Sharing ideas and working together; it is an interdependent relationship that leads to the synergy of everyone’s ideas, actions and trust.


According to Jefferson and Anderson (2021) the interpersonal domain encompasses “the capacity to express, interpret and respond to others” (p. 94). In addition to common interpersonal interactions such as speaking and listening, musical interpersonal interactions can occur through music by sharing the very act of music making with others. In music making we express ourselves for and with others, interpret music for and with others and respond to and with others.

Jefferson and Anderson (2021) foreground the shared, co-constructed and collaborative nature of teamwork writing that “teamwork is to commit to a group that is co-constructing a shared endeavour through collaboration. Collaboration is more than cooperation, sharing ideas and working together; it is an interdependent relationship that leads to the synergy of everyone’s ideas, actions and trust” (p. 98). In realising the intentions of the composer, ensembles combine the skills, understandings and perspectives of individual players to create performances of integrity that communicate and express musical meaning. Teamwork is therefore critical to quality ensemble music-making. Because players must feel that their musical part matters to the whole, and that their music-making occurs in a trusting environment, agency and trust are key to teamwork. For musical teamwork to happen everyone in the ensemble must know they have an important role to play, and they must also know the roles of other players and the role of the conductor. Teamwork can be expressed through the maxim ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.

Participants referred to teamwork in many different contexts. Most powerfully this was expressed by conductors as a responsibility of the players to one another and to the music itself. For some participants the symbiotic relationship between the players, the conductor and the music was the most powerful expression of good musical teamwork. An acknowledgement of a genuine, shared responsibility for the success of the ensemble was frequently referred to. The development of genuine trust between players and with the conductor was considered  important to developing a sense of teamwork and the best musical outcomes possible. Conductors highlighted the importance of physical attendance and musical presence at rehearsals.

What our participants said

“It's the music that we're concerned with. And in order for the music to speak, we have to have an alliance between everybody who's taking part otherwise the music doesn't sound as it was written. So the essential thing…is to immediately make everybody in the orchestra aware that they're all reliant on each other to rehearse together to get to get the most from any musical project”. David (conductor).

“Players rise to challenge more readily if they can feel trust and belief between director and themselves. In the performance that energy must be released in such a way that the players see the directors understanding and belief in the music being performed and join in a concerted collaboration in respect of the repertoire and composer”. David (conductor).

“I can see so much benefit in being able to come together with this kind of unique language that is music, and without necessarily having to use words, to be able to do something that is so meaningful on so many different levels from you know, being able to participate in a team, to be able to support each other, to even just experience that unexplainable thing that happens in a room when you play music”. Kim (Professional musician and Board member).

“I think of TYO as a community because it has a variety of musicians of different ages, personalities and skill level but with one thing in common: Their love of music”. Frederick (player).

“Hopefully I can come out of all the rehearsals feeling that I have achieved something instead of feeling like I am there just to fill in the parts”. Tom (player).


Teamwork requires both physical attendance and musical presence at rehearsals. Rehearsal attendance was a common theme to arise from our participants, particularly conductors. This was expressed empathetically, acknowledging the multiple commitments that players have, but also with due acknowledgement of the problems this creates for ensemble rehearsals when players are unable to attend. It was often expressed as a common challenge requiring regular management and flexibility.

David (conductor) expressed this in terms of the need for players to understand the musical impact of absence and their responsibility to each other and to the music, saying that “After a while players realised that they were ultimately responsible to the other players not to the conductor.

This takes time as school age students will always see the conductor as primarily a teacher not as a musician. Every problem has to be resolved so the music sounds as close to the composers wishes as possible. Integrity of Intent”. Being emotionally and musically present at rehearsals is an expression of respect for the music itself, other players and the conductor.

What does this mean for me?

  • Be explicit with players about the responsibility for physical attendance and musical presence at rehearsals.
  • Draw attention to moments of teamwork when they happen, such as when players are present, warmed up and ready before the rehearsal starts.
  • Problem solve situations in which teamwork is not present, such as when rhythmic or melodic difficulties occur in a passage. This should be referred to in terms of ‘teamwork’ and of listening and responding musically to one another.
  • Where possible select repertoire that is inclusive of all players, because both challenging and achievable repertoire supports inclusion and teamwork.
  • Repertoire that is musically significant can inspire player investment in personal practice and rehearsal attendance.
  • Technical skill development and reading skills that can be readily applied to well-selected, complimentary repertoire can provide opportunities to affirm player development.
  • Explicitly emphasise the pre-eminence of the music, such as by helping players to engage with the intentions of the composer.
  • Be explicit in highlighting musical roles of sections and players, encouraging players to listen for the place of sections and players in the musical whole.
  • Encourage risk-taking in solving musical problems, such as by acknowledging when players ‘put themselves out there’ by ‘having a go’ at more challenging passages.