Things don’t always go well in work, rehearsal, class, or even the concert. We are very quick to blame others (The ensemble, a coworker, life, the phases of the moon…), but often we need to look closer at ourselves to solve the problems.
Everyone around you can feed off of your energy, for better or worse. If you go to that class, meeting, or rehearsal with a negative feeling, then you are looking for trouble. We have all been there on both sides of this one. If we are the one going in with the negative attitude, there is nothing that can happen that will be positive. You will look for things to reinforce your negative attitude. You need to find a reason to justify your negativity. If you are the poor soul who goes in with a positive feeling and gets to witness the negativity, you know that it can change your attitude very quickly. The negativity sucks in those around it.
What does this have to do with being in front of a class or ensemble? How you enter the room and your state of mind will positively or negatively impact every person in the room. I have written about this before but it is worth repeating! If your pre-class or rehearsal moments are chaos, then it will be harder for your class or ensemble to focus. As a college guy, I have the luxury now of freeing the hour before my rehearsals for some “score study”. It is me time to get focused. But being able to do this is rare, so take ten seconds to focus your thoughts, relax, and breath before you start. That will make a huge difference. But you can’t instantly change this. It will take time, but don’t give up.
Once you get up in front of an ensemble, class, or even a meeting, your attitude makes or breaks the moment.
“My band never follows at me and they don’t seem very focused.” How many of us have either said of heard this! Everyone raise your hand. When out working in schools, I notice that the director barely ever makes eye contact with the group. And they really shouldn’t be following you either, but that is for another time. They probably aren’t focused because you aren’t really totally committed to the rehearsal either. Your mind is on the budget, the principal that annoys you, or the obnoxious parent that keeps nagging you about this or that. If you aren’t with your class, how can you expect them to be with you. You might even be thinking about what it would be like to conduct a better ensemble. BAD!!!
Your attitude is infectious. This is a good and bad thing!
I had a friend who is a foreign language teacher. Hanging out with her was great except when talking about work. Every part of the relationship was pretty good, but it was always interesting to see her change when school was the topic. There were always negative stories about the students and their attitudes, but I often wanted to ask her if her attitude fanned the flames. She would have great stories to tell about students, but she still needed a new job because of “the school and the kids.” We don’t talk much anymore, but I have been meaning to ask her about the new job. Have things changed? I am sure that in the first few months everything is probably incredible, but the attitude will return most likely, and the students will be a problem again. And maybe it will be time to find a new job with better students… Until we are aware of our own projection and attitude, we can’t change. Habits only change with focus and work.
Record your rehearsals and your classes so you can see yourself from their point of view. Even your body language gives them reason to act the way they do. Is your body langauge saying “Screw this, is it happy hour yet?” or is it saying “I am very happy to be here right now and I am confident in what we are all doing.” If your body language is focused on that happy hour bourbon, then you are wasting everyone’s time, including your own.
Social media can be fun, and social media can tell us a lot about society. Every day I read posts on Facebook groups about how negative things are, and about all of the problems caused by other people. I often wonder if these people have taken a look inside to find out why there is so much negativity around them. Negative attracts negative. Lack of focus attracts lack of focus. Remember that next rehearsal. Be positive and focused and see what happens with your students. Be present at the rehearsal, and not wandering to the next weekend off.
Believe me, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns though. But this is a good start to get to the true issues in front of you. You can’t fix the other things until you take a deep breath and see if you might be part of the problem.
Oh, and that doesn’t mean you can’t drop the hammer from time to time! Have you ever been in a rehearsal where the director is always yelling and mad? Doesn’t that get boring and old after a while. Students tune that out if it is constant. Yelling at them in general is pretty useless, but there are ways to get the point across. A rehearsal isn’t always going to be positive and ensemble (and students) need to hear criticism. But if that is constant then it is also white noise. Nothing makes students more uncomfortable than absolute silence. I once made a flute player cry by just standing there silently on the podium waiting for one other student to stop texting…