Picture of Nicole Martín Medina

Nicole Martín Medina

Gestora Cultural – Abogada/MBA

(Dis)Harmony in the Symphony (part 2)

Musicians and their management staff


It is allowed to ask. LET’S ASK FIRST.

(dis)Harmony in the Symphony (part 2)


We discussed several weeks ago the reasons why communication between musician-artistic staff and technical-administrative staff in an orchestra can be complicated. With this second part, I intend to go deeper into questions left unanswered in the first part, for example:

What can we do to better understand each other better?

I concluded the initial segment of this topic by recommending that individuals first inquire before offering opinions or rendering uninformed judgments. I am referring to the following:.

We should ask ourselves if we have all the necessary knowledge to give an opinion, or if we are affected by a veil that obscures our view. Nevertheless, we must also inquire from our coworkers if they can provide us with the information we lack or, in general, if there is anything else we ought to take into consideration.

I suppose Chiss Voss, author of the book Never Split the Difference[1] , who argues that any negotiation is, at its core, a process of information gathering rather than an exchange to be right or to impose one’s will, would agree with me. Let’s ask first.[2]

Currently, I am a member of the group of cultural managers, specifically the technical-administrative staff of an orchestra. Whenever an event occurs that has an impact on the artistic aspect and I am uncertain, I seek clarification first. I provide an explanation of my emotions, perceptions, and comprehension. Subsequently, I determine whether that approach may be incorrect. I may also turn to a trusted expert musician for a professional reference to explain the details and give me their point of view.

All this before responsible or specific person. If they back up my view, I might share my thoughts. And to criticize artistic matters… well, I really understand that it’s not my place to criticize artistic matters, at least not beyond my management work.

However, in the opposite case, when it comes to management issues and when the people talking to me are artists or musicians, this is not always the case. Some people make harsh judgments when it’s clear that they don’t fully comprehend the situation. They have a fixed mindset, and therefore are not always fair to their fellow managers.

Please do not get me wrong. I know that there are other managers who address fellow musicians the same way. Nobody is spared here.

Sometimes, I don’t know whether to cry or laugh when I hear a word used in its purely literal sense, and its legal definition or its specific definition within the business world is completely unknown. When it comes to legal and economic-financial matters, I can say that I hear plenty of opinions or criticisms that don’t quite pass the test of a well-used technical vocabulary. However, they are employed with such utter conviction that I aspire to possess it myself. If I have the audacity to say it this clearly, it is because I believe that my academic training and my professional career sufficiently endorse me to do so.

Many misunderstandings, intense conflicts, and wounded emotions could be avoided by simply asking before shooting.

Of course, feelings that are hurt. On both sides, we are humans, human beings with emotions and feelings. It is a fact that is often forgotten by all.

Even if we believe that we possess complete knowledge and comprehension of the case, it would be advantageous to formulate the concepts with a question mark before proceeding.

I believe that my proposal is simple, and the article could end here.


Given that, my readers are generally aware that I am inclined to conduct a thorough analysis of the issues, which is why I am interested in defining the notion of questioning.

What do I mean by asking ourselves

and the colleagues in front of us?


 1. Asking ourselves

Here, I need to go back to the seven reasons I talked about in the beginning[3]. These reasons explain how each group of professionals thinks. By utilizing these seven distinct concepts, I aim to delineate the perspectives that are naturally formed throughout a career, albeit not necessarily in concordance. I think the opposite is true.

It is logical that, if we always work in the same sector or professional group, a veil is formed over the years that obscures our vision. Our personal and professional experiences determine our perception of the world around us. This creates a cloak in front of us that prevents us from seeing things without a preconceived notion.

However, when we work in mixed professional groups, life will eventually require us to open up to different points of view or other ways of doing things. In order to facilitate this approach, I have identified the seven primary factors that impede communication between artistic and technical-administrative personnel [4]

In this continuation, I would now like to clarify how we can remove the blindfold and approach our co-workers in an honest and constructive manner, especially because – and this is crucial to me personally – effective communication and focusing on a common goal[5] are crucial for the smooth operation of a company or ensemble, something that can only be achieved by us all.


a. Breaking our fixed mindset, as reflected in the seven reasons

When I say, “We have to ask ourselves first”, I mean that we have to find out if, perhaps, we are not seeing things as clearly as we think we are (whether we like it or not, we are all affected! ), because this veil blocks our view or gives us preconceived fixed ideas that prevent us from seeing the issues at hand from the other person’s perspective.

Personally, I am aware that I am influenced by my experiences. To all of my readers who believe this is not the case, I ask you to at least allow the idea. With that, we would already have achieved a first step.

If it is clear to us that our eyesight is distorted by colored glasses, then we will accept that the people in front of us are the same.

