I would love to elicit ideas from the group on how to encourage other local harpists to help me to conduct a pointed intervention with a marginal quality, aggressive harpist who is using predatory practices to take legitimate business from other far more accomplished local harpists. She began playing as an adult, while she was a mom of two kids, working part time and had limited practice time. That is admirable indeed. Her musical background prior to that was nonexistent. She calls herself a pro because people have paid her for playing in the past (she has been hired often…she is quite an aggressive marketer). She sounds like a hobbyist, because that is her actual playing level. I know for a fact from several incidents that she can barely read music, and only with great effort, and it still often doesn’t sound right after she has supposedly prepared it. Her previous teacher coached her painstakingly over a number of years to play a few things acceptably well. She does not read music well. She gets nervous easily, and her playing is of medium average to below average quality. But the ordinary midwestern consumer writes nice reviews of her work online, because she is so effusively nice to them, and she begs them to be kind toward her in reviews. Amazingly, that seems to be working for her. If I were a bride-to-be who knew nothing about music, I would hire her based on the track record she appears to have (if you don’t know the whole story). She claims all sorts of abilities she does not have, and posts a music list that she probably owns, but I have checked out her playing. She plays very few songs, and those songs she plays are not played well. In her ads, she touts herself as being the best in town. In fact, she uses the name of our city and outright says she is the best in our city at the top of her home page on her website. Her ads are slick. People are being sucked in. Worst of all, she calls back clients for jobs I have bid on, after i have already sold the client on my excellent value, considering my skills, and before the contract can be signed, she says to the client “Whatever she charged, I’ll charge you much less. And I am every bit as good as she is! Please, please, please hire me! I’d LOVE to play for yoooooo!” I have outstanding ads out there, and I am not charging that more than she is. I have a degree in harp performance, I have been a Symphony harpist, I have played seriously since childhood, I studies privately under a top-notch jazz/pop harpist too. I have attended so many types of conferences. I have wonderfully professional videos on YouTube and I’m in my 50s, yet I look great for my age, thank God (she’s in her 50s too). For 20 years, I performed in a major city several hours per day on a daily basis 5-6 days per week, several hours per day for fine dining restaurants and hotels. My experience and my repertoire list are light years ahead of her. I have great reviews from brides all over the internet. I am responsive and kind to every potential client. How could she charge $50 less and get the gigs, after people seem to want to hire me and I have the gig pencilled into my calendar and a contract has been sent to the client? Is it right that she is misrepresenting her skill level and spinning her story to make her sound like she is far more accomplished than she actually is? i have attended numerous private lessons and masterclasses under the top harpists in the world. Now I see that she has reserved website addresses with names very close or nearly identical to other successful harpists’ website addresses (like mine!). those addresses she has purchased all lead to her website. This obviously intended to garner some of my clients for herself! Our chapter president straight out at a harp society meeting nicely said to the group as a whole that she wanted to keep a cutthroat competitive attitude out of our harp community. To that, the aggressive harpist piped up with: “I know what you mean! I love to share work with other harpists. Remember when I broke my arm years ago, and I had other people take a couple of jobs for me? Remember that?” as if she is oblivious to other harpists’ awareness of what she is doing. I had an outgoing message on my voicemail that greeted my clients that was wonderfully professional and descriptive of my work. She word-for-word copied it onto her voicemail. I am wondering how far she can take this ruse, and what I can do or say to advise prospective clients about her misleading statements and claims, without it reflecting negatively on me. People trust harpists to not lie. I bet most people looking at harpist’s ads online have no clue as to how far she is from being able to play very well. She was smart, and posted very few simple clips of her playing. I put up scads of examples of my work. But I guess someone looking for a harpist in a hurry doesn’t have time to spend much time comparison-shoppping, and many people don’t trust their own musical judgement.
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