One of the current paradigms in my vocation (conducting) involves seeing what we do in music-making as largely collaborative.  Having moved far from the old-school model of the tyrannical conductor who demanded, and shouted, and treated those who played single wrong notes as worthless slackers, these days, many of us tend to see leading music from the conductor’s podium more in terms of inviting and coaching and collaborating.

Examples of collaborative efforts in my job these days include

  • inviting input from section leaders regarding the need for special work on difficult musical passages
  • sharing Google Drive documents with graduate assistants — for their participation in announcements, scheduling, logistics and transportation, and meetings
  • asking questions of chamber groups relating to flexing the rehearsal schedule
  • asking questions, in general, instead of statements (when feasible)
  • creating and maintaining councils of student officer-servants
  • engaging ensemble members via comments and nonverbal communications (including conducting gestures)

To the extent that a musical enterprise is collaborative, as a rule, the musicians will be more invested.

Is there a top-down hierarchy in a musical ensemble?  Often, yes.  I’m the music director and conductor.  I’m currently aided by assistant directors who not only have administrative capabilities but who conduct well, too.  And there are section leaders and others who play important leadership roles at times.  While I don’t deny that there are certain elements of the so-called benevolent monarchy from my conductor’s podium — and surely, “the buck stops” with the conductor in certain matters — I often find myself considering ways to be more collaborative.

All other things being equal, the more successful I am with spawning collaborative mechanisms and opportunities, the more invested the members of the musical ensemble become.

To the extent that a congregational enterprise is collaborative, the believers will also be more invested.


P.S.  In churches, examples of top-down hierarchy and unfortunately non-collaborative paradigms include elders’ meetings and preachers’ sermons.


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