Keeping a group positive
How does your amateur volunteer group stay enthusiastic and positive?
If you were pressed into a leadership role, how would you turn around a negative vibe?
By pointing out good things that are happening. Sort of like teaching and changing someones attitude
Thanks Jake. For a group of 60 plus, perhaps that we are all able to participate.
Define success in rational terms instead of having to solve all the problems of the universe.
Great points George. I think this will be our 15th season with one or two original members. It's great that we have entertained nursing home residents for that long and are capable of continuing.
It is well know from the group psychology that emotions and preferences in a small group (less than 20) are mutual. I have been a member of big, medium and small music groups and have experienced different emotions and levels of enthusiasm in each of them. Chamber music is a highly democratic group with a minimum of respect and preferably also some sort of special kind of friendship through mutual love for music. If respect for each other and enthusiasm are not there, I am afraid that nothing could be done to improve it. This especially in a small group.
Thanks Rocky, respect and privilege are good positive points.
Usually, by having a positive person, who is able to infect all of you with his/her optimism.
I think it is important for a group leader to promote a positive atmosphere.
With my choir the group tends to reflect back at me the energy I'm putting out.
Good point. Also applies with the audience.
What is the negativity exactly?
Anita makes a salient point, about the source of the negative feeling. I have only been in two groups and both were afflicted with one dominant, ‘leader’ who uses the other musicians to achieve their own personal agenda. I felt negative about both after time, as the sheer joy of playing with others became secondary to a feeling of being voiceless, the underlings of the group would never get to play any meaningful part outside of being a violin with arms and legs, working very hard to interpret the desires of others. In the end, you feel it doesn’t matter whether you are there or not, and the group splinters.
Thanks Anita. An amateur group can have players who can carry the group and players who are comfortable thinking that they are not being heard. That's fine. Everyone fulfills their needs. When attendance or other circumstances challenge this model, dedication can turn into defeatism.
Try to use the heart more than the head.
If this is an orchestra, start with the conductor. Be very honest. You may need to replace the conductor.
Interesting discussion topic, I would also be interested in hearing positive tips on how you can get people to practice their parts. I am the concertmaster of a casual amateur orchestra. Actually, the atmosphere in our group is very good.
Hi Frieda. I've never been in a group with a conductor. Some with strong playing leaders.
I was principal second of a small orchestra. The seconds were mostly players that were enthusiastic but unsure of themselves. We had a problem with people not practicing their parts. I figured it was probably because they were intimidated instead of lazy or indifferent
Anita, what did you do at the sectionals? I've never played in an orchestra. Where did you have them?
Good sharing with lots of insights, Anita. Thanks.
In sectionals, we would focus on the bits everybody found difficult… Play them at a tempo at which everybody could handle them, and slowly speed them up with a metronome. Talk about which fingerings would be best. It was a long time ago, so it’s a bit of a challenge to remember! But I imagine the decision about what to focus on was partly democratic…simply finding out what everyone wanted to work on.
Hmmm ... kind of like practicing. Imagine that. :)
Haha, yes, I suppose that’s exavtly what it was. Group practice. With lots of encouragement.
Thank you all for your insight. To borrow from an old song, we can't 'eliminate the negative' but we can always 'accentuate the positive'.
Have you tried bringing donuts? Seriously my community orchestra has these issues -- wondering if the orchestra can hold itself together, whether our conductor is right for us, etc. But someone brings cookies or something every week and we talk to one another during the break, and that creates a family atmosphere that is very cohesive and positive. Who wants to talk about bad stuff when they're eating home-made cookies?
With PBR? Ok serious again, how long and how often does your group rehearse?
thanks Anita for your tips on practicing together!
I have a string quartet and I don't recall any negative things in the four years we've been together. Because it's a small group, we can be flexible. We meet weekly but if someone has something else going on, we meet without them and make a point of matching our schedule to theirs the following week. I think we're all humble--no one can be perfect all the time, with every piece. If someone is fed up with practicing something week after week, we'll take a break from the piece for a week or two. And we all have busy lives so we understand if someone hasn't had time to practice something during the week. And sometimes we do something really different. In the spring my SQ and teacher played backup to me playing one of the movements of the Telemann Viola Concerto at my student recital. Currently we're working on two Vivaldi works for two solo violins and preparing to play at an open mic with one of our keyboard friends. When it's just two or three of us at a practice, we dig in and work on the hard parts, similar to what Anita mentioned. We'll play two parts at a time, or slower tempo, or play the piece "backwards" to root out sticking points.