Where Are the Models, Mentors, and Motivators?

Photo credit: FreeImages.com, photographer Peter C.

 

Are You Listening to Solo, Chamber, and Orchestral Music?

foxsfiresidesWhen I was teaching full-time school orchestra music grades 5-12, the following conversation by students in my program may have been shared at the dinner table. “He wants me to spend time and listen to several outstanding players. I was a little embarrassed when he called on me in class and asked, ‘Who is your favorite violinist?’ and I could not identify a single principal string player or even the current Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!”

I was dismayed that as many as 80% of my instrumentalists could not respond with the name of a famous classical musician who is currently playing their instrument! This brings the issue to the forefront of my greatest concern: DOES ANYONE LISTEN TO GOOD MUSIC ANYMORE?

Obviously, most people learning how to play golf, tennis, ballet, ice skating, gymnastics or any of the contact sports, could instantly name their “hero” and leading examples in their field. Can you imagine not watching a professional athlete model his/her technique? For example, if you wanted to learn how to be a high-diver or competitive swimmer, would you simply read a book on the subject, study the moves, take a few lessons, practice in the pool, and not once attend a local swim meet or watch the Olympic event when it appeared on TV?

seriestoshare-logo-01Pittsburgh has a strong cultural base, providing a home for the world-class Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Pops, the Pittsburgh Ballet and Pittsburgh Opera companies, and the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera productions, to name a few venues. We are also most fortunate that many amateur or semi-professional groups such as the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra, Washington Symphony, and River City Brass Band are local (some concerts presented conveniently next door in the Upper St. Clair HS Theatre). Professional soloists and chamber groups visit our city nearly every month, and opportunities to enjoy free concerts are limitless on cable/FiOS television and WQED.

This revelation motivated me to bring my laptop computer to every music lesson and ensemble rehearsal to share musical examples. With truly “basic” technology, there is really no excuse for not exploring a sea of masterpieces, watching a virtuoso performing his craft up-close – thanks especially to online resources such as www.youtube.com. Here are just a few “totally free” audio examples:

Here is the musicianship prescription – tips on providing meaningful motivation, momentum, and exposure to GREAT works of art in order to become more culturally connected and musically literate:

  • Families: Take the music break and listen to Classical (all styles/eras), folk, pop/jazz music at least once a week.
  • Encourage your musician to regularly use his/her computer/tablet to watch performances on the web.
  • Choose several favorite soloists playing the same instrument you are studying, and follow them.
  • Buy CDs of music or download movements of concertos, sonatas, or symphonies from iTunes, etc.
  • Go to a live professional concert at least once a year – more often in the summer, if possible.

Take a trip to the South Hills Junior Orchestra website… Under “Resources,” check out the two sets of free “Series to Share…” additional “Fox’s Fireside” issues by Paul K. Fox, and “Music Enrichment Workshop” presentations by Donna Stark Fox. In particular, download and read the Listening Enrichment Session, the perfect companion to this article.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

This “Series to Share” is brought to you by… the Founding Directors of the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO), “A Community Orchestra for All Ages” based in Western Pennsylvania. Feel free to download a printable copy and distribute to music students, parents, teachers, and fellow amateur musicians.

SHJO rehearses most Saturdays in the band room of the Upper St. Clair High School, 1825 McLaughlin Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15241. New members are always welcome! For more information, please go to www.shjo.org.

Networking Niceties

The “How to Schmooze” Guide for Prospective Music Teachers

key-to-success-1307591Do you have a business card, e-portfolio, resume, and professional website?

There are three critical skills you need to foster searching for a school music position, marketing yourself, interviewing, and landing a job:

  • Personal branding (who are you, what makes you unique, and what do you have to offer?)
  • Story telling (anecdotes) of your positive attributes and personal brand, and
  • Networking (associating with other professionals and getting your stories “out there”).
In previous articles posted in this blog series, we have discussed the essential need for the development and constant revisions of a professional e-portfolio, resume, and website. If you have not read them, click on the following:

connected-people-1165937Merriam-Webster defines “networking” (noun) as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”

The concept of networking is two-way communications. Just like collective sets of nerve synapses, two-way connections are expected to fire repeatedly in all directions. That’s actually the science behind memory. For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school administrators, HR managers and secretaries, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and you – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits.

