Creating Professional Relationships
Hi everyone! Welcome back this week. I wanted to dive into something that you’ve probably heard throughout your time in school. Maybe you’ve heard it from a colleague, a teacher, or even a friend. It’s the idea that you have to be friends with all of your studio mates/colleagues. At some point someone probably said to you that it’s a good idea to not burn your bridges with your studio mates; that you should make sure you remain in good standing with everyone. I’ve talked a bit about this myself before, but I think now is a great time to really dive into it. Let’s be honest. We’ve crossed paths with people we don’t mesh well with for whatever reason; perhaps you find the person to be difficult to sit next to in a section, you’re taken aback by their attitude, opinions or beliefs or maybe you’ve shared a negative experience with them.
No one is friends with absolutely everyone they meet. I’ve been in situations where people have made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve had people say inappropriate things to me, I’ve dealt with people who made me feel overwhelmed, and I’ve also simply met people I didn’t enjoy working with. With that being said, have I been friends with everyone at every school I have attended or more specifically, everyone who was in my studio? No, I have not. You don’t need to be friends with people who make you uncomfortable, or people who make you feel bad about yourself. In these instances you need to learn how to put yourself and your well-being first.
I don’t believe that you need to be friends with everyone or hang out all the time, but there should be a level of respect amongst everyone. The idea that these people are the ones that you’ll sit next to the rest of your life, or gig with, is true to an extent. I’ve surely played gigs with people who I’ve gone to school with. I’ve also played plenty with people I’ve never met. There’s this idea that the music world is small, but in reality, there are actually many of us. It’s not nearly as small as we think. The odds of us spending our whole lives the next to the people we went to school with is slim. Sure, a gig here and there. There’s always that possibility, but not your entire career.
So why is it important to get along with our fellow studio mates?
These are the people that you’ll collaborate with for 2-4 years. These are the people you want and need for support and encouragement in your life. When you’re in school, some people are so wrapped up in the competitive aspect that they don’t realize what the assets they have right in front of them. They’re too worried about being the best.
Let me tell you, my studio mates have made me a better player.
These are the people you play mock auditions for. These are the people you sit next to in ensembles. The people you can talk to about lessons and what you’re learning. You work together and motivate each other. While yes, there is an element of competition in school, it’s important to realize that school is an educational setting. The competition is the least important thing. What’s important is learning and having the humble ability to learn from each other.
My time at Mannes was an interesting one. I dealt with those who were more wrapped up in themselves than anything else but I’ve also bonded with those who had the same desire to grow and learn as I did. This drew me to those people, and those people were the ones that opened my eyes to many things. They’re the ones with whom I share my success and losses. They are the ones who help build me up when I’m down and encourage me to reach higher when I’m doing well. Your studio mates are there for support. Your studio mates are there to encourage you to be the best you can be. Your studio mates are important because if they have a gig they can’t take, you might be the first person they call. This is where that element of gigging and jobs comes relates to the relationships you form.
As you progress through school, towards the end of your bachelors, as you pursue your Masters and so on, gigs pop up. Gigs will also pop up for your studio mates. When you’re unable to take a gig, sometimes you’ll be asked for a recommendation. It’s more than likely that that person will recommend you or someone else in the studio. They won't recommend you if your relationship is broken. They also won’t recommend you if you have a bad attitude or you are difficult to work with. In those cases, there might not necessarily be anything wrong between the two of you, it just might simply be because they don’t enjoy working with you in an ensemble setting. This is what this can come down to. This is that, “don’t burn your bridges” moment. Of course, we all want opportunities. We are hungry to network, to get more gigs, and to get our name out there. However, there’s a difference between being humble and hungry, and arrogant and hungry. Decide who you’d rather work with and who you would rather be.
Again, you don’t need to be best friends with your studio mates. It is great to be friends, but it’s also fine to be acquaintances. You do need those relationships too. However, you can't please everyone. You can’t always be friends with everyone, and there’s no need to be either, especially if someone has done something to hurt you and make you uncomfortable.
Let’s talk about this for a minute.
You should not take anyone's nonsense. If someone says something inappropriate to you, it is not acceptable. If someone says something rude or offensive, also not acceptable. Address the problem professionally and explain that the behavior is not appropriate. If a situation has gotten out of control in your studio, reach out to a teacher who is willing to listen and get their advice. In the real world, you might not have that option. Many of us like to avoid confrontation, but in all honesty, sometimes enough is enough. You are not a doormat so do not let people treat you like one. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, speak up and say so respectfully. In the end, these people may have a negative reaction to your strength. That’s okay. They aren’t the people who will make or break your career I promise you that.
So that’s that this week! Always be respectful towards your peers. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re put in a position that makes you uncomfortable, or upset. Make sure you do support those around you and in return, you’ll get support back.
Questions, comments, need advice? Follow Mind Over Practice on Instagram @mindoverpractice or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tune in next week for another entry! For now, have a productive week of positive practicing!