Holiday parties are fun if you’re a guest. But when you’re the band, they can be tiring, monotonous, and if you’re not careful, a minefield of career-sabotaging traps. But by remembering a few simple things, you can ensure that you will survive all your gigs and still have work next year. Even better, you might enjoy playing them!
I remember well the hardest year I had playing holiday parties. My son was very young and suffering from an ear infection. He wasn’t sleeping at night, and neither was I. I was playing a holiday party in someone’s home, and thought I was doing well just staying awake. But later I got a call from the contractor who had hired me. He had heard from the client who thought I was rude. I hadn’t meant to be rude; I was merely exhausted. After some explanations and apologies, all was well. But this led to my deciding on some “rules” for myself, some of which are incorporated in the tips below.
1. Bring your best holiday mood. It doesn’t matter to your client if you’ve been working non-stop for weeks and you’ve had no sleep. It’s his party and it’s your job to contribute to the party mood. Suck it up, say “Happy Holidays,” and smile!
2. Put some sparkle in your attire. Basic black can be holiday blah. Ladies can try glittery shoes or hair accessories, and men may opt for seasonally festive ties.
3. Choose your holiday music selections carefully. Consult with your client beforehand about the sort of holiday music he has in mind. Mormon Tabernacle choir or Nat King Cole? “Silent Night” or “Sleigh Ride?” We musicians are fond of saying that music, especially live music, makes a party. Be sure you are making the kind of party mood your host is envisioning.
4. Practice! We only take out our holiday repertoire once a year. Be sure to dust off the cobwebs before you show up at the gig. A little preparation make a huge difference. After all, everyone knows these tunes, and any wrong notes will be obvious.
5. Behave yourself. Don’t let the holiday spirit tempt you to ignore regular gig decorum. You know how to act – you may eat if allowed by your host, no alcohol, take breaks according to your contract, etc. Above all, be professional.
6. Be prepared to handle encounters with over-indulgers. Holiday parties can have more than the usual number of people who have had a little too much. If one of them starts annoying you, be prepared with an action plan, so you can act wisely, instead of reacting rashly. If they can’t be deterred with a polite but unencouraging smile, try quietly mentioning the situation to the host. You have a right not to be annoyed while you are working, but the host is the person who needs to handle the situation.
7. Enjoy it! When you are tempted to grumble, try changing your attitude with gratitude. Be grateful for the work, be thankful for opportunity to do something you love, be inspired by the other musicians you work with, be appreciative of the people who like what you do. (And yes, even at the noisiest party, there will be some people who will listen and care.)
Now, on to the next party! Anyone for a carol singalong?