Business Cards – One of the Earliest Known Methods of Networking

Do you know the history of the business card? How long ago was it introduced?

You might have guessed it was first “kicked-off” in the 1980s, the decade that corporations expanded on the adoption of the 3.5 by 2-inch rectangle business card format we know today.

However, according to Design Float Blog [Source: “A Brief History of Business Cards” posted at http://www.designfloat.com/blog/2012/04/02/history-business-cards/], its origin can be traced back to 15th century China. They were first known as “visiting cards” and used to announce one’s intention of meeting with another individual.

king-louis-at-versailles-1553663During the 17th century, especially during the reign of Louis the 14th, the “calling card” made its heyday in Europe. “…An individual’s success or failure in society often depended on the strength of their personal promotion.”

Etiquette was involved in the deployment of “acquaintance cards” in the 17-18th century.

“…A strict protocol existed to ensure that calling cards were employed correctly. If a gentleman wished to call on a lady, he had a lot to think about. On making a first call, he had to make sure there is a separate card for each lady of the household. Alternatively, he could fold his card down the middle to indicate it was meant for all members of the household. Cards had to be left with the servant; admission to the house would only be permitted after the hostess had examined the card. Calling cards were to be collected on a small tray kept in the hallway, which would be presented by a servant on the palm of his left hand. While a gentleman may carry his cards loose in his pocket, a lady should use a card case. If the gentleman received no acknowledgement of his card, he had to accept that there would be no continuation of the acquaintance. And on no account was it ever acceptable to sneak a peak at cards that had been left by other callers.”

Later in the 17th century, London merchants used “trade cards.” At a time when street numbers were not in popular use, these cards were crucial in promoting the business and hands-3-hand-holding-a-card-1440323informing customers of its location and services available.

So how do you collect and distribute your business cards? What methods do you use to record and store the contacts you meet on a daily basis? How is your contact information given out to every professional you meet, especially at conferences, mass employment screenings, or job fairs?

Business Card Basics

Today’s professionals still exchange this “old-fashioned invention” called a business card as part of employment and business networking. (Who knows? Maybe someday we will be doing this electronically. Perhaps, our new “super-smart phones” will automatically talk to one another and seamlessly pass on our contact information.)

According to Ivan Misner, contributor to the online Entrepreneur website (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/159492), “The business card is the most powerful single business tool – dollar for dollar – you can invest in. It’s compact, energy-efficient, low-cost, low-tech, and keeps working for you hours, weeks and even years after it leaves your hands!”

He outlines what it does in support of person-to-person networking:

  • The business card tells people your name and the name of your business.
  • It provides prospects a way to contact you.
  • business-card-1525590It gives others a taste of your work, style and personality.
  • It can be so unusual or attractive or strange or charming or funny that it tends to stick in the memory of the prospective employer like a great radio or television ad.
  • It can be reused, passes from person to person, giving the same message to each person who comes in contact with it.

What data should be shared  on a business card? The quick (and obvious) answer is your name, mailing address (street, city, state, zip), cell phone (and if you still have a landline telephone number), email address, and extremely important – a link to your professional website (and password if needed).

Your Personal Brand Displayed on a Piece of Cardboard

Huffington Post provides some insightful recommendations on the design of business cards (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/12/designing-a-business-card_n_997449.html):

  1. Your card should look professional and project your image.
  2. Do not use clip art.
  3. Consider printing a QR code with direct access to your webpage.
  4. Resist a cluttered business card layout.
  5. Do not try to save money and buy cheap business cards.

Like it or not, your business card will convey (accurately or inaccurately) your image – possibly an instant snapshot of your professionalism, proficiency, and personality – to potential HR people and the decision-makers that hire future staff. What do you want to business-card-1237839display… traits of artistry, collaboration, commitment, discipline, even temperament, goal-minded, initiative, leadership, mastery of music and music education, organization, positive outlook, style, tact, and/or teamwork… or just the opposite?

Check out the unique examples and design elements (size, shape, color, style, materials, effects, printing methods, etc.) at http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/06/how-to-design-your-business-card/. A wooden business card? How crazy do you want to be? Just remember, educational leaders are generally very “conservative” in the search for filling teaching positions in the public schools.

