Behind the scenes of a string quartet

You know that photo that is making the rounds on facebook? The one of the iceberg with the tip showing above the water's surface labled "performance" and the huge mountain below the surface labled "rehearsal"?  Well, it's absolutely true. But what most people don't realise is that the amount of admin necessary for a successful group is another mountain. 

How have we solved this issue? It has taken us a good six years to figure out the best way of handling this amount of work. Composer Lyle Chan, Acacia's staunch supporter and close friend, gave us some very good advice at the start of our career as Acacia, but it has taken us years to truly understand what he meant. He advised us to play to our strengths. Use each person's individual strengths and divide up the work that way. 

Embarrassingly it didn't take us long to realise I was the one good with money. So I became treasurer. And Stefan is great at networking. He loves meeting new people. But some strengths are not so easy to identify, and some skills necessary to our group were skills none of us had tested out before. Like speaking in front of a large audience. Yikes! The musicians who do this well make it look so easy, but it's not until you stand up without your instrument (without the thing that is normally your voice on stage) that you realise how difficult public speaking actually is. I discovered if I use the skills my 6th grade teacher (thank you Ms V!) taught me about taking notes and dot points, I can speak on stage, but I certainly can't wing it like Myee can!


One memorable concert in Newcastle we all climbed up on stage, bowed and sat down, only for me to realise with a sinking feeling that I had forgotten my cello stop. You know, the little black rubber thing that stops my cello spike slipping on a hard floor? After a split second of wondering if I could play without and hold the cello between my knees like I do with a Baroque cello, and then wondering if I would do my cello damage if I jammed the spike into the wooden stage floor, I realised there was nothing for it but to run back to the dressing room and grab my cello stop. I quickly told an astonished quartet what I was doing and then ran past an even more astonished audience who had no idea what had happened. And when I say run, I mean run. We were performing in a museum and the dressing room was literally at the opposite end. It would have taken me at least 4 minutes to run there and back. I arrived back on stage with the silly little rubber stop in my hand and poor Myee improvising her talk and searching frantically for more to say (before we had even played one note)!

Publicity is another huge word in the admin category. Unfortunately the conservatory I studied at didn't go into much depth in terms of publicity. I think we were taught how to make a flyer using WORD... And so much has changed since then anyway (and I'm not that old!!). A lot of publicity is online  - this blog for example! And posters and flyers are almost a thing of the past. So we are all still on a very steep learning curve.  I hugely admire the Australian Haydn Ensemble. Their latest gimmick has gotten them heaps of publicity in the form of a hand written thank you card  "from Haydn" for anybody who donated to their campaign. I love this! So many receivers of these cards have proudly put them up on facebook. 

So let me know! Any ideas for crazy gimmicks to put us out there in the vortex of the inter-webs?