Throughout my few years of concentrated music study, I have found myself thrown into many events where I have had the opportunity to meet many amazing, talented and established musicians, producers, arts managers, etc. Even when I walk down the hallways of the College of Musical Arts at Bowling Green State University, passing any faculty member is like walking through Hollywood and passing celebrities. Sometimes, we music students take for granted the amount of talent, wisdom and experience the musicians we study under truly have. I have attended many events with professional musicians both locally and internationally, and I think it is very important for me to note what I have learned throughout that process.
First off, when attending an event that you know many professional and renowned musicians and artists will be at, make SURE to dress appropriately and professionally! What you wear to these types of events is truly everyone's first impression of you, and you want to represent yourself in the best way possible. If you are attending a formal dinner, it would be appropriate to dress as you would going to a job interview. If you are attending a more informal party, still be sure to dress as if you were interviewing professionally (because, in a way, you are!). It would not be appropriate to show up in a suit and tie or a formal evening gown to every professional event you attend, however, it is important to look professional and presentable at all times. Wear something you feel confident and comfortable in, because if you feel at all uncomfortable, it will come across to the people you meet. I have a few different outfits that I wear to most of the events that I attend, and they are outfits that I have worn many times and I know that I feel completely comfortable in them. Dress professionally, and people will treat you as such.
Second, when you address people, be sure to never assume anything. For example, if you are meeting the principal flutist of the *insert city here* Symphony Orchestra, have never seen them before, and ask them something like "where do you study in school?" that is something that some people could take offensively. Introduce yourself, smile, explain where you study or where you are locally performing, and often people will reciprocate with themselves. I have been in a few situations where I made the mistake of assuming that I knew things about a person and turned out to be completely wrong - embarrassing. Luckily, they were nice about it, but I have learned never to assume I know everything about a person and instead let them tell me themselves. When you meet professional musicians, it is so important to treat them with the utmost respect, because they have worked so hard to get to where they are in their careers today. Ask them about their professional journey, what led them to do the things they have done, what they liked about each job or institution they've studied at, and other things about their careers or their playing. Try not to talk too much about yourself unless asked, and be sure you are genuinely interested in them and what they are saying. These people you meet are mentors that you can look up to and gather career advice from, so be attentive and soak up as much information as possible!
Lastly, be yourself and be confident. Never put yourself or your playing down, and never say anything negative about others. Potential employers, teachers or mentors are much more likely to want to work with you if you are positive, encouraging and hardworking. Do not try and be someone you are not, and get rid of all negativity in your dialect. I have seen many people not get hired for a job because they would talk negatively about others in front of potential employers or people associated, and it is just not a nice thing to do in general. Remind yourself that you are here for a reason - because you deserve to be - and conquer the room through your radiant smile, kind heart and genuine interest in others. Developing good people skills is absolutely essential to becoming a professional musician, and though talent plays a big role in our career development, you must also be able to relate to and befriend your colleagues, teachers and students. Musicians cannot often stand alone, and building a strong sense of community within your professional network is absolutely crucial for success.