Sunday, January 25, 2009
Casual PR = Stressor
or at least today. How does one comfortably 'crash' a book group in a professional manner? The first in a series of music book discussion groups began today. When I first read of it in the newspaper 'upcoming events' not much else was mentioned beyond the date and the book title. Since it was a book that I had read many years ago and since I felt that as a piano tech it would be more than appropriate that I attend, I planned just that. Later another notice appeared in the paper. It added the information that the piano tech for a local music venue would be a special guest. The exact terminology to describe this tech was "piano technician extraordinaire".
So today I arrived reasonably early to get a feel for the situation. One person and the host were present. There was a sign-in sheet. The first section to fill in asked for an email address, then name and address. I dove in. My primary email address has the word piano in it. I printed it very clearly. I was the second entry - hard to miss.
I took the time to introduce myself to the host.
"Hi, my name is Deb___________. Thank you for hosting this book group. It sounds like it should be quite interesting and informative."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Mrs. Host. Yes, it should be good. I don't know how many will attend, but we do have a piano technician that should be here soon. She'll be available to answer questions."
"Oh, I'm glad to hear that. I'm a piano technician, also!"
"OH. What's your name again?"
So already I think I'd made the host uncomfortable. The conference room filled with people. A decent sized crowd for a book discussion. Maybe 25, give or take a few. Once the 'expert' arrived the session got underway. First came introductions. Mrs. Host being particular to introduce A-List tech AND ME. I glanced at A-List tech. She seemed surprised, so I commented that I was there more in a group participant capacity. A-List tech commented that she'd rather stay in the background unless there were specific questions for her.
I will say that it was a good group. I imagine that most of the folks there were somehow involved with the music venue in town. Some faces were familiar. I think most were members of the higher echelon of small town residents. Definitely not part of my social circle, but hey, there was no turning back at that point!
So, good comments, good questions. And then A-List tech made a wonderful comment about the piano tuner depicted in the book. Unreliable, slovenly, homeless, and an afternoon drunk, albeit talented in the morning. We had a chuckle and kidded that the two of us certainly did not conform to the image.
THEN it happened. A fellow participant mentioned how fortunate we are here on the island to have (paraphrased) 'as quaint and quirky a piano shop as in the book, right here where we could all visit.' Someone else suggested a field trip. Another mentioned the same shop and how they had helped locating a piano for their home.
And on and on while I quietly turned my face and shoulders from each person speaking of THAT shop. Somehow I hoped that my body language would non-offensively make a statement of opinion. A-List tech said nothing, either having the same thoughts as me or being unknowing of the particulars of THAT shop. The interlude passed without being directly questioned of my awareness or opinion of the subject. Thankfully. Inside I was screaming of the technical deficiencies, questionable ethics, and well, I could go on about THEM. Thankfully again, a gentleman sitting just behind me changed the emphasis to recommending a tour of the Mason & Hamlin piano factory in Haverhill, MA. I jumped in and confirmed the excellence of the facility and their pianos. Pheeeewwwwwww.
Many times throughout the afternoon discussion, technical questions were fielded to both A-List tech and me. I made a point to always look toward A-List tech for the first response. Many times she did, but equally there were times of pause. Too long a pause from A-List. On those occasions I answered first and then turned to A-List for additions and conclusions. I felt I was considerate of the unspoken hierarchy.
At 4 o'clock, Mrs. Host concluded the meeting and reminded everyone of upcoming books to be discussed in future months. I thanked her, and I thanked several of the other attendees, personally, for inspiring good comments and questions. I made my way to officially introduce myself to A-List tech, who said that she had seen the stuff in the PTG Journal that I had written. We had a bit of light-hearted comparisons of tuning kit contents (she had hers with her and I didn't) and weights of those kits. Then I made my exit, leaving her to talk with Mrs. Host.
Next month the book for discussion is 'Piano Lessons'. Another one that I read many years ago. I guess I'll have to get a copy to review as I'll be there, in that group, glutton for punishment that I seem to be.
Oh my, whatever will I do if THAT other local tech is invited?