Archive for November 10th, 2008

Speaking To The Band With One Voice (And One Set Of Directions)

Monday, November 10th, 2008

I’m a married man, so I’m used to following orders.

But twice lately, my band and I have played for parties where multiple – and competing – directions have been issued. This has left us in the unenviable position of ticking somebody off – no matter what we did.

At both events, the persons giving us orders were (a.) the event chairman and (b.) the organization’s president. Thus, with one person nominally in charge of the evening, and the other the top officer of the group, both had a good claim for being allowed to issue instructions to the band.

Unfortunately, at both gatherings, the prez and the party chair had – shall we say – opposing “visions” of how the music should played. In each case, the president was ready for us to play livelier, louder, and more recent songs significantly earlier than the chairperson was.

This is sort of like having one person lower the thermostat, only to have another crank it up again a few minutes later. The party goes from cold to hot, over and over again. For the poor guests, it makes for a weird night.

In both cases, my sense was that the event chairs, who had been working on their particular evenings for months, knew where (and at what pace) they wanted the parties to proceed. I’m guessing that the presidents may have been on the receiving end of comments from guests who were ready to “goose” it a little ahead of the rest of the crowd. Rather than go through channels by passing the suggestions on to the party chairmen for their approval, the chief executives took executive action (which is – I suppose – their executive privilege.)

President Truman had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office saying “The buck stops here.” Parties benefit from a similarly singular authority figure. At weddings, this is easy – whatever pleases the bride usually makes everyone else happy as well. But other social events don’t have the same clear cut big kahunas. And multiple voices giving the band contradictory instructions is a guaranteed way to please no one.

To avoid anarchy at your next event – decide up front who is going to be the band liaison. If Daddy’s paying, it can be him. Or – if the party is in your honor – it can be you. But this is a choice that somebody needs to make in advance. Otherwise, the delicate souffle that is your evening will be ruined by having too many cooks add their individual touches. Your party will be the loser.

Introduce the band’s boss to them at the beginning of the evening, so that everybody knows who is in charge. After that, all other would-be bosses should simply relax and enjoy the party, because the band is no longer their problem.