Setting Chamber Ensemble Vision and Expectations

How a thoughtful conversation can set your group up to thrive




Expectations can be tricky. Unspoken or unprocessed expectations can be harmful, especially when you are collaborating with other artists.


  • When, for example, you are in a chamber ensemble and are frustrated because someone is always late or unprepared, unmet expectations quickly become toxic to your overall mindset and to the group dynamic. How well can you rehearse and collaborate when you’re seething with frustration and harboring resentment toward a colleague?!

  • Or maybe you are working with someone who struggles to stay on task, constantly getting distracted and causing disruption.

  • Or rehearsal times are habitually being rearranged.

  • Or a culture of unkind criticism develops - maybe personal attacks are lobbed at a weaker player or anger influences people’s attitudes within the group.

Making music is vulnerable work and all musicians deserve respect, dignity, and kindness both in the rehearsal room and afterward.


It is rare to find a chamber ensemble that naturally has an effortless and collaborative culture. A supportive, creative, connected group requires intentionality and clearly established expectations.

As a young musician, the idea of setting a scaffolding for a new group probably feels uncomfortable. We aren’t taught to think of chamber groups as an organization with goals, vision, or identity. No, usually we learn our music, show up to rehearsal, and try to make the group sound as good as possible.


What if there is a better way? What if you set aside an hour before your first rehearsal to work through what it is you are creating? A living, breathing, cohort of musicians who are collaborating to make something bigger than themselves. Wouldn’t that be fun? Even if all you are doing is playing one piece in one concert, this kind of work will enrich your connection and strengthen your music-making.


Intentionality


As a chamber musician, you need to have a vision for what you want to create and you need to collaborate to create a collective vision for the group. Whether you are in a freshman woodwind quintet or part of a new music collective, setting clear intentions for why the group exists and what you want to create together will bring productive rehearsals, create emotional investment from the members, and build powerful connection between the players. You are creating a team together and it requires thought, care, and intention.


Some questions to help you process together are:

  • What is our artistic vision? Learning standard rep, commissioning new works, entering competitions, concertizing around the world? What are we doing and why does the world need it? Elevate and dream here. If you could create anything with this group of musicians, what would it be? A grammy? Nourishing collaborations with musicians you respect? A place to grow rhythm, intonation, and listening skills so you can win an orchestra audition? It can be anything!

  • What are our core values? If someone were to describe our group, what kind of words would they use? Committed, entrepreneurial, equitable, visionary, consistent? What do you want to be known for outside of your achievements?

  • What kind of interpersonal dynamics do we want to create? Kind? Respectful? Empathetic? Professional? Will there be a leader? How do we divide responsibilities like finding music, booking venues, or rescheduling rehearsals? How do we make sure everyone in the group feels included and like their voice matters?

  • How will we handle conflict? How will we give feedback to one another? What happens when one or more of us get heated or angry during a disagreement?

Expectations


It’s important to understand that individuals come to a group situation with their own sets of expectations about how to treat people, how to run a rehearsal, or how to collaborate. Preemptively working through some simple guidelines with your fellow musicians will save you uncomfortable conversations later on. Remember what Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.” Agree upon a structure and it is easier to offer feedback if/when someone gets off course.


Some expectations to set:

  • Logistics: How often to rehearse, how long, tardiness, rescheduling, communication (text, email, etc.,) preparation, acquiring music, reserving rehearsal space

  • Collaboration: How are ideas processed? How to solve artistic disagreements? How do you ensure everyone has an equal voice in the group?

  • Standard of behavior: How do you want rehearsals to run - efficient and focused, fun and friendly, fluid? How do you treat each other - respectful, playful, casual? What about gossip and talking about people behind their backs?


Linked below you will find a FREE DOWNLOADABLE WORKSHEET to print off and use as a guide when your chamber group has this conversation. You will find that when you collaborate on vision, conflict resolution, logistics, etc. that your bond as an ensemble grows, your imagination gets activated, and uncertainty diminishes. Clear is always kind. Clear is always more fun. Clear gets better results.


Go forth and create a beautiful ensemble full of intentionality, clarity, and joy.


The Musician's Mindset
.pdf
Download PDF • 55KB


Next Steps and Additional Resources

Here at The Musician's Mindset we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.


  1. First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!

  2. Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.


Katie Frisco

Founder of The Musician's Mindset


Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.