". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm Too Old For This

Or maybe I just have a bad attitude.

So here's the deal. This year I signed back on as a piano accompanist for a community children's chorus that I used to play for until my youngest was born five years ago. The organization is a large one, with five different choirs for which singers have to audition and to which they are assigned based on age and skill level. Both my older two children have sung for this group in the past, and until the demands on my time grew to the point that I needed to cut something out, I enjoyed the work. So now I'm back, looking forward to the opportunity to make greater use of my musical training while earning a little extra money at the same time.

So what's the problem? It seems the organization has become even more bureaucratic than I remember it. When I was on staff before, I don't recall there ever being any sort of formal performance review (although certainly if someone wasn't meeting expectations it would have been addressed). But now all musical staff are subject to a yearly evaluation. It's not that I object to that--in fact, I think it's a good thing--but as part of the evaluation process, I am required to submit in writing three professional goals for the year, against which I assume I will be measured at the end of the year. I am at a loss for what is expected here. My goals as an accompanist are to learn my music and play it well, show up on time for rehearsals and assist the conductor in whatever way I can, and not fall down while walking on stage for a performance. But somehow I don't think that's what they are looking for here. To me, those things sound like the behaviors required to keep my job, not goals to strive for. So what, musically, can I work toward that is above and beyond my required duties? Well, there are things, I'm sure. I have my piano students play scales, but the dirty truth is that I don't play them much myself. And I'm sure I would be a better pianist if I did. So maybe I could make a goal of reincorporating scales into my normal practice routine. There's just one problem with that: I DON'T HAVE A NORMAL PRACTICE ROUTINE! AND I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR SCALES! I can easily see myself at the end of the year, sitting down with the artistic director for my performance review only to have her mark a big fat F in my personnel file for failing to achieve this or any of the other lofty-sounding goals I might dream up.

I am just not at a time in my life when I have much desire or wherewithal to expand my personal and professional horizons. My priorities right now are to keep my family clothed and fed, to keep the house relatively inhabitable, to manage the paper flow, to teach my kids their lessons and take care of my mother, to tend to my own spiritual, physical and mental health, to read an occasional book, and to find some time to relax and enjoy the people I love. Rarely do I feel as though I'm excelling at any of these goals; the thought of adding anything else into the mix right now sets me a) laughing, b) weeping, c) panicking, or d) all of the above.

So can you help me out here? Can you think of some goals that sound good but that I can do in my sleep? Do you think they would buy it if I said I was going to spend the year learning my C-major scale and memorizing "The Spinning Song" and listening to some keyboard music on my new mp3 player while exercising at the club?


Susan said...

Philip is having the same trouble as you. He goes on job interviews, and they ask what makes him better than everybody else. But he has to have the "right kind" of answers to humor the hiring-bureaucracy. Gary, too, must have professional goals and be working to meet them. Have we really gotten so lazy and so adept at micro-management that "learning the job, doing it well, and even improving a little" is not enough of a goal?

elephantschild said...

Sounds like some mid-level management people got on the board of directors!

And booey on them for being too lazy to right a job description and try to pawn the job off on the employee.

Goal: to practice often enough so that I play the final performance with no more than three mistakes. :)

Goal: To model professional behaviour to all youth in this choir.

::rolls eyes:: Sorry, my friend, I'm not being much help!

Jane said...

Sorry, no help here, but I just have to say I could have written your second paragraph from the last. :)

Uvulapie said...

The thing is to give these mucky-muck middle-management corporate-speak people the same kind of corporate-speak, meaningless drivel back. They somehow understand it.

"I plan to expand my musical horizon by exploring the piano music of modern composers."

So you listen to a couple of CDs by Bartok or Stravinsky while you work out and all is good.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the suggestions, EC and Uvulapie! I know I have to come up with something--I just don't like having to play these games. I think I've been self-employed too long!

Michelle said...

I have many part time jobs because I enjoy them. The money is nice too - we always need the supplement. But, I'm feeling the same way you are - I don't have time for all the nonsense. I would find some goals that you could do in your sleep and if they don't like it - go back to your own stuff and forget that job!

I personally don't think you are out of line at all making your first goal to play your music well, 2nd to show up and assist the director in any way that you can! And I like EC's suggestion about modeling professional behavior to the choir. Those could be your three!