Being a musician doesn’t just involve sitting alone in the practice room with nothing but an instrument in your hands, and music stand in front of you for hours at a time! Being a musician also places you in a working environment amongst other musicians and that requires you to act properly in the presence of individuals you come in contact with. This includes two main things: being a good leader and being a teammate.
Being a Good Leader
A bad leader does not follow directions of their superior, has a lack of interest, and ultimately sets a bad example for the rest of their group. A good leader follows the direction of their overseer, is always interested, and sets a good example to those around them.
As a flutist who has played in the orchestra setting for a number of years, I can tell you my perspective as a leader, having been principal flute under many circumstances. As a section leader, whether you are in your high school band or in a professional ensemble, you have one main goal, and that is to set a good example for your section. The second and third flutist must blend with you in terms of sound, articulation and phrasing. Often, the section can pick up on how the section leader plays, especially if they have been working together for a few years, but there are times where communication has to be involved and the section leader must be helpful to their section in this situation. A bad leader will have their head buried in their stand and be reluctant to share information with their section. A good leader will be open to questions from their section and help them with anything they need, and as a result, the section will thrive.
It is so important to have a good attitude as a section leader. Many times you will see section leaders become very selfish and prideful, as if they believe they are number one because they are the principal of their section. But as a leader, you must set any feelings of “I’m the best, no one can touch me, no one can question my abilities” and be a neutral, positive figure amongst the orchestra. Listen to what the conductor says, be helpful to your section and don’t be a hot head!
Being a Teammate
A bad teammate does not listen to their section leader, does not get along with the rest of the section, and ultimately sets a bad example. A good teammate listens to their superiors, helps the section and ultimately sets a good example for the group.
I also have experience being a part of the section, playing both the assistant principal and piccolo positions in orchestras. Whatever you play in the ensemble you are in, each position comes with it’s own challenges, whether it be blending as a second flutist or playing beautiful, quiet high notes on the piccolo. Because each part has its challenges, it is ever more so important to communicate with each other and help each other to create the ultimate sound.
Just like a section leader, the teammates have to be good examples as well. Don’t goof off in your section, always be attentive to the conductor and to your section leader, and never act like you are the boss. The section leader is called “the principal player or section leader” for a reason and as a second or third player you have to respect that position. I have been amongst section players who seemed to not like the fact I was section leader and would try to “outplay” me by playing louder than me, or sometimes their body language was ill mannered. That is a good example of being a bad teammate. A teammate, just like in sports, should help each other succeed; not drag each other down. So as a teammate, help each other out, listen to your superiors, act mature, and be the best at YOUR job.