Archive for the ‘musical leadership’ Tag

Is this the best name game ever?

The following warm-up game is one that I have been using since I first started training in musical leadership at the Guildhall, oh-so-many years ago. It is a simple name game, but its simplicity belies the depth of its messages I suspect! I call it Names in the Space.

Names in the Space establishes all sorts of skills and values:

  • taking turns,
  • the importance of contributing as an individual,
  • the importance of responding as a group and working in unison,
  • a call-and-response structure
  • the skill of maintaining a pulse and a rhythm,
  • the skill of timing your voice to land at a certain point in the rhythm.

But more importantly perhaps, it is a demonstration that every voice here is important. Everyone has a chance to speak. Everyone’s contributions will be affirmed by the group. It also establishes a group focus and settles the group.

'Names in the Space' being played at the recent Music Construction Site workshop.

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Today I was thinking about power in a workshop setting. Who has it, how it manifests itself.

The thought comes in response to something that happened in the first prison workshop, 2 days ago. We started with a briefing session for the creative team – just 15 minutes to gather everyone together and ensure we started with a shared brief or intention. I described my idea for the workshop – but made a quantum leap (as I tend to do) in which I forget to fill everyone in on my thinking that has led to this idea. In this case, I thought we were all clear that our ideal was for the workshop to flow without any obvious form, that we would be responsive to the group, and follow leads that came from the guys. Of course. But in addition, I knew that we would need a back-up, just in case everyone felt inhibited and nothing came from the group. The back-up idea was what I presented.

Basically, (it felt like) several people slammed my idea. Wham, down, just like that. Because they didn’t want us to have a plan, that the workshop should be responsive.  A surprising kind of keen-ness to assert themselves. Maybe we all have our own ambitions for this project (although the aims stated by all of them are more about building relationships and communication that artistic or content-driven aims. Perhaps they have them but are unaware of them.)

And I wondered if they realised how damaging that kind of blocking can be. We would never respond in such a way to one of the prisoners. Why would we do it to each other? Just as we want to bring out the best in the people we work with, don’t we want to bring it out in each other? And if not, isn’t that kind of patronising? To want it for the prisoners – why? Because we feel sorry for them? That’s not an attitude I have ever encouraged in this community outreach program for the orchestra. We go into projects first and foremost as collaborators, and we work with ‘the raw materials as they are on the day’. (That’s a mantra). Non-judging, trusting our own expertise to be able to make all things work, find the strongest music in everything.

In a classical music setting it is not so unusual to block the ideas of others. It is a harsh world. But as educators we know a lot these days about what creates ideal learning environments, and the security that people need to feel in order to offer forth their ideas. We need to practise these ideals in every learning environment we find ourselves in. Anytime we bring out the best in others, we create something better for ourselves.

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