Years and years of study and dedication, scouring various websites like Muv.ac, musicalchairs, etc., in search of audition opportunities, all in the hopes of securing a position for one's instrument. Endless research to find flights and connections to sometimes remote locations. Despite the recent digital revolution, which has led many organizations to use video pre-screenings to invite candidates to live auditions, the journey is far from stress-free. After hours of travel, preparation, and emotional, physical, and financial investments, the day of the audition finally arrives. In the best-case scenario, one reaches the final round and wins to secure the job. Is the stress over? No, darlings. It is then discovered that to obtain a permanent position, one must endure a so-called "trial period" of approximately a year in most cases. During this period, tension often extends not only to the performance aspect but also to interpersonal interaction with colleagues—the camaraderie. It is not uncommon for highly talented musicians to confront pre-existing conflicts in orchestras or ensembles, making artistic and personal collaboration extremely challenging and undermining the confirmation during the trial period. Communication and interpersonal relationships are rarely addressed in musical training, unless through direct experiences or particularly interested teachers. Consequently, individuals may find themselves unprepared, not realizing that there are psychological and social principles and reflections that could be extremely useful in such situations.
"The communication is the lifeblood of every human relationship, especially when what binds people is the creation of a unique and engaging harmony." - Peter Drucker
Verbal and Nonverbal Communication: A Dance of Gazes?
Albert Mehrabian's studies have shown that a significant portion of human communication occurs through nonverbal cues, such as gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. In the orchestra, the importance of nonverbal communication is invaluable. The conductor, through gestures and body language, communicates intentions to the musicians, indicating the precise moment to enter or the dynamics to adopt. Similarly, musicians often communicate with each other through glances and smiles, confirming and supporting one another during performances. However, it should be noted, as we learn from the first axiom of communication, "it is impossible not to communicate," that a lack of appreciation for a colleague's performance can also be a communicative gesture, one that often leads to insecurities. Professional musicians are well aware that nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, facial expressions, or physical movements for attacks, is useful tools for coordinating performances and synchronizing during concerts, as well as for the development and perception of the performance itself in the present moment.
Empathic Communication and Building a Positive Climate
"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou
Empathy theory teaches us that active listening and the ability to understand others' emotions are essential elements of effective communication. Creating a positive and supportive atmosphere among colleagues is crucial for both artistic and human collaboration and optimal performance. Let's face it, especially in the context of freelancing: if you need to find a colleague for a concert project, most people, unless looking for a soloist, will tend to contact musicians with whom they feel comfortable playing together. Sometimes, this preference outweighs artistic qualities. The ability to actively listen to others' ideas, respect their opinions, and offer mutual support fosters an environment where everyone can freely express themselves and contribute to the group's success.
Conflict Management and Trust Building
"Communication is the key to resolving conflicts. Without communication, there is no understanding; without understanding, there is no peace." - Dr. Ralph Nichols
In an orchestra, like in any group of people, conflicts may arise. Effective conflict management requires open and respectful communication, where each member can express their concerns without fear of judgment. Addressing (and not avoiding!) conflicts constructively builds trust among colleagues, creating an environment where everyone feels supported and valued.
So, how can we improve our communication to achieve good collaboration and rapport with new colleagues? Here are some pearls of wisdom, easier said than done, but sound guidance indeed.
Practice active listening: Be mentally present when your colleagues speak, paying attention to their verbal and nonverbal messages. Demonstrating genuine interest in their ideas and concerns creates a sense of mutual respect.
Build trust: Honor commitments made with colleagues and be open in sharing moments and information. Dedicate time to show your interest in them.
Avoid destructive judgments and criticisms: When addressing problems or differences of opinion, focus on finding solutions rather than assigning blame. Resolving problems constructively helps maintain a positive work environment.
Use feedback: Both positive and constructive feedback are crucial for improving overall orchestra performance. Be honest in giving feedback, avoiding generalizations, and open to receiving it.
Cultivate an inclusive environment: Respect and value diversity within the group, as it is widely demonstrated that an inclusive environment fosters creativity and innovation, even musically.
Celebrate successes together: Recognizing and celebrating achievements as a group is key to strengthening a sense of belonging and cohesion.
So, after a concert, instead of dispersing, it is advisable to join in and promote famous, sometimes legendary, post-concert celebrations ;)
Drucker, P. F. (1999). Management Challenges for the 21st Century. HarperBusiness.
Mehrabian, A. (1972). Nonverbal Communication. Aldine-Atherton.
Angelou, M. (1994). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House.
Nichols, R., & Stevens, L. (1957). Speaking for Results: A Practical Guide for Today's Business Communicators. Pearson.
Watzlawick, P., Bavelas, J. B., & Jackson, D. D. (1967). Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies, and Paradoxes. W. W. Norton & Company.
Kurosawa, Kaori & Davidson, Jane. (2005). Nonverbal behaviours in popular music performance: A case study of The Corrs. Musicae Scientiae. 9. 111-133. 10.1177/102986490500900104