It is essential that, especially in the case of discrepancies, we realize that the musician sees an issue from his or her point of view of excellence and perfection, while we managers think more about performance and profitability, i.e. the process. We’ve made a huge leap forward if both sides accept this minor difference in approach to a problem.

We should also consider our own strengths and weaknesses and those of the people in front of us, i.e. the other six reasons that hinder our communication.

Ultimately, I urge us to be generous.

We all make mistakes at some point. I think we can all have a bad day. There are fears and insecurities that we all suffer from. We all have something to learn every day.

Let’s be generous with others, but also with ourselves, and work on what unites us, rather than what separates us.


b. Break with ideas that form prejudices.

As an addition to the previous point, and I ask to be allowed the redundancy, we must ask ourselves if we behave perhaps under the effects of some prejudice towards artists-musicians, on the one hand, or cultural managers, on the other. If that is the case, I remove my blindfold and re-examine my surroundings.

Being honest and critical of yourself is important.


2. Asking colleagues and interlocutors

At this point, the effortless part remains: ask the person we are talking to, colleagues, musicians or managers about their needs, circumstances, motives and intentions for doing or not doing certain things. Let’s use open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that are not answered with a yes or no answer. These are questions that begin with who, where, and how much. These are questions such as “What has led to a certain situation?” “Who else is responsible or involved?”What legal or company rules condition the carrying out of a certain task?

The most effective approach is to familiarize ourselves with our interlocutor and the circumstances that surround him or her. This is the most logical approach for concluding any negotiations with flying colors[6]. We must pay attention to them and endeavor to comprehend their intentions.  It is better than blithely interpreting to ask again: “Is it correct that…”, “If I understood you correctly…”, “Did you intend that to go?“.

In fact, negotiation practitioners consider information gathering to be the first objective of the negotiation process. We must ask questions that range from the most general to the details, from the action or facts, through the motives and methods, to the more specific questions such as the whys.

A good negotiation involves seeking to understand the motives of the other party and using this information to defend one’s own point of view. I will talk more about this in the third part of this article. [7]


How to ask great questions – Jefferson Fisher, trial attorney, Texas


If, on the contrary, we are wrong about something, we should apologize. Personally, I have consistently advocated (and acted accordingly) that acknowledging one’s ignorance is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. Nothing is more painful than pretending to know and wasting one’s own or others’ time.

We also need to learn not to reject or condemn new and unfamiliar information, even if this is a normal defense mechanism that is automatically triggered so that we do not have to question our belief system [8]. It’s best to keep asking.

It is imperative that all the details are clarified. And then we can have our say (and, if necessary, criticize).

“Effective communication arises when a message is shared, received and understood without altering its ultimate purpose. That is, the sender and receiver interpret the same meaning. In this way, doubts and confusion are avoided, while expectations about what has been conveyed are met.”[9]

To attain communication as we define it, it is fatal to disregard the virtues of open-mindedness, empathy, and assertiveness. But the worst of the worst would be to have no communication at all and to stop talking to each other.

I would like to close this article with a piece of advice I was given some time ago.


If criticism is not required, better not give it.
I need to say it again: You can ask. So, LET’S ASK first.


In the third part of this topic, “How to negotiate with a lot of questions” I will talk to you about argumentation and negotiation strategies used in the legal and criminal fields that are interesting and applicable to all situations of conflict or negotiation in life, including those of us who work in classical music.

To be continued!

Nicole Martín Medina

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

March de 2024

(Originally in Spanish/ Translation Deepl/ Revision NMM)


This article is available in German and Spanish, too:

Spanish original:





Book: Cómo ser feliz si eres músico o tienes uno cerca (trad. How to be happy if you are a musician or have one around) – Guillermo Dalia

Book: – Chriss Voss: Never Split the difference, Penguin Books (2016) (translations into several other languages exist)

Article: Personality: the source of new insights into the psychology of the musician – Anthony Kemp (pdf)


[1] Chriss Voss: Never Split the difference, Penguin Books (2016), p. 17 ff.

[2] Pay attention to the third part of this article where I will mention the book again.

[3] See article from February 2024 –

[4] There could be more or less motifs, I have arbitrarily grouped them as 7 to define what I want to convey, the principle, the basic concept, the main idea.

[5] Others call it teamwork, but the term is too worn out for my taste, it has become a slogan in job interviews, I don’t really like to use it.

[6] Chriss Voss: Never Split the difference, Penguin Books (2016) p. 17 ff.

[7] Pending publication of the third part of this theme, due at the end of March/April 2024.

[8] This paragraph and its idea is not mine. I read it in one of the 30 books I read during the last year. Out of absent-mindedness, I did not note down who, where and when said it and I cannot give the author. I have looked in all possible books and I can’t find the quote. I apologise, I do not intend to take credit for something that is not mine. To know the books I have read in 2023, please refer to my January 2024 article:

[9]  See: Zendesk (2024) – Effective communication: what it is and how to use it to improve your sales –


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