Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Different is Good

A few weeks ago, I received a call from Monica from the Tuxtown tuxedo rental shop. Excitedly, told me that she would be launching a full-service wedding boutique in a few weeks and wanted me to perform at the grand opening! The date was Valentine's Day, a day she hoped to attract many couples that are headed to the altar.

Monica's new store, the Wedding Emporium, is located in the Carson Mall in Carson City, Nevada. I was looking forward to performing inside her new one-stop shop for tuxedos, bridal gowns, and photography. But when I arrived, Monica said, "There's a stage set up in the middle of the shopping mall. I think it would be much better for you to perform there, where everyone will see you, instead of inside my shop."

It wasn't what I expected--A lone harpist on a big stage inside of a mall? That was okay for the jazz band, which was packing up when I approached the stage, but wouldn't I get lost up there? Would anyone see or hear the harp? Would anyone be paying attention?

As it turned out, the shopping mall was fairly quiet, even with complimentary chocolate-covered strawberries handed out to patrons who roamed about on this Valentine's Day. For a harpist, quiet is a good thing. The harp music reverberated throughout the mall, and people gathered to take seats in front of the stage as I played a mix of Celtic music and modern popular love songs (view my complete repertoire list to get an idea of what I played).

Shoppers approached the edge of the stage and asked for requests, and I sold CDs that they wanted autographed. Even Monica could hear me performing as the harp music wafted into her store. When I finished playing, she bought CDs to sell to her own customers and took a large stack of brochures to pass on to brides-to-be.

Originally, I had an odd picture in my head of being ignored on a big stage in the middle of a mall, for I am a solo musician, not a band. Happily, I was wrong.

Tips for Retail Store Owners:

These are hard economic times, and that means you may need to be a bit creative about getting shoppers into your store. Many shop owners attract customers by discounting prices on selected items by 50% or more. Instead, what if you invested in a musician to draw a crowd?

In the above story, Monica didn't slash prices at all, but even on a quiet shopping day, brides were parading into her store. Of course, she sent a press release to the local paper. She also handed out fliers to other colleagues in her wedding networking group, Weddings of the West. She cooperated with other stores in the mall, too, and they all got the word out.

You could host your own musical events. I have seen a Hawaiian luau band playing in Trader Joe's grocery stores, pianists performing in music stores, string quartets in hotel lobbies, and jazz trios playing inside mall food courts. Take a cue from the folks at Disneyland-they have live music at all their eateries and even outside of shops where people are milling about. Music serves to make patrons linger, and if they linger, they are more apt to buy.

Tips for Musicians:

Don't be afraid to take on a different gig than you're used to playing. If you have never played in a department store, in a shopping mall, in a music store, in a bridal shop, or even inside a grocery store, maybe it's time to give it a try.

Sure, you may need to offer a discount off of your regular performance fees to land these gigs, but if you have CDs to sell, you will make it up in sales. Plus, you just never know who may pick up your business card and give you a call later for a much more lucrative gig. At the very least, you'll get some free promotion.

Go where you are apt to meet future clients. If you primarily play at weddings, approach bridal salons, jewelry stores, cake shops, etc., and see about performing in these retail outlets to gain exposure to brides who may want to hire you. If you primarily teach music lessons, approach full-service music stores to demonstrate how wonderful their sale instruments can sound with proper practice (you might even win yourself a spot teaching in that store, too). If you have your CDs commercially available, you can also perform in bookstores that are willing to stock your CDs. Actually, performing anywhere that people can sit down and take a listen to you can attract new fans, customers, and clients.

Many more tips are available from my book "The Musician's Guide to Brides". This book is written primarily for wedding musicians, but it's also filled with advice about marketing, advertising, and promoting your business as a working musician. It's available wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers including sheetmusicplus.com, Amazon.com, and of course, at my website at www.celticharpmusic.com.

I'm looking forward to reading your feedback about performing in retail stores.

Cheers, Anne :-)

Anne Roos
Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos
(And contact me at celticharpmusic@yahoo.com for personal consultation and mentoring-Make a living while gigging)

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Musical School Performance is a Real Education

I visited Minden Elementary School in Minden, Nevada to give a presentation to 4th-6th grade students. But before attending, I supplied Ms. B, the teacher who invited me, with a complete lesson plan. It included what I was planning to teach: an introduction to the Celtic harp in Renaissance England and Ireland, along with a full discussion of the culture and music from that period.

