Even during my 14 yr. tenure as Associate Principal Horn of the Toronto Symphony, I kept up my relationships with the freelancers in the city. Before winning the TSO position I was in the Canadian Opera Orchestra which was then a freelance orchestra ( no master agreement and one contractor). My relationships with the freelance Toronto world were with amazing musicians. They worked hard and long hours, only took their last gig as a measure for how to improve, were entrepreneurial in their financial savvy to be comfortable during “lean” musical times, and were the happiest musicians I have ever worked with.

A group of Musicians performs on stage - Photo Credit Al Kay

A group of Musicians performs on stage – Photo Credit – Al Kay

The lessons I learned from being a freelancer were that 1) the only thing that really matters is how you play right now. There is no tenure, no solid expectation of being re-hired by the same contractor and a no tolerance for poor behaviour. 2) Coming to work late consistently or mouthing off to the conductor or bad mouthing a collegue was not tolerated. The basic tenet was play great, be respectful and have fun! 3)The sense I had was that freelancing was not about getting hired, it was about serving a purpose because you love to play and can bring that and your support of others to the gig.

Serving a purpose is really asking yourself questions about why you are there. What is your contribution to the gig you are on, right now? You act a certain way because you feel it is the right and supportive thing to do. You don’t act to try to get re-hired. Sucking up to the contractor is so obvious as to be humiliating. Insincerity is seen a mile away and not respected. The bottom line is that it is about relationships. The relationship you have with yourself and the quality of relationships you have with collegues, conductors, contractors, librarians, etc.. The more high quality the relationship is the better your experience of the work that you do. The purpose is to contribute your best self and best playing. The end result is a good chance you’ll get re-hired, and re-hired and re-hired because you are pleasure to work with.

Self assessment to fulfill your purpose is critical. That is what goal setting does! It makes you ask questions of yourself to clarify your purpose in being a musician. If you walk into a gig with your purpose clearly defined, then you bring an extremely high quality of contribution to the ensemble that hired you. They will recognize and reward that contribution. Get clear first!