To depart from the usual business stories and athletic metaphors, come with me for a short journey into the performing arts, where teamwork is every bit as important in aesthetic pursuits as it is in more familiar areas.
This past weekend, along with over 50 other singers, a dozen members of the orchestra and another 15 or 20 assorted volunteers doing everything from helping with receptions to designing tickets performed our holiday concert.
Starting in early September, we rehearsed formally for 2.5 hours per week and countless other hours going over music individually. The result was a highly orchestrated (literally) performance where our 20-voice Chamber Chorus performed first with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Bach’s Magnificat in D. Next the entire Chorale joined them to perform several other pieces featuring H. Stevens’ Magnificat, the Halleluja Chorus from Handel’s Messiah and Feast of Carols by Randall Bass. All are magnificent works. They are challenging and when done well very satisfying to both audience and singer. We rocked it in both performances.
The performance team structure includes, starting from the top, The Artistic Director, an Accompanist, four Section Leaders and a Concert Manager. Clearly without close attention to the leadership at all levels the end product would suffer. Just as clearly, all singers must know the music and be heads up following the director or timing and tempo will not be observed and the most beautiful of chords will not be resolved. Fail to follow and you will miss an entry or worse yet sing an unscheduled solo! Each section must listen closely to singers in all other sections so that voices are blended and so that the performance reflects the emphasis that the composer intended. It takes hard work and the stamina of an athlete to focus, remain on pitch and deliver while standing on risers for nearly two hours. Most of us are exhausted after performances.
Behind the scenes there is a management structure. The Chorale has a Board of Directors with Officers who run the not for profit corporation. They plan the marketing, recruit the volunteers, manage policy and compliance and, of course, do the accounting. However, the most important part of their responsibility is to set the vision and mission and to make the strategic plans that keep the organization focused on achieving both.
Then there is a Board of Advisors made up of people who are prominent in the performing arts community and the fundraising community who work to create the alliances and relationships that makes what we do sustainable.
Underlying all this team structure and practice are our guiding values. The first is simply that we love performing the classic masterworks and keeping them alive. The second is our passion for encouraging and teaching the next generation of singers and vocal music educators through our Academy Program. You guessed it. That’s another teamwork story for another time.
Substitute a few titles and activities and I just described a business. Alter them again and it’s a sports team. Call the players by different names and it’s a nation. Bottom line it all takes teamwork. Some days we’re the Leader, some days we are a Teammate. In the words of Lou Holt we all need to go out there and “Play Like a Champion Today!” That’s what makes a great team.