How ‘off’ is time off? Musicians creativity beyond the collective

The daily routine of an orchestra musician tends to be both crammed and regimented – yet even so, many are still preoccupied with music after work. You may ask whether this fascination is purely enthusiasm, or whether it reflects a creative deficit in the workaday experience – a deficit that many musicians try to balance by doing ‘their own thing’ during their time off.

Off time engagement: orchestra musician conducts brass band

Off time engagement: orchestra musician conducts brass band

Such activities can be directly music-related, e.g. playing in a chamber orchestra. But the links may also be more lateral, as other examples illustrate, such as music education and outreach, or even political activities to combat cuts to cultural budgets. Sometimes these extra efforts are appreciated by colleagues, sometimes they are regarded more as a private diversion. Professional input is also crucial for many amateur ensembles (of which there are thousands in many countries). Whether a school orchestra or a small local symphonic ensemble it is rarely the remuneration (if any) that motivates professional musicians, but the pleasure of making music, motivating others and doing something beyond the confines of a professional orchestra. Music education and outreach are perhaps among the most important ‘off time’ engagements that musicians can take on.

Of course there are political and civil aspects of ‘off time’ musical engagement: this can take many forms – from promoting a particular instrument (as done by the Confédération Internationale des Accordionists, which organized a 24-hour internet broadcast of accordion pieces) to fundraising for charitable causes to political protest.

What is the main task for the orchestra management in this context? How is it possible to create an atmosphere in which musicians can develop their artistic skills for themselves as well as for the whole orchestra organization? Peaceful cooperation and communication between management and musicians creates an atmoshpere of understanding and trust. This is the most healthy environment for future success. The orchestra should support musicians off time activities, because they will benefit the organization, too.

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