Finding the first job

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    tess on #150127

    I am a pedal harp student, soon to be a junior in college. I have played the harp for four and a half years, and would like to get a summer job in Houston playing the harp, preferably as background music (my wedding repertoire is not quite ready). Where should I look for my first job, how should I present myself for employment (do I need business cards?, should I give my resume?, etc.), and how much should I charge? Should I ask at places that already have a harpist to see if they need someone to fill in for vacations? I have a pretty basic repertoire of classical, Celtic, early music, etc., enough for an hour or two without repeating. I probably need to add more pop. Any advice?
    Thanks in advance!

    barbara-brundage on #150128

    Hi, Tess.

    >Should I ask at places that already have a harpist to see if they need someone to fill in for vacations?

    Not this, since the venue will probably just try to see if they can get you cheaper and ditch the current harpist if you’ll do it for less. If you’re interested in subbing, talk to the harpist, not the people from the venue.

    These days it’s no easy thing to get a steady gig that pays enough to make it worthwhile, so you’ll need to be clever about marketing. Yes, you need business cards, a website, etc.

    To find out what to charge, talk to the other harpists in the area to find out what the going rate is. They can also be a good source for sub work and for referrals for single gigs like weddings and parties.

    Remember that now you’re going to be up against not merely persuading a venue that a harp would be nice music, but that live music is worth anything at all. Don’t get discouraged if it isn’t easy. Even back in the heyday of background harping, it could take a long time to turn up a good opportunity.

    Good luck to you!

    tess on #150129

    Hmm… I thought I posted this in Professional Harpists. It’s a little out of place here.

    Thanks for the prompt reply! The reason I thought asking about subbing during vacations might work is because I’m only here for the summer, so even if I don’t charge much (which I won’t because I don’t have any related experience, just recitals and stuff at school), they can’t hire me as a replacement because I won’t be here. Still, I suppose it would be best to talk to the harpist.

    Any other suggestions (or instructions as to how to move this thread to Professional Harpists?)?

    catherine-rogers on #150130

    As far as I know, there’s no way to relocate an established thread from one forum to another.
    As Barbara wrote, it’s always a big no-no to contact a place where a harpist is already working. That’s a quick way to make enemies for life and ensure no referrals, ever, in that town. I have known of situations where management decided to hire a different harpist without the new harpist making any contact–no fault at all–and it still created hard feelings that lasted a long time. People don’t forget losing a job to someone else.

    tess on #150131

    Okay, so I definitely won’t be asking where there’s already a harpist. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. So what’s the best way to find a job as a student (and where should I look and should I mention that I won’t charge much)?

    catherine-rogers on #150132

    Try to find out what others are earning for steady “location” jobs and don’t undercut them. Lowering the bar hurts everyone else and, again, won’t endear you to your peers. You may think of yourself as “just a student,” but if you’re out there playing for pay, you’re a professional by definition. If you’re ready to do the job, you deserve the same money. Win the job with your charm, talent and youthful enthusiasm. If you say you’ll work cheaply, you’ll be treated cheaply. (Not trying to preach; sorry if it sounds that way.)

    Steady jobs are few and far between these days. Why not contact local event planners, catering directors, and food & beverage managers to let them know you’re available? Be prepared to quote prices for different types of events (receptions, dinners and parties if you don’t want ceremonies) and number of hours.

    Also highly recommended: contact the local harp chapter and let them know your qualifications and that you’re looking for work. It may not directly lead to any, but it’s a mark of respect to the already established players and goes a surprisingly long way toward the necessary good will you’ll need for referrals, which is where most work comes from. Harpists who come into an area looking for work and who don’t make an effort to connect with the local harpists may (unfortunately) be considered interlopers and will find themselves last on the list when names are given out to clients.

    Good luck, dear!

    kimberly-rowe on #150133

    I moved this to Professional Harpists for you :-).


    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #150134

    You are in a tricky position. Contacting the harpists who have jobs and asking to sub is a way to get known, but you will have to expect to audition for them first. Less than five years is a very short term of study, to be honest, and you may not have quite enough repertoire yet. Customers may easily stay two hours over dinner and dessert. The kind of place I would think you could play in is a coffeehouse or cafe, very casual, and you might consider doing open mic nights in such places to get experience. One thing you want to be able to do is not look like you are depending on your music to play. You want to be able to read it so well, that you only have to glance at it from time to time, and be able to smile and look around the rest of the time. Your playing should be smooth and rather effortless. The pay tends to depend on the size of the place, how many tables, the pricing. You will need to get tips.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #150135

    I just remembered that my first gig was in a department store, at the perfume counter, I think. You might try local stores.

    tess on #150136

    Thank you, that was very helpful. My teacher is in a different city, so she was only able to give me basic tips. I realize that my repertoire might not be quite ready for restaurants, etc., so I’m thinking about beginning by volunteering in non-commercial places first to get experience.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #150137

    I think you will find hospitals happy to accept volunteer services, and it will be rewarding.

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