Thursday, February 12, 2009

People in the arts give me the shits sometimes

..... Which is kind've an empty statement, really. I mean, who doesn't get the shits from people they work with from time to time? I must admit, though, that the METHOD in which I'm given the shits from arts-based people is more than a little strange, and worth remarking upon on that basis.

A little while ago before Christmas I was singing in a Messiah. Awhile before the concert started, I was stopped by the soprano soloist, a Reasonably Well-Known Figure (names have been concealed to protect the fucking annoying). We had a good chat. She knew that I was Australian, knew that I was studying, and was full of questions about why I'd chosen to move to Holland, and what my performing history was. I thought it was all just meaningless small-talk, until she let slip that she was the Artistic Director of Reasonably Well-Known Dutch Opera Company, and would I be interested in auditioning for her - she's always after tenors to do small roles. Fantastic, I thought - maybe signing up for all these crappy gigs has actually led me towards something useful. Of course I was interested, and after she'd sworn me to secrecy (it doesn't do to be seen poaching singers from one group to another, particularly tenors) I took her contact details and said that I'd send her an email with a CV as soon as I could get to it.

The next week or so was pretty busy - I was singing with this group just about every night, and there was school to think about as well, so I didn't manage to get to sending anything straightaway. But I spoke with her quite a bit during the course of that week - more about Australia, more about opera, and quite a bit about big-band jazz, which we shared an interest in. And every now and again she'd remind me to send her "that" email.

So, one evening when I had a spare couple of hours, I sat down and did a proper going-over of my CV, and sent it off to her with a fairly extensive covering email. Was quite pleased with what I came up with - still am. And heard precisely fuck-all back for a week and a half. Thought "oh well, maybe she's busy" and thought I'd wait until after Christmas to talk about it with her again - January 2nd, to be precise.

Me: "Hi, Reasonably Well-Known Soprano, Happy New Year!"
RSWKS: "And same to you. Did you have a good Christmas?"
Me: "Not bad. Think I might have found that Mel Tormé recording you were talking about".
RSWKS: "Oh that's good! It's great, isn't it?"
Me: "Yes - fantastic! By the way, did you get my email?"
RSWKS [looks uncomfortable]: "What email?"
Me: "You know - you asked me to send you a CV and other bits and pieces about my singing".
RSWKS: "Oh! Er - oh! Oh! Was it YOU that sent me that! I was wondering who sent me that! Oh, er - right! [backs away slowly, hands move unconsciously towards the purse, presumably looking for the rape alarm]".

So I'm left standing there, feeling like a prize dick, wondering how I could possibly have mis-read the situation. But then I realised that I HADN'T - not at all, in fact. It was HER that introduced herself to ME - and she already knew a little about me. It was HER that asked me to send her the CV - and then SHE reminded me! So what gives?

I'd been air-kissed. There are thousands of air-kissers in the music world, and loads in the arts in general. I've run afoul of a few in my time. I was once approached in much the same way to do do some gigs by another reasonably well-known figure - this time an Australian - only for all my phonecalls to go unanswered and for the gigs to never materialise, resulting in me spending a Christmas in Sydney alone when I could have gone home to Perth. I've come across casting and theatrical agents who've done the same thing. Even in my publishing career - ESPECIALLY in my publishing career. The theme is always the same - YOU get approached for something, you do everything right, and then YOU'RE the one left looking like a dickhead when nothing happens. I've even had people having a go at me in these situations, like it was my fault that they got in contact in the first place.

Basically, as Bill Watterson remarked and I echoed in an earlier post, art is great, but it sure does attract its fair-share of pretentious blow-hards. People that like to get off on their own sense of power. People that like to play stupid pecking-order games. People that are basically complete morons. "This young kid in the tenor section has barely looked in my direction! He needs to think that I'm important. I know - I'll make up some bogus story about an audition so that he feels the need to impress me".

What a load of bullshit, eh? And completely counter-productive - all that I've taken from it is that I think she's a complete idiot! One thing's for sure - when I get to being Important, I'll be saving my best back-handers for any of my colleagues who act like that. It's just bloody stupid!! I'm sure I'll get my fair-few more bum steers before I get to that stage, though.....

This post is dedicated to Anonymous.

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