Unified Harmony

Two psychologists, Jack Lipton from Union College and R. Scott Builione, a graduate student at Columbia University, conducted a study of sixteen major symphony orchestras to discover stereotypes and personality traits attributed by orchestra members to the other four major sections–percussion, string, brass and wind. (Visit www.princeton.edu/~artspol/art46.html to read more about the study.)  They presented their findings at a meeting of the American Psychological Association:

  • The percussionists were viewed by other orchestra members as insensitive, unintelligent, hard-of-hearing, but fun-loving.
  • String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy and unathletic.
  • Brass players were described as “loud.”
  • Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, although a bit egotistical.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the members of the orchestra were labeled according to the instrument they played. How fair is that? I know a lot of sensitive, intelligent percussionists. Our daughter plays strings, but she’s far from arrogant and stuffy–although she is a bit unathletic. A former parishioner of ours played the [loud] trumpet professionally, but he was one of the most meek, subdued men you could ever meet. A good friend of mine plays a wind instrument. Yes, she is quiet and meticulous, but egotistical she’s not.

So, how can such a divergent group come together to produce wonderful music? The psychologists concluded, “Regardless of how those musicians view each other, they subordinate their feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they play beautiful music.”

Everyone plays a different part in the orchestra of life. Our similarities make us unified–our differences make us harmonized. Whether we are working with a team, serving on a committee or joining a group, we need to subordinate our feelings and biases so the end results will sound like music to all who hear.

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