Playing in an instrument in an orchestra is really a unique experience. Any musician will tell you that it develops your skills in a way that nothing else can, and provides a incomparable space for creativity and discipline. The biggest things one can learn from playing in a group like this is how important teamwork can be. There is no end to the lengths you can go, and the heights you can climb if you can work together as a unit with your colleagues.
Being on the same page
A failure in the music world and the business world can quite literally be because someone is on a different page. Many times in an orchestra an entire section can be off or playing the wrong thing because they got the measure number wrong, or had different markings in their music. It is the job of the team as a whole to make sure that everyone is working with the same motives and instructions. Saying that ‘its not my problem’ or ‘someone else will take care of it’ isn’t an option. A team is only as strong as its weakest player; this isn’t just a cliché its the truth. The only way a team can thrive is if everyone is on board with what is going on. Sometimes you have to take the time to help someone along. In return they will very likely help another person along. Which ties right into our next point:
Following the leader
There is a very clear hierarchy in the orchestral realm. The first chair instruments are in charge of the people behind them, those people are in charge of the people behind them, etc. All of these first chair instruments report to the concertmaster, and the concertmaster reports to the conductor. This system is in place for several important reasons; first, it gives everyone a little bit of responsibility and spreads out the work a little bit. It also allows information to be spread accurately so everyone has the correct instructions. Finally and most importantly it allows all of the different instruments to work together to create beautiful music. Orchestras are made up of many different instruments, and each instrument has different limitations. So while the conductor may want the french horns to sound a certain way, he can trust the first chair french horn to either work out a way to do it, or to tell him it is impossible. Just as different employees in different parts of a store are experts in their areas, so too are the first chairs. It is a relationship built on trust and respect for experience.
Listening to those around you
As an individual in an orchestra it is your job to listen not only to the information being passed back to you, but also to the music going on around you. You can learn heaps by simply listening to how a more experienced player is working through a certain passage. It is crucial for a player to multitask; you must read your music, watch the conductor for cues, and most of all listen to the orchestra as a whole. The secret to perfect synchronization is the entire group listening to each other, and looking at each other.
- Those who laugh together stay together
People who share a workplace are not always the best of friends, and this is also true of orchestra members, however, the best team members always know each other at least on a cursory level. It is nearly impossible to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect if you don’t know the person to begin with. A lot of bonds form within an orchestra that are very specific to that setting. Lots of inside jokes are formed, and people understand each other in a way completely foreign to people outside the group. This comes partially from shared experience: the grueling five hour rehearsals, the adrenaline rush of performance, and the act of creating music together. This relationship is also developed out of necessity. It is purposefully pursued in an effort to create a cohesive unit in which each member musically if not personally understands every other member.
A good ecosystem isn’t created in a day
A good working relationship doesn’t happen overnight. An orchestra must be extremely cohesive and responsive to each other, and this doesn’t develop in one or two rehearsals. It takes dozens of long and indeed sometimes tedious hours in order to be a performance ready unit. Good strong working relationships take time, just as a romantic or personal relationship takes time. Once you have built this bond it is a juggernaut. Anything can happen when mutual trust and respect are at the center of a working unit.
Whether you are a classical musician, a rock artist, or even a business owner, the principles of teamwork are generally the same. An orchestra is a very clear and concise example of teamwork at its best.
When not playing in the orchestra, Martha Bartell is working on learning how to be a historic seamstress and acting as a choir director! If you enjoyed this post – maybe you should follow us on twitter and facebook!