Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Professionalism of Studio

Thursday musings...

One very important way of establishing yourself as a professional in behavior, is how you establish your business - whether it is as teacher, coach etc or whether it be as an artist seeking out the expertise to develop your craft.

Professional etiquette must be nurtured, and realized, and respected, from both sides of the piano!

Boundaries must be established, like with any business, and respected. It is a way to keep a sense of structure and continuity for both "teacher" and "student".

I will engage this from both sides of the piano to allow for clarity.

As a singer, if you are looking for a new teacher and/or a new coach, you must allow yourself time and freedom to do so. Know what you want, what you are looking for. Know WHY you are looking. Coaches and teachers have general knowledge and specific expertise. WHAT DO YOU NEED? Seek it out. Do your research. Discover WHO you are contacting and why.

Contacting a teacher or coach does not mean you are obligated to anything. Contact is simply contact. Get information via their website about their philosophy, their expertise, their policies. Email them or call them and don't just say "My name is John and I'm interested in studying with you, what do you charge?"

That is a red flag of immaturity and amateurism.

The professional singer - in behavior and process - introduces him/herself, often attaches a resume/headshot - and says where they got that particular teacher/coach's name and information. They give a bit of information about what they are looking for and ask about consultations.

This is ALWAYS get you a response, if the teacher/coach takes on the same professionalism.

If you are behaving professionally and the teacher/coach does not, then there's your answer!!!

Even with correspondence, neither of you are obligated. Correspondence is a form of introduction and an indication of the level of professionalism sought after, and the level of professionalism brought to the table.

Know what you are looking for in a teacher. Know what you are looking for and able to meet in your obligation to that teacher/coach's studio business. If you cannot meet the obligation of payment/cancellation policy/scheduling, then do not think you have the power to change another professional's policies! Your respect of the teacher or coach's business is as important as your ability to know what you are needing.

Professional means following through. You say it, you own it. If you keep changing lesson times, cancelling with no notice, showing up late or unprepared, soon you will be left on the curb and your unprofessional behavior will proceed you. Our world is small. Word gets around!!

Know why you are there. Know who you are. Know who you are working with. BE THERE.

Teachers also need to create the professionalism of studio. This is their business. This is how they make a living. There has to be boundaries, but there also has to be a humaneness about those boundaries. Boundaries need respect and they need flexibility in order to make room for emergencies and possibilities!

Boundaries cannot be ho-hum. Fees need to be clear. Cancellation policies need clarity. Scheduling needs clarity. As a teacher/coach, you need to set up your business practice in order to be successful and available. This is up to YOU. Clarity is KEY. Kinda, sorta, woulda, coulda, shoulda is NOT professional. Business is business. You must commit to that, or you will not attract the kind of clientele that will respect you.

Business practices will morph and change over time. This has to happen to accommodate clientele and your growth as a professional.

Establish a workable fee. Establish how you are paid. Establish a cancellation policy. Establish a scheduling policy. PUT IT IN WRITING. Make a commitment to it.

Your business practices will be determined by the kind of studio you establish and the kind of clientele you work with.

Only you can determine what will work for you NOW. Creating the business professionalism is key to presenting yourself as a viable and responsible business person. This allows for a clear balance, and then sets up the possibility for attracting clientele that want your EXPERTISE in the CRAFT!!!

Personally, I believe in consultations - for both teacher and singer. This allows a chance to meet face to face, to work, to get a sense of energy and "fit" and to find out what each can offer the space between in order to create a working atmosphere to meet the needs of the singer. If this doesn't click, each party has the opportunity to move on. This isn't "personal" but again, finding the best fit for the studio - and the best fit for the singer.

Professional and personal ethics are absolutely PARAMOUNT in creating this realization in studio. The teacher is responsible for establishing the business of studio, and the singer is responsible for establishing the business of SELF. Both need professional respect and each needs to create an integrity to benefit the other.

Do not assume. ASK. Get straightforward answers. Do not expect, but rather, DISCUSS. Goals and work must be a collaboration.

Disrespect has no place in the studio - from either side. Respect of time, expertise, development, dedication, commitment is key to the professionalism of a studio.

Follow through is always key - from both sides. Making the commitment shows the professional expectation and the professional dedication from both sides.

Behaving and developing a level of professionalism is not limited to age, talent, how long you've been in the business, how new you are to the business. It is your BUSINESS to discover what being professional MEANS and how it will be respected and how it will open doors.

Know why you do what you do. Know what you are asking. Know what boundaries are not negotiable and which ones can be bent when necessary. Respect the professionalism of the one facing you. Respect your OWN professionalism. Do not allow others to disrespect that.

The professionalism of behavior in the studio allows for the boundaries to be clear set so the real work can be done!!!!

You cannot get real work done if you are always late, if you aren't paying on time, if you are always chasing your money, if you are constantly rescheduling clients.

Simply put, treat others how you wish to be treated. And commit to the time you share. Dedicate yourself to what you DO and simply DO IT.


  1. Keith Dunn...again...not surprisingly...hehehe.

    I was 10 minutes late to our first face to face meeting and I was mortified! I was across the street in the wrong place like a freshman on orientation day!
    I won't have that issue again but I kept thinking, "DAMN IT! If only I had a phone number!" Somehow I didn't get that info.
    Thank goodness when I DID arrive you didn't attack me as some foul fool! Others might have. And seriously, no matter the reason, there's no excuse. When I first moved here in 1998 I did a dry run of any appointment I had at least a day before so my first time meetings were NOT the first time I'd been there.
    I highly recommend that practice. Make the time.
    In addition, you and I have had correspondence aplenty prior to my consult. This helped me mightily to get a feel for you as a person and a professional before we met.
    It's partly because of this contact that I was so comfortable with you. That and the fact that you know your stuff and explain things clearly.
    I didn't even know where my larynx really WAS until a couple weeks ago! Hint: It's NOT the Adam's Apple. GAH!

  2. Keith again, again...

    Tangentially, is the website and info contained in What The Fach? useful for non-opera trained singers hoping to audition for the likes of Vienna-based Kunze/LeVay shows?
    I find the site a bit confusing as it mentions opera separately AND in the same breath as the German Theatre Business....