shylocks of art world

this is the infamous audition week: all kinds of people auditioning at the music school- i overheard that there are more than 600 auditions to be fitted in the months of february and march.  it makes playing the piano look like a seasonal gig.  and yes, it certainly is. people are flying with their instruments, driving hours with their parents, little kiddies making their first trip alone, the nerves, excitement, forgetfulness that resulted in missing scores for the audition panel, mistaken times, the triumph of playing it 'right' for the first time during audition- it's a very colourful  time.

and i, piano monkey and other pianists are very busy as on top of auditions, there all kinds of recitals, recordings and projects.  usually september is so quiet you can hear the fly sing. march, you cant hear anything since everything is roaring loud. not just the music. but of transits. logistics and... ego.

five days ago, i got an email late night. someone is looking for a pianist for this sunday audition. and it's vocal rep- which means it's collection of five to six little things, which can be quite tricky as people sing so differently from one another. usually voice pianist is a bit different thing to do- they are actually called 'vocal coaches,' not just playing the piano, they also monitor other things-such as dictions and techniques, as traditionally singers employ not only teachers but vocal coaches, well beyond school years.  i am not a vocal coach, nor i pretend to be.  but at this late notice, finding someone would be difficult, all are swamped. but i thought: may be i can help. so i wrote to say if she's stuck, i could.

so after flurry of emails (and printing after printing pdfs of scores), we lock in the time today for a rehearsal, 5-6.  ive been going since early morning. i was tired and was looking forward to finish the day. except. at 6, there is no singer for me.

so i waited at the lobby. 10 min. 20 min. a half hour. 40 min. 50 min. and all i can think was that i should leave- if they can be bothered to contact me, it prob wont be an emergency, weather's been good for flying (they were spending time in nyc for juilliard audition, mom-daughter team). but i knew i would stay and wait. give them an hour. let's see. may be there's something, i donno what yet.

so at six, they show up, mom-daughter team. and she says 'hello, how are you?'
'umm, i was wondering what happened.'
'what do you mean?'
'i sent you an email for 5-6 rehearsal-'
'i am sure it was 6-7?'
(pulls lappy out and show email)
'i am sorry!'
'... doesnt matter, let's go get this done.'
(mom)' sorry for waiting. btw, how much do we owe?'
' 1 hr rehearsal, 0.5hr warm up and 0.5 audition- it'll be X dollars, and that's what i charge for all auditions. and for rush, i am adding 30 on top, so total would be X + 30 dollars.'

'we only paid 60 at juilliard-'

so she knocked it down to X dollars. and then comes the real kick in the pants:

'it doesnt matter, we are here for music.'

during the rehearsal, i was not able to concentrate or think straight. not just because i was tired, but i felt somehow violated.  so of course i played poorly.  and i know they will be gossiping this evening about how terrible i am and i am just in it for the money, unlike them, who are in it for the love of arts.  and it did take an hour. they forget that an auditionee have been working on their rep for a long time. but not us, the audition accompanist.  the work is quite stressful because they have very specific needs yet there are not enough time to learn them all.  they often expect us to know everything they do (because it's at the state of automatic execution for them). the young ones very often does not realize that a common piece may have thousand interpretation and we need to be informed.  instead, they often treat me like i dont know anything.  and i wonder why do i bother?

i didnt take this gig because i was desperate for X dollars.  i took it because it would be near impossible to find someone.  and what i was charging was about standard (i think), especially concerning the rush charge.  and they made me wait an hour of my day.

the disgrace was that they thought i was too expensive and that by simply cutting rehearsal, it would be cheaper.  they forgot to understand that i also need an hour from the singer to do my job right. im not a background track. i want to do my job well, and i care, that's why i am doing it in the first place. of course, it's not a charity but i do think i am a person who likes to take pride in her work in a sense that i try to do my very best.  and to disclaim my shylock-ness while they are in this for the arts and that my hour of waiting is just worthy of 'sorry?'

i feel rather destroyed.  my friends are saying i shouldve been charing for 3 hours now.  for one hour of my life wasted. i am dented and out of an hour of my life and quite discouraged.  working in arts is a dirty business sometime, not because arts is dirty but because ego gets in the way.  and as long as i do this level work, it'll be like this, not often but regular enough.

i wish i could tear the cheque in her face. but i am not going to. because perhaps she really was just surprised.  and there's no point of me becoming someone different, insulting another human being. not to mention money is money.  and i did work. so i should be paid and i should use that fund to do something. and by tearing, i gain nothing, no respect, i only gain the things i already have too much of- anger, ego and selfishness.

so now im off the music thing for the day. tomorrow will be another. and i shall send the two women an email later tomorrow. after the audition.  so it wont upset more people. not because i want her to understand why it is expensive but that she is misguided about her own view of the world.  whether she's for arts or not, she should be a human being, a functioning citizen, aware and caring for one another.  then may be we'll talk of arts.  and that her statement of me being expensive should be re-examined with a simple fact that they took an extra hour of my life and they dont even realize the worth of that time.  the shylock cap is on her head, not mine.

it's reassuring to know that most of people around me arent like this. and i dont think it's luck.  and i did get much thanks from two other people today for playing for them.  it's not about the praise i get from them about playing. it's not important. what matters is the fact i was respected. i respected them and i did my best. and they did the same. and now, that kind of working module makes it worthwhile to stay in arts, i believe. thank you all, you who make my world elevated from the greedy and selfish, if a bit misguided shylocks of the world.


  1. i had a few comments and i want to clarify that the main point i am upset is about the fact they considered me too expensive yet my hour, wasted on waiting because they were mistaken, should be given freely and gladly.

    if i was another commercial commodity, like consultant, if you miss an hour because you wrote it down wrong, you still pay for that hour. if you want to still have an appt, then you renegotiate that separately. the hour spent on waiting should be paid for.

    oh dear life.

  2. Yeah, people just don't get that sometimes.

    If you order food in a restaurant and only eat half, do you only pay half of the bill?

    I think your idea of writing after the audition and explaining why her behaviour was inappropriate is the best thing. A lot of these kids have never had to deal with things like this before, because either their teacher or their mom has always taken care of it for them. Hopefully she'll learn from the experience.

    Of course, you and *I* were never such arrogant little shits! Kids these days... ;)

  3. update: upon meeting this morning, the first thing that was offered was an apology. i was able to explain my audition pkg scheme and we were all good. thank the lord. now... if we could eliminate all that and just do good work, that would be.. fantastic eh.