I bring up this idea of competition because it came up for me recently.
I had just returned home from four days in Vancouver at the Tapestry International Festival For Women’s Choirs. It was an amazing experience where four choirs – Electra from Vancouver, Canzona from California, Cantus from Norway and our Esprit de Choeur from Winnipeg, came together to connect and perform two concerts as individual choirs and as a mass group.
Upon arriving home, I went immediately from the airport to a family event and found out someone had read an article about us in the paper that was printed before we left for the festival. Apparently, the article suggested there was no competition among the members of our group.
And I thought about it and, really, there isn’t – at least not on public display. Solos etc. are handed out and no one says boo about it. And there didn’t appear to be competition at the festival either. There were a couple of solos to audition for but there was no drama around it.
And thinking about the article I wondered why that was and is it the way it should be?
And here’s what came to mind.
There are different levels of competition. Yes, we always want to do our best and maybe get the solo or whatever reward may be presented in front of us but often with the idea of competing comes the hope that the other person doesn’t do as well, that they might fall on their proverbial face.
But when we’re in the process of collaboration, don’t we want everyone to be on their a-game? If you want to put on the best musical performance, wouldn’t you also want to have the best person for the job singing the solo etc. even if it’s not you?
And it’s not necessarily about how fabulous you are – because you are, of course! – but each work has its own vibe, if you will, and certain people are more suited to that vibe than others, that’s all. It’s just like if you were hiring an graphic artist to create a logo or an illustration for a business. There may be several people who are equally talented artists but you have to go with the one whose style fits with the image you are trying to present. It’s hard, I know, but when we are working together we have to try and get our egos out of the way if the best result for the audience is to be achieved.
Speaking of egos, I had a part of a small group solo during one of the mass choir songs and, before the final performance we were organizing ourselves into voices on the stage. I was in the front due to my height and there were a few people doing the solo further back in my section. I tried to move further back to join the others but then was unable see the conductor.
So, in front of 150 people she told me I could stay where I was but I had to sing very quietly.
At first I was a little annoyed – if I have to sing very quietly, why should I bother singing at all? – and I felt like I was being singled out as an inconvenience. But I then thought of the group and the end result. I didn’t know what the conductor was hearing from her perspective but if her goal was to achieve a unified sound with a couple of clusters of singers among the group and I was sticking out I had to be willing to reign it in.
So, I did.
And here’s another thing.
When you’re competing, there can be a sense of disconnect, of otherness, of “we” and “they”, and when you’re in that mode you may be blocking out the potential to learn and grow.
While all of the groups at the festival have had their own levels of accomplishment, there was one choir, Cantus, that would probably be considered the celebrities. You see, they performed the opening song in the Disney smash hit, Frozen, and coming into the festival we were all excited to hear them.
And they were amaaazing! We were in awe, to be frank.
Now, if one was being competitive about it, there would probably be all sorts of thoughts going through one’s head and, beyond the first few notes, not a lot of attention would be paid to the actual music.
But in the spirit of collaboration, not only can you appreciate the beauty of the sound but you can also be more aware of what is happening and learn from it. What is their balance like between sopranos and altos? How are they positioned on the stage? How often do they rehearse? In short, what makes them as good as they are? You begin to notice the elements that make up a great performance and then you can take those elements unto yourself to make you a better artist.
Even in an actual competition, the idea of eliminating the competition aspect of it all can allow you recognize the greatness in the other competitors to help you make your performance better. You don’t hear singers on The Voice bashing each other – at least not on camera. 🙂 They seem to be inspired by each other and they become stronger artists for it.
So, there you go! Maybe you do this already but I invite you, if you’re ever working with other people or competing against them, to step back and appreciate and learn rather than seeing them as the enemy. Who knows? You might even makes some new friends in the process!
Let’s keep the conversation going, shall we? Feel free to add your two cents or a nickel in the comments section below and share this post with your peeps!
Have a great day!