Wednesday, 3 May 2017

This is how a collaborative person works: 14. choose the right vehicles for your context, your people and their motivation

(This post draws heavily upon the experiences of Paul Macalindin as described in his book Upbeat, which chronicles his inspiring work with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.)


'The electricity cut out during our Skype call. This is why classical music is such a good art form for Iraq. You don't need to plug in a cello!'

'I decided we should also perform Beethoven's Prometheus Overture, a fitting start to as bold an act of creation as ourselves, and finish with Haydn's Symphony No 99. These two works lay at the heart of my pedagogy, as the musicians couldn't help but learn about their various roles as orchestral players, melodically, harmonically and rhythmically.'

'Haydn's Symphony No 99 was not only my best guess at what they could pull off in two weeks, but also an injection of humour. Haydn revels in his false starts and finishes, witty turns of phrase, pregnant daft pauses and great tunes.' 

From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin


The first quotation cuts to the chase in explaining why classical music was such a good vehicle for artistic collaboration within Iraq: it did not overly rely on technology and the energy needed to power it!

The second quotation emphasises how important it was to find and focus upon music which would help the young players of the NYOI develop the broad range of skills needed to collaborate musically and perform orchestral music well.

The third quotation illustrates the care needed in finding music which would maintain the young players motivation by being not only suitably challenging but also appropriately enjoyable to play.

The above makes it clear that amongst everything which has to be thought about and addressed whilst starting and developing any collaborative project, three questions must be given priority:

  1. What is the best vehicle or form of collaboration to meet the needs and limitations of your context? 
  2. Which vehicles, projects or activities will help you and your partners develop the skills needed to perform effectively and attain the collaboration's goals?
  3. Which vehicles, projects or activities will achieve the right balance between being not only suitably challenging but also enjoyable (or at least fulfilling) to do?               

The last question is often the least asked but can be the most important to answer, especially when encouraging people to do new and difficult tasks and achieve new and ambitious goals.

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