How does great “ensemble” music making happen? Well, I don’t claim to have the answer completely, but, I suspect a large part of it has to do with “unity”. Unity of purpose, goals, and chemistry of existence.

I think most of us have several memories of great “seasons”, “shows”, or special music experiences. Most of those seem to come from an extended period of time spent with others (on a tour, or series of repeated concerts) who share the same experience as you. This can happen on some sort of tour, or a high school or college percussion ensemble rehearsing many hours for one highly anticipated concert. Why do these experiences tend to be more special than those without that investment of time/commitment by all involved?

I think it has mostly to do with “unity”. When people who all “belong” together in something they are all fully committed to, special things happen. The group can often “over achieve”, or develop a sense of “telepathy” on stage. Often creating moments that are sublime and intimate. Something that may not be obvious to the audience, but somehow translates to an energy that is totally thrilling and ecstatic. If you’ve never experienced this before, you are really missing out on something! And… I think it does translate to the audience.. they may not have the same feeling as the performers on stage, but they know something very special is going on.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find such experiences. And, if you’re fortunate, you are probably more likely to “fall into” such experiences than you are if you seek them out. Unless, you are able to demonstrate through your playing that that is what you are looking for. If you can do this, the right kind of people/musicians will notice. When they do, expect to be hearing from them soon. (They realize like you, that there aren’t that many of you out there..)

So rather than doing gigs for the money, try landing some that are more about the commitment to making something special happen from a music making sense. I think all performing organizations will say they are trying to make the greatest musical experience they can, but if the conductor/artistic director can’t “unify” them to that end… then you may just end up being in it for the money. Sure, we all need to make money, but let’s not just make it about that because lets face it, we didn’t get into all of this to experience wealth!

If not money… what makes us creative types happy? Well, for the most part it is experiencing that “ecstatic” moment in performance that may only occur once in a long while, but is enough to keep us looking forward to the next time… no matter what the cost……

So, no matter where you are, lead by example and expect that with every collaboration you assume something musically special will and can happen at any moment…yes, even during rehearsal! If you really commit to this, you will find that your musical experiences will grow more invigorating with every passing year. And… the gigs will keep coming in….and who couldn’t use a little $$$$$$.

Tell us about a special “ecstatic” musical experience. What was the most important factor or factors that allowed that to happen? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on September 29, 2010 by Thomas Burritt.


The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by Penn State on

Dave Gerhart
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