Orchestra Directors are People, Too!
I’ve been an orchestra member, an orchestra director, and pretty much everything in between. You name it, and I’ve probably done it. And through all this “experience,” I’ve learned a thing or two about what NOT to do as an orchestra member/director! But thankfully, I’ve also learned a few things about what to do. So…I thought I’d share.
As an orchestra member, we all have responsibilities. Sure, we have to bring our instrument, we have to play (in tune is always nice), and bringing doughnuts is an added bonus, but what this post addresses are a few simple things orchestra members can do to help make the person standing in front (i.e. The Orchestra Director) be the best musical director they can be, and in turn, help produce the best instrumental ensemble sound possible. When these things happen, it is at that moment we are able to offer our best to God for His glory.
Here are three easy steps to help your director be the very best he or she can be (and you’ll become a great orchestra member in the process):
1) SHOW UP! DUH! The first thing you can do help your orchestra director work to full potential is to show up. It doesn’t matter if you can already play everything by memory twice as fast and up an octave; just show up. Rehearsals are opportunities for the conductor to teach and coordinate. Your attendance allows this to happen.
2) LISTEN! As simplistic as it seems, listen to your conductor. (Yes brass, I’m talking to you.) Listen and follow directions. Allow your leader to lead. It is very frustrating for a conductor to give instructions which fall upon deaf ears. Show respect to your leader and fellow players by listening and following. A conductor should never have to “get” your attention.
3) SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE YOUR LEADER! Often, your conductor may appear to be the rock needed to solidify the ensemble, but remember he (she) has the same ups and downs of life that you have. The orthodontist just recommended a two-year program of braces. The transmission in the car has to be replaced. He’s trying to convince his mom to move into assisted living. His oldest child is failing algebra. The list goes on and on…and then, the Pastor wants to change the style of music. After all of this, he gets to stand on a narrow box, reading six point font size notes on an enlarged music stand, turning single sided pages every five measures while holding a baton, stick, pencil or nothing. The list goes on…as does yours, and life gets complicated.
It’s okay to put your conductor on a podium, but not on a pedestal. God has given you a leader with a faithful heart encased in human flesh. Despite some research to the contrary, orchestra directors are people, too. Support your leader by showing up each week and listening to what he has to offer during rehearsal. Then encourage your director who is also your friend. Words of kindness don’t have to wait until it’s time to pack up. Positive comments are likewise valued before and during rehearsals.
God has given you a leader. Honor God’s choice with respect, compliance, friendship, prayer, and even sometimes, forgiveness.
Pray and Play.
This blog article was written by Paul Gilchrist, orchestra member extraordinaire of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN. Paul was a high school orchestra director for the State of Texas for 22 years, and during that time served as Orchestra Director for Carrollton First Baptist Church in Carrollton, TX. Now retired, Paul, and his wife, Karen, along with their granddaughter, Hannah, enjoy serving the church in a variety of musical areas including the orchestra, adult choir, arts programs, children’s choir, and more.