Thursday, July 19, 2012

Everyone's Attitude Matters

As a conductor and educator, I am keenly aware that the attitude and approach that I bring to every rehearsal and class has a tremendous impact on the direction and success of that session.  If I bring positive energy to the rehearsal, I usually get it back from  the musicians.  If I am having an "off" day or am a bit under the weather, I can usually see that reflected in the attitude of the musicians as well.

A couple of days ago, I was in a meeting that ran right up to the beginning of my rehearsal. The meeting was rather intense and raised several ideas and concerns for all of those in attendance.   I raced to my rehearsal space following the meeting, never really gaining the time to focus on my upcoming rehearsal. The musicians were in seats and tuned as I raced up to the podium and began rehearsal.  It took me a solid 30 minutes to get focused and I believe that everyone in the room knew that my head wasn't entirely in the right place. The rehearsal was certainly sub-par in every way.  The musicians were unfocused.  They made unnecessary mistakes over and over again.  And, I became frustrated with them and myself as the rehearsal continued. The next day, I owned up to my personal disappointment in that rehearsal and took full responsibility for the results.

I am guess that this idea doesn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that may be reading this. We often hear that a classroom is always a reflection of the teacher.  I believe this is true.

I have encountered a situation this week that has me believing that the reverse is true as well.  Every student has a responsibility to bring a good attitude and approach to class and rehearsal as well.  And, it really only takes one bad attitude to pervade and entire ensemble or class and to really ruin the experience for everyone.

This week, I have a new group of students in my ensemble.  Te have had two rehearsals and we are just getting to know each other, both musically and personally.  It is a lovely group of students and I am really looking forward to preparing two magnificent concerts with them.  We are doing some excellent literature and there are many opportunities for genuine music-making and exceptional moments.  Except for one factor.  There is one student, that for some reason, has an incredibly bad attitude.  She has a disinterested look, isn't participating fully in the rehearsals, never smiles, is never prepared for a downbeat or and entrance, and generally exudes negativity with every movement she makes. (I am working to reach out to this student and am hopeful that I can care for her in some way that is meaningful and turn this around, but that isn't really the point of this essay.)  My point here is that her bad attitude affects me and everyone around her.  Ultimately, she is bringing us all down with her.  Her negativity makes me and everyone around her feel bad.  It doesn't just stay with her.

I think that it is important for members of ensembles to know that their attitude has impact.  It has impact on everyone.  Conductors aren't immune to negative energy.  It makes it hard to do our job!  Teachers and aren't immune to students' negative energy.  I am guessing that the same is true for pastors, CEO's, school administrators, managers, and all sorts of other leaders.  We all have a responsibility  for the energy that we bring to a team activity.  Certainly, playing in an orchestra is a team activity that requires energy and a positive approach from every participant.  I think that this concept extends well beyond a musical ensemble or a sports team, though.  Any group effort: a class, a business, a church, a club, etc.  requires all members to bring an attitude of cooperation and desire to succeed in order for the organization to have long or short-term success. 

I think it important for my musicians to understand this. We are all in this together.  It is what we signed up for and a chain is only as strong as the weakest link.  Both musically, and in attitude.

So, for my students and all students, musicians, team members, and leaders:  let's bring an attitude of positivity to the work that we are doing.  It will make the process much more enjoyable -more enjoyable for everyone.


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