Monday, September 24, 2012

Guest Blog post - Patty Mitchell - There Are No Secrets

This week's blog post is by guest blogger Patty Mitchell. Ms. Mitchell is a professional oboist living in California. She is the author of a popular and well-known music blog - OboeInsight

There Are No Secrets

by Patty Mitchell 
Photo Courtesy of G. Dan Mitchell

There are no secrets. We have certainly learned this with politicians. If a political figure tweets, texts or shares something questionable online it's quite likely it will be made public.

But politicians aren't the only ones who do foolish things.

● A short time ago a young actress tweeted quite negatively about a musical she had seen. She received a number of hostile replies, and she later apologized and took the tweet down. Too late. What she wrote wound up on a variety of online news sites as well as on print newspapers, including Playbill Magazine and the Huffington Post.  

● I once read a Facebook post by a student at the university where I teach. He boasted about going to all his classes while he was drunk. Another student wrote to his friends to apologize for throwing up all over the car while celebrating his 21st birthday. (Many teachers, myself included, often choose to not be "friends" with any students until they have graduated and left the school. They really don't want to know what the students are up to!)

● I landed on a blog of an oboist who bitterly complained about her oboe instructor at her university. I easily found out who she was.

● Another young oboist blogged about a symphony that was on strike, divulging that her uncle, a sub for the group, told her he thought the musicians were being greedy and foolish. Her blogpost, had it been seen by other musicians in the area, could have had serious consequences for her uncle.

● A university music instructor has an anonymous blog. On that blog she writes about her colleagues and frequently writes in a very disdainful manner. She also writes very negatively about other musicians. I quite easily figured out her name and where she taught.

● A rather well known composer blogged negatively about another (much more well known) composer. He later removed the blog entry thinking, I'm sure, that he had been a bit too harsh. I merely had to go to the wayback machine ( to find the article when I wanted to verify that he really had written what he did.

● A university student emailed an oboe instructor to ask for lessons. She told him that she would find an available room on campus on either weekdays or weekends, and that she could get credit for the class as if he were the instructor on the campus. He replied to her, explaining that the school actually had an instructor on campus and she should contact her. He also Cc'd that instructor. As it turned out, I was the instructor, and she had been taking lessons from me, didn't like me, and was attempting to go behind my back to get lessons. (I later found out she had contacted another oboist as well: we all know each other around here!)

What you say or write can very well slow your career progress. At times it can even end your career before it truly begins. The world has gotten much smaller with the existence of the internet. Our music world is even smaller. Oboists know oboists all around the world. Violinists know violinists. Singers know singers. Actors know actors.

Be careful. If you what you write is something you wouldn't put up on what I call the "International Billboard" don't write it. If you begin to tell someone a bit of gossip with "I really shouldn't tell you this," stop right there and don't say it. Even an anonymous blog or a private Facebook group is not safe. It only takes a few hints that you don't even realize you are giving that can give away your identity, and our Facebook friends can sometimes become enemies. Irreparable damage is just that: irreparable. It's not worth going there.

As a professional musician and somewhat addicted blogger I have my "BlogRules™": 

  • Never complain about a colleague. 
  • Never write disrespectfully about a conductor. 
  • Never "tattle" on anyone but myself
  • Never write or speak negatively about the audience. 
  • Never gossip. 

Do I blow it sometimes? You bet. But when I keep my rules I'm better off, I assure you.

Music is a stressful business. We don't need to add to it by having to get out of awkward situations due to what we have written or said. The sooner we start with exercising caution and care the better for our hoped for long music careers.

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