Effectively onboarding musicians to your orchestra

Whether you are a community orchestra, professional orchestra, youth orchestra or Conservatory of Music; a successful onboarding process is critical to the integration of the musicians in your organisation.

The onboarding process often involves multiple steps, including the audition process, orientation and training. It is important to tailor the onboarding process to the type of orchestra. In this blog post, we will provide tips and strategies for successful onboarding, to help you create a thriving orchestra.

Looking at the whole process for onboarding process for musicians

It’s important to consider the onboarding process in your orchestra as a whole picture, to ensure cohesion and avoid double handling for both your sake and the experience of artists joining your orchestra.

This process will have different components depending on what type of organisation you are running. Before you need to onboard a new artist, it is beneficial to create a document that outlines the steps that musicians will go through including steps that administrators need to complete for the musician to be successfully onboarded in your orchestra.

Below are typical steps in the onboarding process, but many won’t apply if you’re running a smaller community organisation. I’ve broken this post into sections that talk about how to increase efficiency of each step from an administrators perspective with some notes about increasing productivity generally at the end.

Typical steps when onboarding musicians:

  • Audition
  • Employment or Agreement paperwork
  • IT set up
  • Organisation orientation
  • First day & role specific information

Managing auditions

Given that we live in a very digital age, it’s likely that at the very first point of collecting data about a candidate that we will potentially onboard, will start on your website and relate to auditions.

There are some very low cost ways of utilising your website to ensure your operations are efficient, but most centre around making sure that the data in you collect in these circumstances goes to the right places which reduces the work you need to do later.

If a candidate wants to join your orchestra, a good starting point for even the most basic websites is a contact form that can collect their name and email address but you might even be able to collect a sample video file from them. If you receive a large number of candidates through your application process, this might be a good way of noting who you would like to invite to an audition.

Many organisations use apps like Acceptd as a way of managing their audition process, which can help with onboarding as you’ll have digital candidate information right from the start of the process and the artist can pay their audition fee using their bank card. If you do decide to go with an app to help with managing auditions, link it directly on your website wherever you talk about auditions so you don’t get emails asking how to access the audition management platform.

Employment or Agreement Paperwork

Employment or Agreement Paperwork

Any new employee or member of an organisation inevitably must fill out some paperwork to join your orchestra. The amount of paperwork and where it goes though will vary depending on your organisations size and type. This is especially important to ensure accurate employment and pay information is on file for organisations where this is relevant.

To set your self up for success, look at using a tool like DocuSign or PandaSign. Both are great options for electronic form completion with signatures. If it’s less important that there is a signature, and you really want to just collect data about your artist (like contact details and emergency contacts) take a look at Google Forms. It’s free and is very easy to connect with Zapier mentioned below.

Scheduling your new artist

One of the most time consuming and critical parts of onboarding musicians is communicating the remainder of the orchestra’s season schedule and specifically for where they fit in alongside other artists.

This is particularly important if you have already booked casual musicians for some of the remaining projects in that season.

You can however use a tool like Symphona to manage this process. If you’re onboarding multiple artists you can use our bulk position importing tool and then all you need to do is roster each musician to the projects they will be required for. From there, they can see the orchestras upcoming projects, alongside their personalised schedule including what works are being played.

If you have a mix of regular and casual players in your community orchestra, you can even send project offers for new projects where an artist has the ability respond in-app.

Symphona's project offers saved the Hobart Wind Symphony group 200 touch-points in its first two weeks using Symphona, by sending project offers and receiving responses in-app which meant the team had more time to plan and launch events.

Symphona even has it’s own Zapier integration so you can automate some of your workflows (see the example workflow below!)

Example workflow:

Audition outcome > Add position(s) to Symphona > Zapier then sends a welcome email to the musician that includes/outlines:

  • the documents that they must sign and return,
  • Links to the Code of Conduct,
  • information about access to locations (like the community hall you practice in, that means you use the side entrance), and,
  • information about the use of Symphona for rehearsal and performance schedules, leave management and project offers for casual artists.

On the job training

Often overlooked when onboarding, training once artists have commenced on how to use the various organisation tools will make your life so much easier. Each platform has its own quirks and getting artists across those earlier will mean that you don’t need to communicate each new projects a dozen times or repeatedly tell artists how to add a note for their section.

Where you can, look for platforms that have a great support team and documentation to refer back to because when setting up access to new platforms and learning how to use them, the most basic of a concept can be lost.

Making workflows more efficient

When administrators begin to look at the mountain of tasks they must complete as part of the onboarding process, and how they might have done it in the past, they have an idea of the order in which things can or must be done. For example, you would normally try and send company information to a company email, over a personal one therefore the email must occur before sending specific information by email.

A great way to take that personal order of tasks, and make them more efficient is by using a tool like Zapier. Zapier allows you to create ‘Zaps’ or workflows, that are triggered at different times. It allows you to links between tools that don’t normally work together which allows you to build an ecosystem that works to reduce the number of times you need to be writing the same data out.

This is where having digital tools over things like paper membership records, or paper desking makes it really hard to increase efficiencies and get more time in your day.

In the list of tasks above, a good trigger could be the appointment or successful audition. At this point you could put the candidates information into the HR platform you use or a simple spreadsheet, and trigger a Zap that sends out the document set you require them to fill out and sign via email.

Best practice for getting information to your new artist

Best practice for getting information to your new artist

Throughout each step of onboarding musicians, it’s wise to keep the artist aware and involved in the process. A word of caution though, be careful of bombarding them with information that is not useful for them because most artists are trying to focus on their art, not the admin that goes alongside it.

A helpful starting point is once you’ve notified them of their successful audition, is to talk about when they can start, what paperwork you need them to submit and when their first pay will be. Anyone starting a new project wants to know what they can expect quickly and easily.

It’s best to pick one medium of communication, typically email, and use that for sending any of the documents or progress updates through each stage of onboarding if it will take a little while.

Don’t forget you are a team

Overall onboarding musicians properly makes the world of difference, particularly in community orchestras. It helps musicians engage positively with your organisation from the start, setting them and you, up for success. In this blog post we’ve talked a lot about the great options available to use technology to get artists from applications to part of the team, but they are just that. Don’t forget to get out there and support them culturally once they are in.