How to get an artist’s attention |

How to get an artist’s attention

During the course of my musical journey, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some prominent artists. Take Jean “Toots” Thielemans, 85, of whom Quincy Jones said, “On his instrument he ranks with the best that jazz has ever produced.”

During a reception prior to a concert he was giving, Toots entered the space, surrounded by a small mob of admirers and other assorted folks, all of whom seemed to have business with him.

“Toots, wait’ll you hear what we did with that track …”

“Toots, I loved your last release …”

“Toots, we should really look at the next project …”


This barrage went on for about 30 minutes while the old man nodded his head, made his responses, nibbled some hors d’oeuvres and sipped a little white wine. I was waiting on the perimeter of this mob, eager to ask him some questions and afraid I’d miss my opportunity when suddenly there was a lull.

“Mr. Thielemans, may I ask you some questions about harmonica playing?” I asked very distinctly. He looked up, searching for the source of this miraculous question.

“But of course, my friend. Here … come and sit!”

He indicated the chair next to him, and instantly we were deeply engaged in questions about playing, about music. Then he started telling me stories while those in the crowd stood around holding their drinks and wondering where I had come from. We had a wonderful chat right up to concert time. Toots, along with pianist and author Kenny Werner, gave a terrific performance that night.

The moral is: If you want to get an artist’s attention, just ask him a genuine question about his work.

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