Top tips on how to get booked for a concerto
So you want some concerto experience? You’ve put the work in, learnt the notes, played it through with a pianist, listened to it 24/7 to know the orchestra part inside and out, but you've had no experience of performing with an orchestra before and you don't know where to start.
Or maybe you've already done a couple of concertos before, but you're struggling to find new opportunities.
Here are some tips on how to self promote and get concerto bookings...
1 – Be ready to email everyone
The first thing to realise is that you’re going to have to email a LOT of people. The second thing is to realise you’re going to get a LOT of rejection. Some of this will be people not replying, some will be people replying and saying no. The good news is that it’s totally ok.
Being rejected isn’t a reflection on you. There are a ton of reasons why you might get a no… no availability, your suggestions don’t fit in with what they’re programming, they’ve just had three soloists who all play the same instrument as you and they want a bit of variety…
All you’re looking for is that ONE yes. So be tenacious, keep asking and don’t be put off by a no.
2 – Who to ask?
There are a ton of amateur or community orchestras. Usually, they will be looking for people to come and perform solos. Some of them may not have the resources to actively look, so you contacting them is definitely a good thing. Now all you have to do is find out how to get in touch with every amateur orchestra in the country… hard right? Not as hard as you think…
UK – UK Amateur Orchestras website (easily broken down into region)
USA – Community Band and Orchestra Contact Info website (bit tricky to read, but in the top section there are links to look at regional groups in the USA)
3 – Write an adaptable pitch – do your research – then adapt
Chances are, you’re going to be one of many people emailing them. So a mass copy and paste email isn’t going to cut it. Partly as the person reading it can always tell and it will probably put them off, but it also means that you’re offering a “one size fits all” pitch that might shoot yourself in the foot.
So initially, write a pitch that covers some of the basic info… who you are, your bio, the standard waffle bit of “I am writing to ask if I can have solo… pretty pretty please” etc.
Once you’ve got than in shape do some research on the orchestra website, have a think about what to offer them based on their size and recent repertoire, and try the following…
From looking at your website, orchestra and recent repertoire, I would like to suggest performing APPROPRIATE PIECE NUMBER ONE or APPROPRIATE PIECE NUMBER TWO with you.”
Massive benefits of this are:
You suggest something they can play… no point suggesting a huge symphony orchestra piece if they’re a tiny chamber orchestra
You suggest something they haven’t just played… If they’ve just done Elgar’s cello concerto and you suggest playing Elgar’s cello concerto you have zero chance
You’ve shown a genuine interest in who they are and that you want to work with them. You’ll have a personal connection that will set you apart instead of spam emailing.
Oh, and while you’re doing the research, take the time to find the name of the person you’re emailing instead of the generic “to whom it may concern”.
Definitely aware this will take a LOT more time… but well worth it.
4 – Include videos, recordings and social media
If you’ve got them, definitely make the most of them and include links. Likewise, sharing your social media profiles is as important as your biography. They’ll give them an insight as to who you are and what you’re up to.
Even though recordings and videos really help, don't sweat it if you don't have them. Make sure your words do the talking about what level you're at. Or you could be completely different and invite them to come and perform somewhere else!
5 – Be honest
Everyone has to start somewhere. Don’t fret if you don’t have any recordings, or you made your twitter profile yesterday, or that you haven’t done a solo before. Be honest about being at the start of your journey.
There is such a huge variety in the types of orchestra you’ll be emailing. You’re bound to find who will be looking at helping new people or unable to get “big name” soloists in. By being honest you’ll find your match.
6 – Offer more than normal
This is a great way to set yourself apart. If you have extra passions this is the time to tell them and offer them as a way to sweeten the deal.
Like working with young people? Offer a performance workshop or masterclass
Do you do music in the community? Offer to go and play in a nursing home there
Do you have 80,000 instagram followers? Offer to do some joint promo
Are you a keen musicologist? Offer to do a pre-concert talk
You can seriously let your imagination run wild here. What you’re doing is giving them a 2-4-1 offer… buy one get one free. If they hire you, they’re getting so much more than a soloist turning up and playing. They get someone engaging with them, their audience and their wider community.
By the end of your pitch you’ll be like the Godfather… "making them an offer they can’t refuse".