keyboard, allowing me to observe. They proceeded to play the rest of rehearsal. I left the day feeling rather discouraged, upset.

    With some time before the next rehearsal, I considered the options:
    1) practice frantically and learn the opera according to the proposed schedule, and devote more time to the production as I can, with an already full schedule coaching and accompanying in mind,

    2) write to the friend and the director of the production, humbly thanking them for the opportunity I didn't fulfill, explaining my inability to rise to this occasion, and suggest that they reconsider my role, perhaps eliminating it entirely (the friend is also a proficient pianist, and can well play the rehearsal themselves).

    I run into many personal dilemmas: I have the urge to redeem myself and my real ability, thus would like to continue this commitment. I don't feel "entitled" to back out either, a common notion many musicians develop for pro bono work (mainly because of no financial compensation, so they compensate with slack professionalism). I feel this one rehearsal has reflected poorly on my skills, leaving a rather bad impression on a handful of professionals I might professionally collaborate with into in the future. I felt rather embarrassed.

    My question is: what is the protocol in these circumstances? I have been accompanying professionally for about a year in a relatively large city, and have never run into a situation like this I acknowledge my faults in this scenario, and would love for your honest feedback and commentary.

  6. Anonymous9:11 PM

    Hi Dr. Foley,

    I really appreciate the post online on FB, but there happens to be followers of your blog on FB who also are a part of your group, who are in the production. Would you kindly please remove the post? I'm so sorry for this, but I think my anonymous state will be revealed, and perhaps perceived very "petty", or "unprofessional". An update on this matter: I have actually pulled myself out of the production. I can also alter the conditions of the situation, so readers can still comment and share feedback, but I would like to have it removed for the while.

    With thanks,

  7. I removed it - thanks for the heads-up. It sounds like you were taken advantage of and made the right decision to step aside.