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Givers and takers: which kind of performer are you?

I’m making a massive assumption that people don’t get tired of you.

But if you do identify one or two variances that might possibly suggest that this could be, take heart that I’d be stunned if NONE of this applied!

We all experience little moments like this, yet it’s the respected successful musician constantly looking to get better that is freed from guilt.

The selfish musician is a drain on all our energy

Many philosophical writers and speakers like to inform us that there are two types of people in the world: givers and takers.

Whether or not we limit ourselves to such exclusive labels is our choice, but what’s for sure is that musicians are not exempt from either behavior!

Indeed, I’m sure we’ve all come across them at some point – The giver. The volunteer who sits in the back and is the first to jump up to open doors, find missing sheet music, and so on.

Then there’s the taker. The one who demands ALL THE TIME.

A musician who is so darn good at their craft that they won’t miss an opportunity to let you know about it.

Givers and takers: which kind of performer are you?

And at the same time, you must care for their every need:

  • Face the ensemble in the right direction so the sun doesn’t shine through the window on them.
  • Have the person in front move their chair so they can see the conductor, have enough room to put their instrument on its little stand, or hold their folder out so they can breathe properly.
  • They need a chair that isn’t broken.
  • In fact, why not just get “this type of chair that’s perfect for all musicians?”
  • They need someone to copy a page of their part.
  • They expect a free ticket for their spouse. And parents. Oh, and their tennis club partners, too.

And so the list goes on.


The Queen of Entitlement

One ensemble I conducted had someone like that.

She was older, retired, and very used to getting what she wanted whenever she wanted it.

Everyone placated her.          Givers and takers: which kind of performer are you?

An additional issue was, she was visibly and officially disabled, and I would hate to believe that the entitlements that rained down upon us non-stop did so because she knew it was social suicide to say no to her.

This was the first time I was brought before a Board to explain myself.  “We’ve received an official complaint.”

Because the old venue only had steps up to the stage, and this person’s section was in the back row at the top of four risers.

She already played in a row of her own, on the floor, next to the steps, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

Apparently, I had to move the entire section and upset the balance of the band, or remove the risers altogether and ruin the performance for the audience at the same time.

It got nasty with threats of discrimination lawsuits and unbelievable angst and distraction from making music as best as we could… as a community.

Even the intervention of her fellow section members did nothing to appease her.

But we eventually settled.

She agreed we could keep the section together, on the risers, and we agreed to let her perform with a different ensemble.

For real.

Make sure there’s someone there to listen

When musicians begin making demands for themselves, they expose just how much they have lost the plot.

Why are we working together, rehearsing and performing as an ensemble?

Ah yes – that’s right – to share this music with an audience.

To bring light and laughter and tears and goosebumps to others.

To make their days, weeks, lives just that much better.

But when the community sees and hears just how difficult some performers can be, do you know what happens?

They stay away.

And then you end up with no one there to listen to what you want to share with them.

Here’s a Triple Win Lesson:

(Cultivate your community)

Everyone appreciates a willing contributor. In fact, I think that’s even in the Bible somewhere: “God loveth a cheerful giver.”

So instead of demanding what you believe is due to you, consider instead how you can contribute to making your section’s life easier. Your ensemble’s life easier. Your audience’s experience easier. And most importantly, the lives of those in all your circles of influence.

How can you contribute, as much if not more, than you take?

Oh, and once in a while, see if you can make your conductor’s life easier, too 😉

There are lots of ways we can explore this together. Here are three:

  1. Share this post on your social media pages and forward it to a couple of fellow musicians (contributors, not takers! They won’t take it kindly).
  2. Watch my training session “The 5 keys our successful clients use to become expert musicians without practicing every day” at
  3. Join my Facebook Group “Upgrading Your Concerts” and share a similar story to the one above… I know you have one!