This post is inspired by Major League Baseball's winter meetings, currently in progress in Nashville.
What if hiring performing musicians was more like building a professional baseball team's roster? Maybe we would be--like the Oakland A's in the film Moneyball--using a version of sabermetrics in 2015 that takes many kinds of empirical data into account.
"Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball... Sabermetricians frequently question traditional measures of baseball skill. For instance, they doubt that batting average is as useful as conventional wisdom says it is because team batting average provides a relatively poor fit for team runs scored... Sabermetric reasoning would say that runs win ballgames, and that a good measure of a player's worth is his ability to help his team score more runs than the opposing team." (courtesy of Wikipedia)
What are some "traditional measures" of a musician's value? What would you add or subtract in 2015? Imagine that you are peeking over the shoulders of the advance scouting team, observing musicians at work. Could the analyst's scoring chart look something like this? (I'll leave the relative weighting of each category to the statisticians.)
1. ARTISTIC & TECHNICAL ABILITIES (rate from 1-5)
___ Rhythmic accuracy
___ Intonation accuracy
___ Dynamic range
___ Sound quality
___ Ability to blend with others
___ Plays with expression
___ Can improvise
___ Can collaborate across genres
___ Can deliver an impromptu solo performance (encore)
___ Shares a unique voice (has soul)
2. PROFESSIONAL QUALITIES (rate from 1-5)
___ On time
___ Prepares in advance of rehearsal
___ All necessary equipment in hand, and in working order
___ Organized and responsible
___ Rehearses and performs with purpose
Can we go further?
___ Polite and interpersonally appropriate
___ Sense of humor
___ Can interact with diverse audiences
___ Able to advocate for music/the arts
___ Has basic teaching skills (and can make activities appropriate for different ages)
3. PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES (rate from 1-5)
___ Positive attitude
Can we go further?
___ Engaged citizen
___ Culturally sensitive
___ Clean/smells good
Of course, it's important to mention that centuries of (ongoing) employment discrimination need to be recognized, and fair hiring practices must be upheld at all times. Still, in this theoretical exercise, who would you want to have as a teammate when you are performing around town?
Sharing excerpts of the learning happening in "Building a Community-Based Residency"