Readability and clarity are important (#4 above). After retirement, I had a lot of fun designing a new business card. Many retirees (myself included) lean towards putting more information than what is generally needed on their card. I was also guilty of printing a hodgepodge of all of my past school positions. Ironic, isn’t it? The business card is not really the device to archive past successes, especially for a retiree who is not trying to find PaulFox_Logoa new full-time job!

I even went as far as to hire a professional layout artist to create a new personal logo. Can you tell my focus areas and favorite composer from the image to the right?

The Act of Sharing

When you meet someone for the first time, the unspoken code/decorum of networking and professionalism directs you to flash your most charming smile, look the person in the eye, introduce yourself (“hi, my name is…”), and offer/give a firm handshake. Repeat his/her name (place it permanently in your memory), and use it to strike up a short conversation to familiarize/update each other about where he/she works, and where you have most recently graduated or been employed.

First impressions mean a lot. Experts say that early judgments about you are made in the business-man-modified-1241003first ten seconds, and after four minutes, it’s all over. For employment consideration, others have written that you are evaluated by 7% what you say, 38% by your vocal tone, and 55% by your facial expressions.

Be very positive and be sure to closely listen to the other professional, responding to his/her questions or topics. Be outgoing and energetic (but not pushy) and friendly (but not overly personal). My former superintendent commented on a music teacher interview he experienced that did not go very well. The potential candidate did not seem to show personal initiative or self-direction, and lacked any overt displays of excitement or energy. Administrators want to see that you are truly committed to making a music program successful (“will go that extra mile”), have creative ideas to help “grow the program,” and love to work with children.

Before you close your “network connection,” be sure to swap business cards (have yours handy – nothing slows things down more than fumbling in your wallet or coat pocket), and make a promise to touch base with him/her again.

Gathering Data from Your End

One of the most important concepts about networking is how you use the information you collect. You need to “tag” or catalog the names of individuals with whom you come in contact, to help sort and create an easy-access index of professional resources.

stocking-for-business-1240257After the opportunity presents itself to exchange business cards, you need to save and organize his/her data in a way to be able to place/find the acquaintance for future reference. Why was this professional important to you to remember his or her name? How, when, and where did you meet? Reference the subjects you may have discussed, school affiliation, title, and locality of the contact, so at some point, you can lay your fingers on the name in your file; just search on the “key” word or phrase like “choral director” or “XYZ School District.”

As soon as possible, copy the new contact’s name, information, and subject areas into your smartphone’s (and computer’s) contact app. If he/she was a potential administrator, department head, or teacher in the district, you are well within your rights to follow-up with an e-mail. “Do you know of any possible future music positions (or retirements) in your district?” “Should I send a letter to the superintendent for his consideration?”

Now Get Out There and “Meet and Greet!”

According to Devora Zack in her blog “Ten Tips for People Who Hate Networking” (a great read, see http://www.careerealism.com/hate-networking-tips/), “…Real networking is about establishing mutually beneficial, lasting connections, one person at a time… This new and improved definition of networking means being true to you, capitalizing on your strengths, and tossing aside ‘rules’ that don’t match your temperament.” She proposes several unique “rules for the road” for making positive peer connections from the book Networking for People Who Hate Networking (Berrett-Koehler 2010):

  1. Be true to you
  2. Realize less is more
  3. interview-607713_1920Plan your first impression
  4. Volunteer
  5. Get in line
  6. Set challenging yet achievable networking goals
  7. Show, don’t tell
  8. Research
  9. Listen
  10. Follow-up, or forget about it

Another good resource for quiet/unassuming personality types is the online article “Twelve Tips for Shy People” by Meredith Levinson: http://www.cio.com/article/2437488/relationship-building-networking/how-to-network–12-tips-for-shy-people.html.

Conclusion

Take advantage of any chance you have to present your personal brand, “sell yourself,” and connect with colleagues in the field of music education. Practice a few “schmoozing” techniques, but really try to be open, positive, true to yourself, and well-organized. The business card helps you to “call on” and make a lasting impression to potential employers. Good luck, and happy job hunting!

business-card-1238267

Sources for this article and additional hints on the use of business cards and networking may be found at the following sites. Here’s YOUR homework for further reading!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox