Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Art of Working With Other Musicians

One of the great things about music (and teaching music), is that unlike many other art forms, music often requires collaboration. Anyone in a string quartet or a rock band needs other musicians to play with them. Likewise, composers need other musicians to play their music, and music teachers need students. But all this collaboration has its difficulties--arguments and strife within a group can mar cooperation and break up the most brilliant groups. That's why it's essential for all musicians to learn how to work together effectively.

Be on Time and Prepared 

I'd like to think it goes without saying to show up on time and ready to play, but I'm always amazed at how many people ignore basic professionalism. It's one thing if you get stuck in traffic once or twice. It's another when you consistently waste your group's time by making everyone wait for you. It's disrespectful to the people you're working with, and keeps rehearsals from being productive. And if you're late to a concert or gig without a great excuse, don't be surprised if your ensemble replaces you. 

Keep Group Discussions Civil and Professional 

It might be fascinating to hear about Robin's wild weekend, but when you're in a rehearsal, keep it professional. Rehearsal time is sacred; the more you get off topic, the less you accomplish. Besides, everyone will enjoy Robin's story more when they hear it over a celebratory drink after an amazing concert. 

As for arguments, every group has some conflict. Staying professional and to the point will keep it from spiraling out of control. Avoid name calling and personal attacks like a plague of locusts; people are passionate enough about musical interpretation without making things personal. 

Learn from your Colleagues

In one teaching job I had, we were encouraged (and even paid!) to observe other teachers when we didn't have students ourselves. It was a valuable experience for me--I got to see all the creative ways that other teachers engaged students and helped them learn. Maybe not everything someone does will work for me, but even then it's inspiring to see a great teacher in action.

As a performer, I also made a point to attend my friends' and colleagues' recitals and performances when I can as well. It shows support to fellow musicians, and gives me an opportunity to hear great music. Outside the concert hall, I enjoy exchanging practice tips, getting recommendations on new music to play or listen to, and hearing about new opportunities. What's more, most people love having someone listen to them, so it builds goodwill.  

Musicians are often intense, exciting, interesting people. If we treat each other with dignity and respect, then we can make great art together. Don't let arrogance or disrespectful behavior ruin beautiful music.

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  1. Great advice that could be applied to working with others in any industry! Visiting from #weekendblogshare :)