Build a relationship before you meet

Planning an event with people you have not met offers the unique opportunity to build new relationships. Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo shares their experience with collaborating with musicians, concert producers, and music lovers in planning their 40-day USA concert tour in 2010.


Half of our 40-day concert tour through the USA was a trip down memory lane. I was reconnecting with high school and college classmates as well as friends I had not seen for years.

The other half of the tour felt like online dating. Robert Bekkers and I were building relationships with people we had never met or known through e-mail, skype, Facebook, and phone calls BEFORE the actual concerts took place.

How does this work when you organise a concert tour without an agent?

We did not have all 20 concerts and 2 radio interviews arranged before we left the Netherlands. In fact, only a handful were definite. The first three and last four concerts were organised by people we had never met before. We continued e-mailing each other to fine-tune the concert arrangements, e.g. date, time, duration, seating capacity, publicity, invitations, announcements, payment, etc.

How do you build a relationship before you meet?

How do relationships get formed?

Through transactions, through communication, opinions get formed. Expectations are managed. Anticipation is built in the run up to an event. When you’re working towards the same goal, that is, to make an event happen successfully, you become partners in collaboration. How you work, how your communicate and react tells the other person something about you and vice versa.

There are no drawn out theses or lengthy biographies about each other. How do we trust someone we’ve never met?

The first person was introduced to us from someone we respect — a doctor in the community. His reputation was validated by someone who knew someone who knew him. We asked if he knew someone else who could arrange a concert for us. The person he suggested turned out to be someone that somebody else we knew also knew of. This triangulation is important for trust-building. A kind of validation, if you will.

The next concert producer came about through the introduction of someone we never met before but had contacted through a google search.

I guess what I’m trying to say in this blog is this:

You don’t have to know the person who helps you make a concert happen. You don’t have to hire the person. The music business is about collaborations. We all have something to gain from working with each other.

The concert producer gets musicians to play for his audience. Musicians get a chance to perform in a concert. The venue gets used. The audience gets to hear and meet the musicians.

The single benefit of not using an agent is that you get to build relationships directly with the people involved in making your concert happen. The drawback is that you have to spend a lot of time online, on the phone, and ensuring everything is agreed and put together, all down to the last detail. This means managing uncertainty and stress on top of the performing and traveling. As time-consuming as it may be, you get to learn about the other person and the process.

During our tour, we met and got to know the following individuals who love music as much as we do. There were many more we met in the audience. How marvelous that planning the concerts gave us the opportunity to meet and build new relationships!

New England

  • Peter Terry, concert producer of JP Concert Series in Boston and Yakov Zamir, countertenor
  • Linda Kernohan, pianist, composer, music director, St John Episcopal Church, and blogger
  • Karen Parsons, Suzuki piano teacher
  • Jonathan Parsons, music connoisseur
  • Frank Wallace, guitarist, baritone, composer
  • Mark Davis, guitarist and mandolin player & conductor, producer of North Meadows House Concert Series
  • Beverly Davis, guitarist

Durham, North Carolina

Phoenix, Arizona

Houston, Texas

Denver, Colorado

San Francisco, CA

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo house concert in Carmichael, CA Photo: Daniel Roest
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo house concert in Carmichael, CA Photo: Daniel Roest

Lead times and lag times

There is a lag time to implementing your decisions. There is a lead time to getting something started. Planning a concert tour requires a lot of time, as classical guitarist Robert Bekkers discovers.

When I returned from shopping this afternoon, I asked Robert how it felt to make cold calls using his new name Bob.

“I haven’t started yet. I still use Robert.”

“Why not? I wrote a whole blog about you. Don’t you like BOB?” I felt slightly betrayed that he had backed out.

“I guess I’m just not ready for it. I still think of myself as Robert, not Bob.”

“But I thought you liked Bob!  There’s no mistake when you say Bob — you mean Bob.” I pleaded and reasoned. It’s important for cold call recipients to grasp his name the first time. They can’t question, “What? Wobert? You mean Rwobuht? Could you repeat that? Are you Danish?”

After dinner, as we sat on the balcony of our apartment, we watched the full moon resist the clouds after being eclipsed by the earth yesterday. We could not imagine being more relaxed anywhere else on earth at that moment. It’s taken us 2 months of traveling out of suitcases and staying in other people’s homes to get here.

Robert Bekkers launches solo guitar concert tour
Robert Bekkers launches solo guitar concert tour

There is a lag time to implementing your decisions. Yesterday, Robert decided to call himself Bob. Obviously one day was not enough to get used to it and do it.

There is a lead time to getting something started. Today, he received confirmation to be in Boston in early February 2011. He needs all the time between now and then to prepare for the visit and plan a solo guitar concert tour to last him until St Patrick’s Day. There are people to contact, concerts to arrange, flights to book, …. a deja vu of what we did for our 5 weeks of concert touring, except this time he will be doing it alone.

What can we learn from our 40-day concert tour from Boston to Sacramento in October and November? I will attempt to deconstruct and identify what worked and what didn’t in the forthcoming blog posts. In other words, how to plan a concert tour as classical musicians.

Thank you, Sacramento

From Facebook to Sacramento Guitar Society — a tale of guitarists with one thing in common: a burning passion for the classical guitar.

Today we received a thank you card signed by members of the Sacramento Guitar Society. The card brought back fond memories of the last day of our concertising in mainland USA this year.

Thank you card from members of the Sacramento Guitar Society
Thank you card from members of the Sacramento Guitar Society

With my left index finger bandaged after 3 stitches (above), I decided it was time to use it to type a long overdue blog post about our last day of performances.

How one thing leads to another is the story of our concert tour. Over a year ago, our friends Rachel and Jeff invited us to their new home in Davis, CA. They had spent a year in Utrecht, Netherlands using it as a base to travel throughout Europe whenever they could. We, of course, wanted to visit them but could not imagine flying to California just for a long weekend.

One day, I spotted someone on Robert Bekkers’ Facebook with “Sacramento, CA.” I “friended” John Oster and wrote that we wanted to go to California for we had friends in Davis. He replied and suggested that we contact Daniel Roest, president of the Sacramento Guitar Society. That’s how it began.

I introduced our duo to Daniel Roest who replied that another piano guitar duo had visited them before. He invited Robert Bekkers to play a few solo pieces at their next guitar society meeting on Sunday 21st November 2010.

Robert Bekkers after solo performance at Sacramento Guitar Society, 20 Nov 2010
Robert Bekkers after solo performance at Sacramento Guitar Society, 20 Nov 2010

Little did I know that our e-mail correspondence would lead to the Sacramento Guitar Society to mobilise themselves to find a venue with a piano so that we could play as well. This resulted in a house concert in the elegant home of Mary Wesley in Carmichael, just outside Sacramento, on the evening of the 21st.

After the evening house concert in Carmichael, California
From left: R. Bekkers, Mary Wesley, A. Ku, Daniel Roest in Carmichael, CA

Less than 24 hours before the last house concert, we were performing in the loft apartment of two pianists in San Francisco. It was a brilliant ending of a 5-week, 8-state concert tour with many stories to share.

When pianists get together, we try to play duets. When guitarists get together, they try each others guitars. We have still to meet another piano guitar duo. Will it be 4 hands on one piano with two guitars?

Below: Robert and John at the end of their guitar evening in Davis, CA.

Two guitarists showing off in California
Two guitarists on one guitar in California