When we hear the word “ensemble,” we typically think of performing groups: a choir, orchestra, band, theater company, etc. However, the dictionary implies a more broad, worldly, definition: A unit or group of complementary parts that contribute to a single effect.”
Notice that it does not mention any requirements of any kind of performance or art form, nor does it mention humans in general.
In the musical world, regardless if you are a performer, educator, or composer, the importance of ensemble is something I am finding to be more and more relevant and necessary. It encourages teamwork, personal development, and working towards a greater goal. Our world of education is nothing without groups of musicians and teachers working together to advance and advocate what we so passionately work, teach, and enjoy; our “single effect.”
However, sometimes I feel like music education and advocacy is not my single effect.
While I love teaching and making music every day with my students, I started finding myself becoming borderline obsessed with demanding excellent character and teamwork skills. I became frustrated when students didn’t want to work together, or chose to act less than respectful. Of course, I was fully aware that students are not perfect beings and they are still finding themselves and learning how to function in the world, but I felt a certain responsibility to enforce a high standard of character in my choirs, simply because I felt it made us better.
My reasoning is simple: Life is group work. Friendship, family, marriage, our careers…all of them require working with people for a single effect, therefore all of them are considered ensembles. We won’t find success unless we work together, regardless if it is with people we know or not, or even like or not. I think the best ensembles, both performing and life ensembles, know how to work with all kinds of personalities and beliefs, and that’s what makes them so powerful. Not to go all hippy on you, but I truly believe that in order to achieve world peace, the world needs to learn how to be a part of an ensemble.
So, as a music educator, I teach character education through my content and my rehearsals. I would rather have an average choir of high character than a high achieving choir of disrespectful and difficult people. Maybe that’s just me, but it’s what I value, and I think it can change the world.
Every ensemble requires 4 habits:
1. Rehearsal: The constant practice of improving, learning, and polishing. It’s just as true for music performances as it is for personal relationships.
2. Commitment: If all ensemble members are not fully engaged or committed to the single effect, then you are as strong as your weakest member.
3. Working towards a single effect or desired goal: This is what guides rehearsal. What are we trying to accomplish? What is the desired end result?
4. Personal Development: Each ensemble member is expected to improve or enhance their skills or themselves to be a member of value.
The Ensemble Life is not just about learning to work with people, but also about bettering yourself to be a valuable member of each of your “ensembles.” Whether you are a teacher, musician, administrator, entrepreneur, medical professional, or a stay at home mom, we are all a part of something and we all desire an end result.
This manifesto will permanently live on my About page, but I thought I’d post it so you could be updated with the minimal changes! I will still post every Tuesday, with an additional Starting Monday post as well. In the future, expect some products or ebooks, which you can stay updated on by subscribing, or joining The Ensemble, which is what my readers shall now be called! I look forward to hearing from you, and helping you be the best ensemble member!
What ensembles make up your life? What about your school ensembles? How can I help? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/