|Posted by Tiffany Chang on March 18, 2021 at 9:00 AM|
Musicians who have worked with conductors: Have you ever felt like with some conductors, a two hour rehearsal goes by like no time has passed at all? And for other conductors, 10 minutes feel like an unbearable hour?
Have you ever wondered why that is? What is so special about those conductors that make rehearsals feel bearable - or perhaps even productive?
Instead of focusing on what the conductor is doing, let's consider for a moment what's special about what YOU feel and what YOUR actions are as a result of that feeling.
What you feel:
- You feel efficiency and forward momentum for the group. You don't feel bored.
- You feel like you're contributing to a larger goal. You are crystal clear about what that goal is and what you should do to achieve it. You own that goal. And you believe that people around you believe that too. They own that goal.
- You feel like that goal is worth the effort, and what is being done is worth the time (even if it doesn't involve you playing).
- You feel like you are learning by observing. You feel like what's happening is always relevant to your growth as a musician (again, even if you're not playing).
- You feel like you and the group are getting better--minute by minute, day by day, all the way until the concert.
- Even if there may have been an "off" moment/day, you feel confident that the group will eventually achieve that goal.
- You feel like you are more connected to your fellow musicians. You feel their warmth.
- You feel more generous with your music making. You want to give more.
- You feel a palpable excitement in the room. You share that excitement and feed off of it. You believe that everyone else feels it--together.
- You feel suddenly relieved of your stress, depression, or fatigue. You've temporarily forgotten about that parking ticket you just got.
- You leave the room energized feeling like, "Wow, we accomplished a lot."
These feelings result in these actions:
- You sit at the edge of your seat. You lean into the music, toward each other. You look into the eyes of other musicians.
- You are compelled to play with edge, energy, and excitement, because why would you do it any other way when you have such a clear and amazing goal.
- You listen to what's being worked on with other musicians because, well, it's intriguing and it peaks your curiosity. You learn and grow.
- You try to do your best always because you realize others depend on you in order to do their best.
- You work hard to achieve. It inspires others to work hard to achieve as well. Then, that inspires you to achieve even more.
- You have fun and joke around with your colleagues.
- You openly acknowledge your "oops" moments.
- You pay less attention to the conductor and more attention to each other.
- You trust each other.
All these actions then feed you more of those same feelings, and it becomes a loop. An unstoppable, powerful loop that's generated and maintained by the people themselves.
That's the power of true artistic ownership, comradery, and belonging to a tribe and a shared goal - all leading to high fulfilment. It makes ensemble musicians do extraordinary things.
This is partly because your body is high on all sorts of feel-good chemicals (read this for the science). It first releases dopamine, the reward chemical, that distorts your sense of time and makes you feel like time "flies by". You'd also have oxytocin and serotonin in your system. Those are the chemicals of belonging and pride.
The other part of the story is the "shared goal" aspect. It turns out that enjoyment alone is not enough for time to fly by. We also need the motivation and the pursuit of a goal to guide our actions (read more here). Studies have shown that achievement-orientated actions are what actually makes us feel like time goes by faster.
So, the conductor is simply facilitating and encouraging this loop: either helping musicians access those feelings that result in purposeful actions, or using purpose-oriented rehearsing to elicit these desirable feelings.
There is no secret, no magical power in the conductor. It is all about what the musicians are feeling and doing. Tend to that, and they will find fulfillment and happiness in their work.