Collegial Responsibility or How to Keep Your Mouth Shut!

Collegial Responsibility or How to Keep Your Mouth Shut!
Wednesday musings...

What kind of colleague are you?

The revealing of your collegial personality reveals much about your professionalism, your personality and temperament.

Ultimately,  your "job" as a colleague to to pull your own weight and mind your own business!

I see too often singers trying to offer technical advice to other singers during a production, a rehearsal or performance.  This is simply not your responsibility!

Whether we like it or not,  theatre has a chain of command.  If you are hired to play a role, or a sing a part, that is your role.  THAT IS IT.  Your responsibility to yourself and to your colleagues is to learn YOUR role and YOUR part and stay pliable enough to create what is needed to be an addition to that production, rehearsal or performance.

If you were not hired as the director,  do not direct.  If you have a question about direction, ask the director.

If you were not hired as the vocal coach or music director,  then do not offer coaching or directing unannounced or uninvited.

Your responsibility is YOU.  "But I'm just trying to help"  is not an excuse for lack of professionalism or boundaries.

Simply - if you would not be open or welcoming to someone telling YOU how to do something, or telling you what you are doing "wrong" that wasn't in the role of director, music director, coach - then don't do it yourself.

Your actions reveal the level of professionalism you have arrived at.  Many are mere amateurs at best, masking as professionals.

All singers are in process - and whatever a singer might be working on is not simply going dissolve and be perfect when they take on a role or take on a part in a concert.  We are ALL where we are.

Collegial responsibility to a production is to be as prepared as WE can be and let everybody else look after themselves.  Those 'colleagues' who have the most to say about what you need to do or fix or change are not paying attention to what THEY need to do.  They create an atmosphere of distrust, awkwardness and resentment.  Ironically, the colleagues that feel they need to speak to you about your technique, or your posture, or your gown, or how you walk, or or or - are often not invested in the process nor have they "arrived" in their development.

Collegial irresponsibility is often another layer of self-delusion:  if they tell you what YOU aren't doing, maybe nobody will notice THEY aren't doing anything!

Simply know your place and your role within the process.  And if you are being harassed or bullied by a colleague, don't hesitate to say something!!  Part of the reason these people continue to spew their rhetoric is because people let them get away with it!

True colleagues know what they are doing and ask questions when they don't;  they are open for direction BY THE DIRECTOR;  they are open for musical suggestions BY THE MUSIC DIRECTOR; they are supportive of the process as a company and supportive of their colleagues in what each can bring to the project.  They do not disrespect boundaries - personal or professional.

If something crosses a line,  they speak up.  They speak up to the right people, in the right circumstance.  This is professional collegial responsibility.

When in doubt, know your worth,  do not make excuses, do you work and keep your mouth shut.

If a colleague ASKS for your input,  tread carefully.  Do not take over and begin to dictate.  Still not your job.  If something is worthy of a brava or bravo or good work - say so.  Congratulate when it is warranted.  Support when it is needed.  Reinforce when it needs solidification.

"We are in this together"  needs to be a mantra when learning to be a great colleague.  Nothing is perfect.  Process has to stay fluid and we cannot get rigid.  Knowing we are in an environment that can be trustworthy allows for us to release into that process and find our best selves.  If we feel we have to be on guard due to a lousy colleague,  the process is never fully satisfactory.

Do not assume collegial trust.  Earn it.  You have to earn your right to stand there, and so do they.  You do not earn it by bullying your way in, or by simply being asked to be there.  Your work ethic, your personal ethic and your ability to acknowledge where you are and what you are there to do will prove you have earned the trust others place in you.

Actions do speak louder than any words - so keep your mouth shut!

You do not have to agree with how someone else is singing;  you may be concerned with how a colleague is approaching a high note.  Let it go.  We ALL have to find our own way.  You have your OWN stuff to deal with - that's enough.  You don't have to agree;  you don't have to lie;  you simply do not need to say anything.  It is not your business.

Your job, is to do your job.  Let each singer figure it out THEIR job.  Let the director do his/her job.  Let the conductor do his/her job.  If everyone develops his/her process and works to create within the boundaries of what they are there to do,  often magic happens and the project is created!!! What a concept!!

Imagine imperfect artists coming together to create something together?!?!?!  Imagine just being where we are and discovering where we can be if we all just take the time to acknowledge the truth of someone else's path?

And, of course, if someone really oversteps it, a simply stiletto in the jugular has worked from time to time....(!!!)  If you walk out of rehearsal feeling THAT pain, perhaps it should become clear to you what kind of colleague you've become!

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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