Posted in How-to's on February 15, 2012
This post is part of our Concert Band Season series. Visit the Series’ page for more information.
Concert band is one of the few group activities I’ve been a part of where you can create beautiful works of art and never know the people next to you. In most other groups and teams, knowing your peers is critical to achieving success. Although you can definitely put on a concert without knowing everyone in your band, there are so many benefits of developing a strong sense of community within your band. Most humans have a natural desire to be a part of something. When we feel like we belong, we are more satisfied, we take more ownership for the success of the group, and we care more about the other people in the group.
However, getting to know the other musicians in a concert band can be tough! Socializing during rehearsals is discouraged due to the distractions it can cause. (I’m sure we’ve ALL been there. I used to have a director who hated talking in his rehearsals so much that he would… Well, that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, back to the post!) Although it is important that rehearsals stay “on task”, there is much more to a band than just learning music.
Lucky for you, here are several ways you can build camaraderie in your concert band:
Start with those around you.
There are two important things to remember about your concert band. First, most people aren’t hermits. Second, people who aren’t hermits want to make new friends. The chances are that a large percentage of your fellow band members are sitting in rehearsal wondering what everyone else is like and wishing they could get to know some of the other people in the group. It’s easiest to start working on relationships with the people around you–your stand partner, the cutie on the other side of your stand partner, etc.
As you begin to build relationships with the people around you, you will notice the sense of community already begin to increase. If your stand partner (or you, let’s be real here) used to dread coming to rehearsal, now that they’re comfortable with you, they might start looking forward to spending some time around “those cool people from concert band”.
Plan a social gathering. Celebrate!
Taking the time to celebrate a group’s achievements is very important, but often overlooked! Let’s say you’ve just had a concert that you worked your booty off getting ready for. You practiced for hours on end. When the concert came around, you knocked it out of the park! Naturally, of course.
At your next rehearsal, the director says a few words of encouragement along the lines of “Well, that wasn’t bad. I was expecting much worse. Pull up the new Holst piece. We’ll start at measure 104.” You weren’t really expecting much more than that, it’s a class after all, and the next concert is only X weeks away. You tell yourself it’s no big deal, but deep down inside you feel a little… overlooked and under-appreciated. This could have been easily avoided with a little more celebration and positive reinforcement. Ask your director if you can throw a little party before/after rehearsal. Perhaps persuade him into shelling out a few dollars for some pizzas, or call up your friend Phil who just LOVES to bake cakes.
A little food, a gathering place, and a bunch of people who want to feel appreciated. You’ve got a recipe for success! Don’t worry if not everyone shows up, just make sure that the people who DO show up have a great time! Next time there’s a concert, you can bet everyone is going to want a slice of Phil’s double chocolate death cake.
**Notice from the legal fairy: Don’t make food for people in your own home and feed it to them. It puts you at legal risk. If you do it, and someone gets sick, please remember that I told you explicitly not to. Instead go buy a cake from Wally-land. …at least avoid Phil’s double chocolate death cake. Don’t come crying to me.
Take interest in people outside of rehearsal.
On a personal level, ask about people’s lives outside of rehearsal. Yes, they do have lives beyond playing their instruments. Ask about what people have going on with their classes and their other activities. People love talking about themselves, don’t be afraid to start a conversation! Remember to listen to what they have to say too.
On a larger group level, ask your director for the opportunity for people to share what they have going on. No, I’m not talking about daily announcements where Phil talks about the 23 upcoming bake sales he’s volunteered for. How about putting together a Facebook group for the band where people can post relevant announcements? Maybe a mailing list? A bulletin board in the back of the rehearsal space?
Introduce yourself to someone new every rehearsal.
You can do this in the hallways before rehearsal, wherever you store your instrument, or while tuning before rehearsal. Pick one person per rehearsal that you don’t know, and introduce yourself. It shouldn’t be a long conversation. All you need to do is say hello, exchange names and pleasantries, and wish them a good rehearsal/good day. A bit of kindness can brighten anyone’s day! The most important thing about meeting someone new is to remember their name. Nothing else matters. Remembering names is a tough skill (that I still suck at), but here’s a great LifeHacker article about remembering names.
Have a chat with your director.
Talk with your director about how your concert band feels like a void of personal interaction. Directors don’t read minds, and I’m sure that your director would appreciate hearing what your concerns are. People aren’t robots, and musicians doubly so. We need human interaction and community. Ask your director for any advice on making the band feel more… banded together. Your director has been in your shoes before, though it might take some reminding. Work with your director on ways beyond this list that you can help foster community in your concert band.
What steps are you going to take this week to build lasting relationships in your concert band?
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