Flutist Dawn Weiss, teacher, event performer
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Orchestra Team Playing
by Dawn Weiss

Playing in an orchestra is an intimate affair. We make music by opening ourselves up to the emotional content of the music and being spontaneously responsive to the music director and our total environment. The nature of the art is so sensitive that we learn how to deduce a dynamic, a retard or a phrase by the tiniest expression of a lifted eyebrow, a flick of the wrist, a smirk or smile on the conductor's face. We learn to guess our colleagues' pitch or tone color by head movement, body position, or the attitude displayed. We are all dynamic beings with subtle changes taking place continually. Our feelings affect our concentration level and attitudes towards the music. Music is the universal language of mankind's emotions, dreams and spirit. Being sensitive artists to the minutest degree, we all have the capacity to respond to our environment.

If the orchestra is "high" and spontaneously responsive the music can be of the utmost supreme expression - a collective force of love and beauty. If it is very "down" as it can become when the director is in a "funk" it can be grueling and painfully unpleasant. Generally, however, it falls somewhere in the middle of these extremes depending upon the general orchestra physical comfort, i.e. being refreshed rather than overtired or overworked, adequate heating and lighting, good attitude of the director, sufficient rehearsals, quiet environment, good attitude of the audience, good acoustics, etc. In addition to all these aspects of a performance, other variables take place, the bio-rhythms of an individual, how he/she feels - physically and emotionally and how intensely this feeling is being projected into the general orchestra environment. One extremely exuberant player can change the attitudes of others, can affect a conductor, and can change a concert. So can an infectious negativity.

We are in a close environment and must respect each other's freedom as much as possible. The situation is like that of being a roommate. There is give and take to those around you - a need for your own space, a need for shared space, a need for freedom to have a bad day, a need to feel good without being brought down by another person's bad day, a need to be inspired, a need to be recognized, a need to make a point and a need to listen. We are all human and need to be tolerant and tolerable.

Without extending this awareness of our work space, we interfere with the general ambiance and affect our environment. If people have to block out distractions, they are taking energy away from their primary concentration and they are reducing the level of sensitivity and spontaneity they have available to the music. The ultimate joy of music making is the beauty of artistically performed music in an ambiance of love, hope, and spiritual oneness.

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