When I think back to the dozens of ensemble directors I’ve worked with, performed for, or come into contact with, there are a few key attributes that jump out at me that define “good from great”.
In any workplace, listening skills are paramount. Beyond the ability to listen for the basics, like the correct notes, intonation in a musical phrase, timing of the percussion section – there is much more to this skills of LISTENING for a director. In the teaching realm, the ability to listen – not just to figure out what to respond with, but to UNDERSTAND – is crucial.
If you take a typical band director – there is a high level of what I will call “diplomacy” needed. The need to balance all contrasting points of view from students, parents and boosters, and administrators is sometimes very challenging. Adding to that challenge is the fact that frequently what is said is sometimes relayed 2nd hand and thus, subject to he “whisper down the lane” phenomena.
They are Excellent Communicators
One of the biggest challenges facing any director that is trying to grow his/her program is the process of obtaining “buy-in” from everyone involved. Consider a new director coming in to fill the shoes of a long-time retiree. The first priority is to bring about some sort of positive change in the face of “We’ve always done it this way…” Directors that press the creative and performance envelope are often compelled to sell their vision to all parties involved. Let’s not even bother with the fact that excellent teaching is, at its core, excellent communication.
In situations where a director may have to hire and develop an instructional staff of instructors and designers, a certain level of “train the trainers” is often called for. And of course never to be overlooked, ensemble directors are frequntly placed into situations where they must play some sort of combination of master-of-ceremonies, event host, public presenter, and storyteller in front of a wide range of audiences.
They Teach the “Why”
If you have 18 minutes to kill – this video of Simon Sinek’s TED Talk may be the best thing you’ve ever seen.
In it, he talks about how great leaders inspire performance by expressing the “WHY”, rather than what or how. Ensemble directors that have success over a long period of time will find ways to emphasize the “why” in everything they do inside and outside of rehearsal. When students finally understand the “why” behind their daily warm-up sequence, or their marching technique program, or the organization’s rehearsal ettiquette – great things are allowed to happen.
Until the vast majority of students understand their own respective “why” – it’s tough to be great. When performers and educators alike are permitted to explore their own definition of “why” – look out.
In the comments – feel free to list any other attributes that you feel are crucial to a successful Ensemble Director that fall outside of these three things.
FansRaise has recently partnered with US Bands to help performing organizations more easily fundraise the money needed for equipment, trips, activity fees, and a variety of other program-related expenses.