I dressed in full Renaissance period costume (appropriate for a
middle-class musician from that time), and I brought plenty of sheet
music with me, just in case I ran out of what I planned to play.

When I arrived, three boys helped me bring my equipment into the
multi-purpose room where the assembly would be held. Ms. B
even assigned a young lady by the name of Kai, to make an
introduction to the students before I began my presentation.

There were some 200 students gathered. After explaining about
the culture and dress of the 1500s, I performed the following tunes,
with plenty of explanation in between:

1. Early Music-3 French Dances
2. Written by King Henry VIII-"Pastyme With Good Company"
3. Can they name this tune?--"Greensleeves"
4. O'Carolan's music:
"Shebeg & Shemore"
"Planxty George"
"Carolan's Draught"
5. Renaissance Dances:
"My Lady Carey's Dompe"
"Epping Forest"--waltz
"Abbots Bromley Horn Dance" and
"The Green Man"-Double jigs
"Considine's Grove"-Hornpipe
"Princess Royal"--Hornpipe
6. Can they tell the difference between which is an air and which is a march?
"Carrickfergus" and "Brian Boru's March"

"The Water Kelpie"

I instructed the children to hold their questions to the end of the
assembly, and there was a question/answer period the last ten or
fifteen minutes before my hour was up.

Next, I was lead into the library, where I did an additional
presentation for Ms. B's and Ms. Moyer's 6th grade classes. The
students had prepared questions for me to answer as part of their
"Music and Arts Lecture Series". They wanted to know what it was
like to be a working musician, and they asked questions like "Why
did you want to play the harp?", "Where are harps made?", "Where
do you perform?", and "Do you feel unique because you play the
harp?". I finished off the round of thoughtful questions with a few
more tunes.

Next, cookies, chips, and lemonade were served in the library and
they had "Meet and Greet". The kids thanked me and excused
themselves to get snacks. They mixed and mingled like adults at a
cocktail party! The students were all so well-behaved, and it was a
joy to perform for them.

View some great photos in the photo gallery on my website.

Tips for School Teachers and Principals:

Bringing in musical talent for performances and educational
presentations does not have to be a budget-breaker. By utilizing
the local talent in your community, you won't need to provide them
with accommodations or food. Furthermore, musicians are usually
booked up on evenings and weekends, so their schedules are more
open on weekdays and may pass along a discount to you.

Zero in on exactly what they will be teaching and how that
information or performance will fit into your present curriculum. It is
common to ask for a lesson plan and references. However, if you
require musicians to jump through too many hoops to be
considered (submitting lengthy applications, panel interviews, extensive
press kits, etc.), some musicians my simply decide against
applying in the first place.

Once you have invited a musician for an assembly, prepare the
students for the visit. A great idea is to have the students prepare
questions to ask the musician ahead of the visit, as in the above
example. And afterwards, the children can write essays about
what they learned from the visit. Of course, children who have
behavior issues should be warned or simply weeded out of the
classes who attend the assembly.

Take photos and movies of the presentation to share on school
websites and with parents. Make it a big event. Show that you
support the arts in your community. And keep in touch with the
musicians afterwards--They love to hear how their presentations
were received.

Tips for Musicians:

If you are great with kids and have something to teach and share
about your instrument and your music, consider offering school
presentations as a wonderful way to supplement your income and
do something special for your local community. In fact, there are
many musicians who travel to perform for schools far and wide-
performing for kids is their specialty.

The first step to performing in schools is to contact your local
school districts and find out what their requirements are. Some will
simply instruct you to contact individual school principals to see
about their interest, needs and budget. Larger school districts may
have an arts program in place. In these cases, there will be an
application/interview process before you are even considered.

Hone in on what you can offer to kids. Do a Google search on
"lesson plans" and use those outlines and examples to create
some lessons that tie in with your musical performance. Schools
will want to know what you'll be teaching, and sample lesson plans
provide the format for conveying this information to them.

Finally, include a discount for local schools. We need the arts in
our communities, and children need to see people up-close-and-
personal performing for them.

Many more tips are available from my book "The Musician's Guide
to Brides". This book is written primarily for wedding musicians,
but it's also filled with advice about marketing, advertising, and
promoting your business as a working musician. It's available
wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and
through online retailers including sheetmusicplus.com,
Amazon.com, and of course, at my website at

I'm looking forward to reading your feedback about performing at
school events.

Cheers, Anne :-)

Anne Roos Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos