Mudcat Café message #757944 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #49818   Message #757944
Posted By: Genie
01-Aug-02 - 03:06 AM
Thread Name: Getting nursing home gigs
Subject: RE: Getting nursing home gigs
Actually, Marion, I seldom suggest to someone that they hire me less often than they suggest.  You never know how long a recurring gig will last (due to budget cuts, changes in staff, etc.), so take the jobs while they're being offered.  Besides, some places keep hiring the same performer twice a week for 30 years.  You just can't predict how the residents will respond to this kind of predictabiltiy/familiarity -- or how the AD will interpret the feedback s/he gets.

Re the tape "substitution," if they won't accept it I just stand my ground.  If they don't hire me, so be it. I haven't done that many auditions for nursing homes or retirement homes, but I have not found it worth while.

A couple of illustrations will show why.

One facility kept asking for an audition and presented themselves as seeking someone to be a regular, monthly performer.  I agreed to the audition with the provisos -- which they accepted -- that
(1)  the activity director would be present for the full hour of my audition program, and
(2)  she would ask the residents immediately afterward -- at least within 24 hours -- whether they wanted me to return.
The day of the audition, I called to "check in," and was told the AD no longer worked there.  I was going to beg off, but the administrator assured me that she would observe the program in lieu of the AD and would poll the residents, as we had agreed.
I did the program, and the residents seemed to love it.  Lots of them came up afterwards to tell me how great it was and how much they wanted me to return.
But the administrator had gotten tied up and was not present for any of it.  (She could hear it somewhat from her office but could not observe the residents' response.)
Soon thereafter, the administrator herself left her position.  When I contacted the new AD, a few weeks later, she wanted -- you guessed it! -- an audition!
I explained to her what happened with the last "audition" (i.e., free program) I did for them, and all she could say was, "Well, that's our policy.  We won't hire anyone without an audition."

In another situation, for an upscale retirement residence in Del Mar, CA, the administrator served as AD and required an audition.  When I showed up for the audition, there was virtually no audience.  A couple of folks came and sat in the lobby to listen, but most were out on a field trip.  Then two women (probably in their 70s) came in, with arms folded and expressions on their faces that seemed to say "We know you're going to suck.  Just try to change our minds."  I had no idea what their tastes were (and they wouldn't tell me), but it was Christmas season, and I had said I was going to do an international Christmas/winter/Hanukkah program, so that's what I started to do.  A few other residents were sitting around the periphery of the lobby, and some of them told me afterwards that they liked the program, but I started getting a bunch of diverse requests ("Do some Irish music."  "Sing "Danny Boy."  -- I don't even remember what they asked for, but it was all over the place), which I did my best to accommodate.  The two scowling women sat there, with arms still folded, for about 2 songs, then got up and walked out.
After the "audition," the administrator said she would talk to the residents, as was their custom, at next resident council, and see about booking me.  I expressed my doubts, given the body language of the two front-and-center residents.  She said, not to worry, that the music was great.
Sure enough, when she called me back she was most apologetic, saying that she thought I was wonderful, but that "those two grouchy ladies" had, in effect, blackballed me.  (Yeah, she could have been just "being nice," but I really think she was sincere.)
Had I been told (a) that I would be auditioning for such a small, unrepresentative group, and (b) that the decision to hire was not the administrators's but was a matter of NOT displeasing a couple of residents, I would never have done the audition.  After all, you can please 90% or more of the audience and still have a couple of people not "dig your act."


I've actually had a new AD take over in a facility where I've played several times a year over the past few years and actually ask me for an audition, because she hadn't heard me herself!


I think auditions are reasonable for jobs that pay pretty well, but most nursing homes don't.  They also make sense if they're done for people who choose--and will continue, for a long time, to choose -- the acts that are hired.  But  staff turnover in nursing homes makes this unlikely.
In my own experience, I have not found it worth while.

I offer a satisfaction guarantee instead.  If they don't think I'm worth my price, they don't have to pay me.  (In well over 8,000 programs I've done, I've had only one person ask for her money back [and that was a bizarre situation that I won't bore you with].)   I also provide references.  If this is not enough assurance that my programs are worth at least what I charge for them, I just forget about trying to book that facility.