Listen hard, pay attention. Everyone matters.

person playing cello

I once played in a ballet orchestra. Those are the folks in the pit below the stage.

I remember during a rehearsal of Prokofiev’s Cinderella there was a section where most of the orchestra was playing and I glanced at the basses who were sawing away quite furiously. During a break, I was walking around and got a look at their music. Sure enough, at that point in the score, the basses have all of these fast arpeggios. Put simply, a lot of notes on the page.

What struck me was the fact that I couldn’t really hear all of that intricacy with so much other stuff going on. I wondered, why did Prokofiev give them all of that hard work that you can’t really hear?

No sooner did we sit down to get back to rehearsal when the conductor asked to hear only the woodwinds in that section. He then tweaked a few things and added the brass. Then he added the violins and violas. Finally, he asked the cellos and basses to join in. It was amazing how the whole thing changed with all of that bass craziness going on. It was fuller, richer, and more urgent. The emotional quality was different. If Prokofiev had done things differently, it just wouldn’t have created the needed sound for what was happening on stage.

Lesson? Everyone’s part matters, even the ones that are largely unheard or unseen. What may look dispensable or unnecessary, may be more important than you know.

How can you apply this to your leadership?

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