Being a Good Colleague (Redux)

I recently read The Ultimate Musical Theater College Guide: Advice from the People Who Make the Decisions and one of the things I highlighted was this:

This should apply to all your interpersonal interactions — in school, online, at work — because:

  • You want to be a good person
  • You want to be someone people want to work with
  • You don’t know who they’re going to be someday!

About 9 years ago, I republished this from about 10 years before (hence, the formatting is all wonky). Things have gotten worse since December 2001, especially with the election coming up. And I’m guilty of it myself. I’m posting this again as a reminder to all of us (including myself). Note the part in color below. That was added today.


[From the Winter 2001 newsletter]

As I write this, the holiday season is in full force, and the overwhelming sentiment is “good will toward men.” Unfortunately, as I write this, I’m also surfing the Net and reading discussion boards regarding my various interests. I’m finding a lot of people who are hostile and insulting, criticizing not just the content of people’s posts, but the people themselves. It’s very disturbing, because the boards I frequent are usually populated by polite people – these are “trolls” that come to stir things up and then leave (usually when they go back to college at the end of break!).

The problem is not limited to online newsgroups. Singers are notorious for gossiping about each other – when I was in grad school, the “Peabody Curse” referred to the phenomenon of someone walking into the room just when you were talking about him/her. (I witnessed this many, many times.)

Gossip is poison. It makes you look jealous, and petty, and will affect your being hired again. Even if the person you’re gossiping with seems “safe,” later on he or she may become friends with the person you’re talking about and he/she will tell that person what you said. And somehow, you will be solely to blame for the gossip, even if you weren’t.

Everyone remembers that grade school report card category, “Plays well with others.” Some of us did well in that area, others needed more work. (My problem was always “talks too much.”) The 1970s era was called the “Me Decade” by writer Tom Wolfe because of pop psychology’s encouragement to individuals to develop their own individuality and take care of their own needs, often at the expense of those around them.

Coach Phil Jackson, formerly of the six-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls and five-time champion L.A. Lakers, writes of the strategy he used in building a winning team in his book, Sacred Hoops. Players used to hot-dogging and grandstanding had to “surrender the ME for WE.” It was a hard transition for many of his players, but the results were obvious. This is an excellent book for singers and sports enthusiasts alike.

Baritone Mark Delavan, in an interview with Classical Singer magazine, talked about his attitude adjustment and the subsequent change in his fortunes as a performer. The turning point was someone telling him, “I’m not gonna work with you anymore because you’re an idiot.” Although he was well respected for his vocal abilities, his life habits, which included gossip and a harsh competitive edge, lost him work. Now that he’s cleaned up his act and focused on the process rather than the outcome (which is the focus of Shirlee Emmons’ & Alma Thomas’ book, Power Performance for Singers), he is internationally recognized and sought after.

In Joan Dornemann’s book, Complete Preparation, she says, “Pay attention to basic human behavior and courtesy. Act with consideration for all the people who help you along the way.” Do not “dis” someone just because they’re “only” office staff or backstage crew. They have a voice as to whether or not you will be used again. Today’s secretary may someday be an administrator, today’s pianist is tomorrow’s conductor, today’s stage manager is tomorrow’s director.

These life lessons aren’t just for singers and actors. Substitute the words “accountant” and “programmer” for “pianist” and “stage manager” and “Chief Financial Officer” and “Chief Information Officer” for conductor/director, and you can see how this goes beyond the realm of opera/musical theater.

So don’t be a troll. Practice goodwill toward all. No matter what the season.

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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