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My Hogwarts letter: from contract to concert

Back to school! By now, you’ve started a new term at Hogwarts, right? Unless it’s your first year, or you grew up in a Muggle family (or both, like Harry), you already knew the drill.

September 1, Hogwarts Express from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross. Check.

Before that, back-to-school shopping in Diagon Alley. (And maybe a butterbeer at The Leaky Cauldron.) Check.

And you ALWAYS know what to buy—all thanks to your yearly Hogwarts letter via Owl Post. Check.

Now, even though it’s already October, It feels like my Hogwarts letter finally arrived. After gazillion days of playing at home (and a pretty cool virtual festival—you can check out performance videos on my YouTube channel), I just learned that I’ve been booked to play a LIVE, in-person concert!

So, now what? How do I get ready? What does MY Hogwarts letter have in common with, say, Hermione Granger’s? Two things: routine paperwork, and excitement. (You know she couldn’t wait to see the book list!) 

Details change, but the routines stay the same. When Hermione shopped in Diagon Alley, she bought different History of Magic and Transfiguration books every year (the heavier, the better), but her shopping list always arrived in her Hogwarts letter.

Same for me. When I’m booking and preparing a concert, the details change, but I use the same paperwork each time: worksheets, contracts, spreadsheets, and setlists. Here’s a little more about the routine paperwork I use to get ready (and how the excitement joins the party).

Worksheets and Contracts

After someone contacts me (Hey, Cindy, I’d like to book you for a concert!), that’s where I start gathering information for the contract, using a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet. Here’s some of the stuff I need to know:

  • Date and time: am I available? Check that calendar. 
  • Location: near or far? Round trip mileage? Indoors or outdoors? (If it’s near my home in the Midwestern US, I play indoors only between October and April. Brr. Not harp-friendly weather.)
  • Fee quote and deposit: for concerts, deposits are preferred, although not always possible. It’s my decision whether or not to accept a gig with no payment up front. (This is different than freelance gigs, like weddings and background music, where a deposit is always required.)
  • How long will I play? How many sets? (If it’s for more than 60 minutes, I’ll need to break the performance into more than one set, with a stretch break between sets.)
  • Music requests, if there are any.

After the contract is approved and signed, and the deposit is processed, I reserve the date and time in my calendar, and add it to the Events page on my website.

Spreadsheets and Setlists

Now that I know when and where I’ll be playing, it’s time for the “what.” Here’s where the excitement comes in. Time to plan and prepare that music!

  • For repertoire I already play, I keep repertoire spreadsheets, so I can quickly find and sort the tune information I need, including when and where I’ve played it. This is really helpful if I’m playing a repeat gig. Same audience as last time? They’d like to hear something different for this concert.
  • Using the contract information, I plan my set(s) with a setlist template that gives me a variety of tempi, types of tunes, and more. And it’s a perfect cheat sheet on my iPad Pro during the concert! (I love the forScore app.)
  • Now that I’ve decided on my setlist, I can practice the music for the concert! If I want or need to add new music for this concert, additional prep time is needed to arrange the piece.

Other Details

Of course, I have other things to do for a concert, like loading my car, travel, setting up my harp and equipment—and PERFORMING! Then, after greeting fans and selling merch, it’s time to tear down, load the car, and hit the road for home (or a hotel for overnight). Follow up might include getting the final payment, if not already paid. And I like to send a thank you note, and ask my booking contact for a testimonial.

So that’s how MY Hogwarts letter works—the routine paperwork that makes the music happen. I’ll share more about my harp systems and routines another time!

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