There’s a connecting thread that runs through all of my experiences in music. Basically, it is MUCH more fun to be a part of a group that’s filled with positivity. However, a lot of musicians, instead of building each other up, become a little catty about people they don’t like. I wrote about this recently, in a post about what NOT to do at rehearsals, and I’ve been noticing the difference more and more over the course of the semester. The groups that make it a point to have a supportive environment are more fun, more professional, and more musical as a whole.
If you suspect that your program or musical organization could use a little more positivity, here’s some ways to start building it yourself!
Disengage from gossip. This is honestly the most important thing for me. I have never felt good after shit-talking a group or a person. At best I feel bad because that was a dumb, gross thing to do. At worst, I feel either smugly superior or righteously annoyed with the group or person for half an hour before feeling even WORSE because I can feel myself becoming a negative person. If people are talking negatively about an ensemble, an organization or a person, I’m making it a goal to either mention a positive aspect or change the subject. It doesn’t just help me, it cuts that negativity out of the lives of everyone within hearing range.
Make a point to give genuine compliments. I try to compliment someone someone and really mean it at least once a day. There’s science to show that staying positive improves your outlook on life as a whole. By looking around for things that you’d really like to compliment, you shift your focus to positive things. Plus, the compliments make the other person’s day brighter, too!
Always offer to help. If someone is struggling with something heavy, offer to help them move it. If they need homework help for something you’ve taken, look over their work. Just take every opportunity you can to help others, within reason. It sets a good example and helpful environments are so much more pleasant than the alternative!
Know when to be professional. Always be friendly, of course! Just remember that the quickest way to kill a supportive environment is by allowing negative people free reign. This can mean anything from ignoring people who talk over the director to kicking a person out of an ensemble. Supportive environments aren’t enabling. They don’t allow someone with a major attitude problem (or hey, a drug problem!) to continue dragging the group down. So if all else fails, politely and professionally talk with people in your immediate influence about some of their negativity. You’ll be surprised at how effective it is for making your surroundings as a whole nicer.
Music is such a great concept as a whole, the places where it is made should be equally great. Let’s help make every music institution a more supportive environment. We got this!
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