Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Respond to Incompetent Colleagues

When I arrive at a wedding to perform, I do a little research. I speak to the wedding coordinator and the celebrant (the minister, priest, rabbi, pastor, etc.) prior to the ceremony to get my cues and to learn of any nuances before I start playing. My job goes smoothly when I learn about updates to the ceremony agenda prior to my performance. Questioning the wedding coordinator and celebrant about particulars can make my playing seamless during a ceremony.

But what if the wedding coordinator doesn't care about my needs
and doesn't even want to take the time to talk with me? What if
the coordinator does talk to me but ignores our discussion? This
happened to me at a recent wedding, where there were more than
300 guests at a big church and more than 13 attendants walking
down the aisle before the bride's entrance. I went over all my
cues needed and the church wedding coordinator ignored me. She
mentioned she would close the doors to the room and then re-open
them to signal when the processional would begin, but the doors
remained open at all times. The flower girls were to walk in
last, which was my signal to be ready to play the bridal march.
Instead, the coordinator sent them down the aisle first, and I
was left needing to count the 11 bridesmaids before the bride was
to enter.

I was completely confused, didn't get to play the song selected
for the mother's candle lighting and seating, and it took me
until the appearance of the 2nd bridesmaid to determine that I
needed to skip to the processional music.

Things like this will happen, when other wedding vendors will
simply ignore my needs or not know what they are doing in the
first place. I've known ministers who have refused to talk with
me before the wedding to go over the details, actually admitting
that they didn't know what they were going to do anyway. I was
left to watch for a subtle nod of the head to assume that it was
time to play behind a prayer. Professional photographers and
videographers have stood right in front of me when I needed to
see the processional and bride walk down the aisle. I have played
at weddings where the reception band or DJ was within earshot,
testing their sound systems during the ceremony and drowning out
the exchange of vows. I have performed at corporate functions
when sound systems were promised and not provided, or the sound
tech showed up three minutes before I was to begin playing.

What should we do when we're doing our best job and others
it up for us? Here are five tried-and-true pointers:

1. Absolutely do not let on to the bride or your client that
anything is wrong! Do not tell the bride, "Oooops. I couldn't
play the seating music for the mothers because the wedding
coordinator didn't give me my cue." Don't tell her, "The sound
guy didn't show up on time so I couldn't begin playing when your
guests arrived." Do the best you can, smile, and behave as if
absolutely everything is going perfectly. (If the bride or client
complains after the event, be careful about dissing other service
providers. If that idiot service provider hears about it, they'll
make your life miserable. Be gracious and simply apologize.)

2. If something needs to be fixed right away, quietly tell the
offending service vendor about your needs. Have your roadie whisper
into the ear of the photographer, "Please move so that our string
quartet can see when the bride is entering." If the photographer
barks back, everyone within earshot will know that the
photographer is a dolt.

3. If you have a bone to pick with a wedding coordinator or other
wedding vendor, and you assume you will cross paths with this
person again, wait until after the ceremony and quietly tell them
what went wrong, as constructive criticism. Don't ever pick a
fight with them in front of your client and their guests.

4. Forget about it if you predict that you'll never be working
with that person again. For instance, I once performed at a
wedding where my amp was misbehaving, crackling and sputtering.
Instead of quietly informing me that my mic or amp needed
adjustment, the owner of the estate where the wedding was held
yelled at me in front of all the guests seated: "The harp sounds
terrible! All we hear is sh_t". I left that wedding venue having
decided that I would never take another job to perform there
again. Thus, there was no point for me to speak to the owner
about her rude behavior.

5. Your best retaliation is to never recommend an incompetent
service provider to anyone. And if a bride or client asks you
about that person, simply say that you have other businesses that
you prefer to recommend. Don't go into detail. Don't bad-mouth
unprofessional businesses. Instead, compliment competent service
providers with referrals. They will return the favor.

These tips, and many more, are available in my book "The
Musician's Guide to Brides". This book is written primarily for
wedding musicians, but it's also filled with savvy information
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,, and of course, at my
website at

How have you dealt with unprofessional colleagues? Please share
your comments and insights.

Anne :-)

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

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