“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth
It does no good to gossip about our colleagues and their ensembles. It doesn’t help the arts community in general or the choral community specifically to “bad mouth” others. We are all in this together and the sooner we realize it and behave accordingly, the sooner we will reap the benefits.
We should be supportive of each other, since if your group is doing well, my group should be as well. Many forget this truth. They attend concerts and gossip about the performance or the concert wear or who is doing what and how well WHILE THE CONCERT IS HAPPENING. They repeat gossip they hear to their friends and the truth, whatever it is, morphs into something unrecognizable, the victim of a game of “Telephone.” It might be “fun” but it is damaging because it destroys good will. And art organizations, no matter on the church, school or community level, need good will to survive.
I hate the gossip which surrounds some art organizations. I won’t tolerate gossip in my rehearsals from singers about other groups, especially if they are former members of those other groups. You won’t hear a bad word from me about my conducting colleagues or their choirs in public or private, but my spouse and children know my opinions. I will nod or be non-committal when gossip swirls around me but I won’t join in the “fun” no matter what. I know when the gossip is directed at me in my presence and I refuse to acknowledge it, I look stupid or naïve. If I say anything in retaliation or make an equally nasty comment, I will be sinking to their level. And I will look as poorly as they do. Better to be thought of as stupid than nasty!
There is a difference between networking and gossip. If someone retires and there is an open position, it’s good to know. It’s also good to hear why the person is leaving so we can decide if we really want to apply. Whoever applies for the first job and then gets it will create another opening. And so on, down the food chain of choral jobs. We’ve all heard stories about colleagues in our community: the “too big for his britches” fellow who got the plum church job and was asked to leave after eight months or the college conductor who retired and left a mess for his successor to clean up or the community chorus director who didn’t try to be a community member. I never believe such stories unless I hear it from a person I respect. I believe the church member/piano professor who was the one to let the church director go or the college conductor’s replacement. The alto with an attitude I don’t believe when she tells me the director was asked to leave for the simple reason he didn’t attend the fund raiser! I don’t repeat these stories to anyone because I don’t want to perpetuate gossip. It’s not fair to my colleagues and I don’t want to get that reputation.
My own chamber choir is not the norm around here and, as often as not, is referred to as that “little choir” in a rather disparaging way. The singers in my choir understand we are that “little choir” until proven otherwise. Recently, I had a conversation with one of my altos after our fall concert. This particular concert’s attendance was pretty good and my alto noticed several members of other, larger choral organizations from our community attending. Both of us in this post-concert conversation opined their attendance probably wasn’t so much a desire to hear our concert but probably a desire to see us fail. My alto is one of the most laid back, non-gossipy people I know, so when she offered her opinion, I took her seriously. She told me a friend of hers, a member of one of those other choral groups, spoke with her after the concert and told her she was surprised we were so good because “rumor has it” we weren’t. The saddest part of this whole story is in that one phrase, “rumor has it.”