The Friendship Factor


Recently several colleagues have asked me about networking.  In school we all learned vocal technique, but conservatories often don’t teach us the essentials of interpersonal relationships.  People sometimes think there is an elusive formula for networking, but I see it as simply fostering new friendships, maintaining ongoing relationships and investing in people.    	The dreaded auditions are a necessary evil in order to achieve performing opportunities; however, the majority of my jobs this year have come from relationships that I’ve built with conductors, stage directors and other singers.  Hopefully these co-workers consider me to be competent, but often what goes the extra mile is a personal touch.  In these situations the most important “performance” doesn’t take place at Nola; it’s in the rehearsal room and the coffeehouse around the corner.  Here are a few friendship factors:  1)	Ask not what your colleagues can do for you; ask what you can do for your colleagues.  Don’t put on your blinders and only think of your own needs.  When you hear of someone in need of a soprano, submit your friends.  They’ll be much more willing to reciprocate when the opportunity arises.   2)	P.S. Be PRESENT and SINCERE. I can’t be everyone’s best buddy, but I attempt to put my phone down and look my comrades in the eye when we’re talking.  If we grab a bite between rehearsals, I try to talk about deeper issues than petty gossip about the other people in the cast or creative team. 3)	Remember the little people. Of course I’m always nice to my bosses, but it’s important to treat everyone with respect.  In the past few years I’ve seen fellow vocalists move into administrative positions.  It’s nice to have some of these folks in my corner, but those seeds were planted when we were peers onstage.  4)	Keep yourself open to unexpected partnerships. I recently became friends with an opera lover on twitter.  We kept in touch and eventually had lunch.  Just last week he offered to help underwrite an important recording project for me.  Thank goodness for twitter and for this new friend! 5)	The Power of the pen.  I write holiday cards to friends, colleagues and collaborators each year.  In January a producer gave me a job offer just as she received my holiday card.  I was simply sending good wishes and keeping in contact, and now I’m debuting with a great company because of that connection.       Over the past couple of years I often crossed paths with tenor Glenn Seven Allen.  He and I were often auditioned for the same roles, but we always enjoyed amiable interactions.  We grabbed coffee one day and quickly became friends.  This past fall he needed to bow out of a job because of a conflict.  He asked if I could step in for the gig, and I was happy to help. Two weeks later I was asked to sing in a workshop for an important premiere.  When I realized I would be out of town, naturally I suggested Glenn for it. He invited me to join his family for Christmas dinner this year when my holiday plans went awry.  Last month we split time and costs on a recent recording session, and we’re now collaborating on a new project.  It’s crazy to think of all the wonderful opportunities I would’ve missed if I had kept my distance from my perceived competition and missed out on an important friendship.        I’ve heard a few vocalists describe this whole side of the business as “playing the game,” but I see it as something much more substantive.  My collaborators have not only helped with my career; they’ve enriched my life and made me a better person.  Try to keep yourself open to meeting and investing in new friends.  I promise the personal and professional dividends will be worthwhile.

This most recent blog about networking was featured by Classical Singer Magazine online at Auditions Plus:

Auditionsplus.com

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