Respect is a fickle thing nowadays. The elder generation insist the younger generation don’t respect them and vice versa. A huge lack of respect can be seen on minorities of both sides whilst they are accusing the other of the same thing.
Humans are complicated.
The relationship between a conductor and their musicians is a fragile one, and it lives on respect; an equal respect from both sides. Throughout my music career I’ve observed and practised this respect as a player, and I’ve been practising it as a conductor recently. The latter has been far harder than I anticipated…
Basically I’m 20. I’m female. I conduct a brass band, who are stereotypically male and above 30. There is an engraved feeling amongst brass bands that women still don’t belong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on about open sexism and discrimination; it’s just the underlying knowledge that females never belonged in the traditional brass band world. That’s not opinion, that’s fact. It was workers and labourers in Victoria Britain. No females.
I’ve experienced this feeling before in many places, but I’m feeling it personally and almost openly now. I’ve just taken over from a male conductor who’s been with the band for a decade… you can probably see where this is going. I’ve played and been involved with this band for 7 years but with this change in role there is a distinct change in attitude. Three people left on the spot because I was appointed. I’m having to shout to make myself heard in rehearsals which has not been a major problem before (it’s at the point where people are shouting for me as well). The players are… they are not concentrating or playing as well as I know they can.
It hurts. I’m giving them all the attention and time and patience that I can and I’m getting NOTHING back from them. The last three times I’ve been working with them, the playing has deteriorated rapidly and I’m almost taking it personally: the last two times were concerts, and the final one I walked off as soon as I could in tears.
It felt like they didn’t care. It sounded like they didn’t care. The majority acted like they didn’t care.
There were circumstances, but they do not explain away everything that went wrong. I stood in front of them on Tuesday night and looked like an absolute fool. I am (potentially) the youngest brass band conductor in England, definitely the youngest female, and I am being watched by so many people… to have a band I know and love treat me with no respect or care.
It’s reached a point of no return. I either stamp on them, and stamp hard, or I still treat them with the respect they expect and get nothing in return. Obviously it’ll have to be the former, which I hate.
I hate shouting at people and getting angry, it does me no good and doesn’t help the conductor-player relationship. But I can’t stand in front of them again and have such a poor display of musicianship, it’s not fair on me and it’s not fair on the people who pay to listen to us. But it’s also not fair on me. I took this job on as a friend, as an opportunity, as a way to give back, as something I love but it has me self-harming and walking off a stage in tears.
Long story short, I’m nearing my third breakdown in as many years because of a lack of respect. Such a small idea. Such a big hype.
It takes both sides to achieve respect. Only one side to break it.
ADD ON: Ok, this post is a mess. Sorry. It kind of represents me at the minute