As far as the do’s and don’ts with contractors go:
DO let them know you’re out there, even if you don’t know anyone who works for them who can recommend you. (But if you can get a recommendation from someone whose opinion they respect, that’s the best way to get on someone’s list.)
DO offer to play for someone who’s never met you or heard you before. It’s rare that a contractor will go for this or even expect it — a good recommendation is all most people need — but putting in the extra effort pays off sometimes. I’ve gotten some good referrals that way. Also, chamber music is a good way to meet people — it’s fun, a good way to demonstrate your abilities, and it’s a refreshing change for people who play orchestra jobs, Broadway shows or commercial gigs all the time.
DO get to know both contractors and players on a personal level, but don’t overdo it. The amount of “schmoozing” you do is up to you, of course — it all depends on how comfortable you are with people and with yourself. But be careful — when you lay it on too thick it’s pretty obvious.
DO send contractors your resume and follow it up with a phone call if you’re brand new in town, but don’t overdo it with this approach either. There’s a fine line between an earnest attempt at drumming up work for yourself and becoming a nuisance. Once a contractor or player has either heard you play or heard of you from a respected colleague, you have to assume that he or she will call you if they need you.
DO call people from time to time to remind them that you are around and could use the work, especially if you’ve worked for them in the past. Sometimes all it takes is mentioning how much you enjoy playing with someone or how important it is to you to work for them to have them start calling you again. You never know — maybe someone isn’t calling you because you’ve turned them down too many times, or you’ve moved and neglected to keep them updated with your current information. Or maybe they’d really rather hire someone else — you have to assess each situation on an individual basis.
The DON’Ts are fairly obvious, but bear mentioning:
DON’T be late.
DON’T forget your music if you’ve gotten it ahead of time.
DON’T criticize your colleagues.
DON’T play excerpts from the first part or even warm up in the high range if you were hired to play second — people can be really touchy about this.
If you can possibly avoid it, DON’T bail on gigs at the last minute — contractors hate this, and players who have recommended you for the gig you’ve bailed on don’t much like it either. There’s a finite amount of really good work in town and a huge number of qualified players who want it, so once you finally get offered a really good gig by one of the major contractors or one of the top players in town, do whatever you have to do to make room for it in your schedule and hold onto it!
Yes, I’m guilty of all of the above offenses and have paid the price, but I’m working on it.
— Tom Hutchinson