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Today we were visiting Highland Manor in Owen Sound. This is a luxurious and exquisitely cared for Bed and Breakfast owned by our friends Linda and Paul. When my sons mentioned that they were interested in being entrepreneurs, Paul spoke eloquently about how, after running 9 successful businesses, he and Linda had reduced “being successful” to the following 3 points:

1) Competence

2) Integrity

3) Customer service

Wrap those 3 points in Consistency.

Being a musician is being an entrepreneur. Even in a symphony orchestra “job” you are self-employed and contract your services out to the orchestra on an annual basis. The advice here applies completely.

1) Ability to perform the task at hand. That really is a no-brainer BUT I see so many young musicians who think they should be given the opportunities but cannot actually come through with the “goods” because to lack of experience or curiosity or training. Being curious may be the most important part of this acquisition of abilities. What does it take to be able to produce the best results for your position? (Professionalism, accuracy, confidence, great intonation, technical security, phrasing, colours, inspiration, stage presence, etc..) Aspire to excellence and push your abilities daily. Take lessons, get coachings, keep recording yourself, improve your listening, sound production, technique, artistry and rhythmic skills ongoing. These skills, if continually improved, no matter what level you are at, will insure you are always able to be competent for your business. I know business people in every profession continually improve their skills daily.

Speaker at Humber College - Photo Credit Al Kay

Speaker at Humber College – Photo Credit Al Kay

2) Integrity: people have to be able to trust you implicitly. Your colleagues, the management, the audience, your close personal relationships. Any career is based on trusted relationships that you have to build. They do not come without attention on your part to having integrity in what you say and do and play.

3) Customer service: who is the customer in the music business? The audience. The people who pay to hear you. The management of the orchestra that you contract your services out to and the Board of Dirctors who pay you. The contractor that hires you for a jingle. . The children who come to school concerts. The person on the street who asks you what you do for a living and may consider purchasing a concert ticket. They are all your customers. Your job is to give them excellent service in your playing, your punctuality, your cordiality, your words, your actions, your respect of them and of your profession. We, as musicians, have a tendency to put our profession down while talking to others but what if!… Whenever we talked about our profession we talked with great pride and ownership. What if we made a point to tell people what an honour it is to be a musician? What if we told them we felt the music profession was life changing for both the musician and the listener, that we can touch people deeply and change the world with music. Don’t you think those you are talking to would consider musicians as an integral part of our daily life?

Wrap all of these 3 traits into a blanket of consistency. Consistency in those 3 areas is critical to success. When people are paying you for a service or paying you to hear a concert they want some assurance that the quality will be consistent from time to time. If they hear the orchestra once, they will expect the same quality or better the next time. Compare this to a restaurant experience. If you pay to eat at a restaurant and the food, service, atmosphere are excellent and enjoyable you’re happy to come back. But what if the next time you eat there, the waiter is rude, the food is average and there is a cold draft at your table. Would you go back? I don’t think so. Consistency in music performance comes from each person who is on the stage representing the orchestra or company you work for. (think Berlin Phil). When someone sees me and I say I play for the Canadian Opera, then their one experience of that company is me. I represent them in entirety. I need to do a great job as their representative because I want people to think highly of the organization I proudly work for and want to keep working for the COC as a highly successful organization. Doing my part as a business owner using Paul’s 3 point plan will make success inevitable for both me and the music making organizations I am contracted to for my services. They do not just hire a horn player, they hire a business with competence, integrity, service and consistency they can rely on every day.