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Welcome to the twenty fourth instalment of Monday #MusicMatters as part of the JAMS Canada PRO Series – “Here’s What I Know”.

We caught up with Fran Donaldson for her insight on Networking & Team Building

How does one pick up networking/team building skills?  Is it something you need to study or is it experience?

You are right that team building requires both study (ie, observing how others do it and reading what experts have to say) as well as learning by doing, ie, your own experience/practice, as with any skill.  While a lot of basics might be transferable, I think musicians, like others, would learn most by working with other musicians, including those who have had both experience and success. In the same way, it is possible to learn from bad examples, ie, what NOT to do.


How can your team building and networking skills be applied to musicians working with other musicians or industry experts?

Team building and networking are essential to every aspect of life – whether it be with your family, in sports, at work, when you volunteer.  Good leaders know this and apply it in their projects.  Even if you are not a leader, this skill will help you achieve your goals because no one can do everything alone.  Musicians are no different.  Even if they are solo artists who work alone, they still need to relate to the venue owners, their fans, whoever helps them with their posters, promotion, press releases, photographers etc.  Musicians in a band would need all that plus be able to relate to their band mates, the sound technician, ticket seller, publicist, etc.  Any successful artist will tell you that they build a good team around them with all the necessary elements to help them succeed – people they can rely on, who know what they like, who deliver on time, who help build the brand etc.


As chair of many committees, what skills can you share that would be transferable to musicians? 

From the perspective of the “chair” or however the leader of the group is chosen and identified, I think there are some steps that would apply to all. First is to establish the common goal or end result: Do you want to impress the judges in a contest, or engage youngsters in the audience, or highlight something (a piece of music, or the role of individuals), or just entertain the audience (whom you should have identified, as to their interests, preferences, etc., and/or the nature of the event/occasion.)  Then, help each participant understand what role they play (not just their instrument, but what they will contribute to the common goal). And finally, support and encourage each member to do their best to accomplish their role, ie, not necessarily out-shine the performance of others, but contribute what is needed. The PS to all this is to help pick up the pieces and put the group back together when something breaks down, like one member under-performing or another dominating inappropriately. This requires tact and empathy, and may need to be handled privately.



What can you share about conflict resolution with different personalities?

Like in every discipline or job, there are various personality types who approach their job in different ways – prefer to work as a team, prefer to work alone, prefer to delegate, etc.  I would think that handling your music connections in the way that you would handle interactions with people around you applies to musicians working with other musicians, producers, venue owners, etc.  Remembering that being kind & courteous applies across the board would be a good start to dealing with conflict resolution.  I personally think that listening more and talking less is an underrated skill that goes a long way with conflict resolution.  Saying “I hear you” can de-escalate a lot of heated situations.


How has COVID-19 affected your life?  What can you share with musicians about this isolation period?

Music, like other “arts” has become more important as we have more time for them; but music brings not only diversion but beauty, sadness, ambition… and other emotions from memories evoked, passions re-kindled, or things that may have gone unnoticed in the past. I guess I’d say that music, perhaps even more than other forms of “entertainment” has taken a greater place in many people’s lives. For example, I’m spending more time observing the birds and other forms of life and beauty outside my window, while Sharon has improved her Italian and her singing, and another friend has concentrated on finding and sharing some humour (like cartoons), and music – in some form or other – is often a factor.



Fran Donaldson’s teaching career, which also included administrative positions, ranged from Grade 2 to CEGEP (Quebec Community College), followed by research and development with the Ministry of Education. Then in Ontario she worked in curriculum development, in English and French, for a computer-managed system that was ‘way ahead of its time, and eventually in an administrative position with a very forward-thinking private company, as different as could be from a government bureaucracy.

On retiring to the County over 20 years ago, she soon joined the local Hospital Auxiliary and the Business and Professional Women’s Club (International).  She  eventually served as president for both organizations (at different times), and also on the board of the Hospital Foundation and the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory.

This is where and how she learned that volunteers are not the same as employees.  It is essential to recognize and respect people’s motivation: They are no longer there to earn a living, they are not being paid for their work, and they do not report to a “boss”; what they want is to contribute to a worthwhile cause. Team building and networking are necessary to develop working relationships and help volunteers realize their goals in contributing to the cause which interests them.

Similarly, musicians need to develop skills to help them navigate various performance scenarios when working with other musicians or in a variety show situation. Being honest, professional, courteous, networking and supporting each other are essential to a musician’s business in order to achieve the musical goals.


Look for more JAMS Canada PRO Series “Here’s What I Know” Monday #MusicMatters here on our website and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In.

Some contributors also responded with videos – please subscribe to our JAMS Canada YouTube channel: