Learning to be part of a greater whole is required to get along in this world. From the time we are old enough to interact, we learn to share and “be a team player” when we play with others. Being a member of an ensemble therefore allows one to play for a greater whole.
The first thing you learn when you are in a music ensemble is to take heed of authority. We learn to follow the direction and ideas of the orchestral director from the time we are in band class to the time we sit in a pit orchestra. It’s truly humbling and exciting as your job is to take the music and perform, while the conductor unites it and helps polish it.
Being a baseball fan, it reminds me of when the coach helps tighten up the execution of a play as a fielder. Great, you can stop the ball-but now you must know how to communicate with your teammates and carry out whatever play is necessary.
Next, one learns to become part of the group sound. I recently had the privilege to begin working with a string quartet, playing works of Beethoven. In that setting, a musician no longer has a conductor. It is now the job of the quartet members to work as a team and perform the music. Even in a full orchestra, there is much “silent communication” through listening, watching and moving to follow each other. My teacher always taught me that my job, when in an ensemble, is to “subjugate the ego” in order to achieve the desired sound.
Lastly, many consider one of the greatest aspects of playing music when young is everyone gets a chance to join. It’s not like being on a sports team where you may be constantly benched (although that has lessons too). Everyone has different jobs, from rhythm, bass lines, melody, to harmony, the entire ensemble has value. This is important. It almost models the way society is supposed to run, where in order to receive benefits of music, we all have jobs and need to do the work well.
I love performing in orchestras, chamber ensembles, and the like. It’s truthfully a great and powerful experience, second to none. Being a member of an ensemble truthfully allows one to perform as a part of a greater a whole.