Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Factors Influencing Membership and Stability in Adult Amateur Bands - GW Bowie

Extracts from the Gordon Bowie Paper” (1990)

Edited By Marlin Strand
with a special emphasis on Band Leadership and its impact on
Success, Growth and Sustainment of the Community Band

There are numerous success stories in the band movement, but many community bands flourish briefly, and then decline in the face of personnel pressures.  Traditional bands that have survived through the years and maintained the valuable and artistic repertoire of the adult band (distinct from the educational repertoire) need to adapt and grow as times change if they are not to dwindle and perish.  Because society as a whole no longer places a premium on adult band membership, the key issue is attracting and retaining enough of the right players to allow a band to perpetuate its special activities.

What is a "band?"The eminent band conductor and scholar Richard Franko Goldman concluded that it is "A number of musicians who play together on portable musical instruments, especially those making a loud sound, as certain wind instruments (trumpets, clarinets -- also drums and cymbals.)"

How and why do bands survive and flourish? The distinguishing characteristic which promotes longevity may be the ability of a band to function as an institution, rather than as an ad hoc group existing at the pleasure of its members.  One important criterion is the critical size of the band, below which survival may be threatened, or perhaps a critical structural (Instrumental) element that is essential for longevity. Also a certain type of leader, or a particular leadership style, is a major factor in band longevity.

Different types of bands have differing levels of achievement, pay, association, and organization.  Even within these band types, unique characters or "organizational personalities" emanating from their history and circumstances, and their current leadership and membership dictate their success over time.  Band personalities change slowly over time as new members are recruited and older ones leave.  Occasionally, a radical or rapid period of change is encountered, usually in conjunction with a change in leadership or circumstances.

When people group together to play in a band they must interact to coordinate their efforts, giving their music making a social dimension. They also are an audience for each other's music making, thereby providing greater satisfaction for themselves and each other, even during practice for a larger audience.

When a band's size expands beyond twenty members it loses some of its small group attributes and assumes the attributes of an institution. The role of the leader becomes more pronounced, officers and a written constitution or organizational plan is required.  Secondary goals develop, fostering the elaboration of specialized duties and secondary roles. Cliques and subgroups may develop, as increased size lessens the possibilities for total face-to face communication in group pattern maintenance. A delicate balance of rewards versus costs to the individual members determines their satisfaction in the group and ultimately their choice to commit to its goals and continue to participate. The needs of the band for its members mean that this same balance, applied collectively, determines the ability of the band to persist.

Intrinsic rewards are chiefly the pleasure of music making, the pursuit and accomplishment of an aesthetic goal, and the social contact with other group members who are also involved in pursuit of the same goal. These are the main reasons that people begin music study in the first place, and carry over strongly in band membership. Extrinsic rewards can include adulation or admiration from an audience; praise from a specific individual; the use of a uniform or instrument; refreshments, drinks, meals, or parties; and social contacts made in the band for purposes not related to the band. Generally, economic compensation is not provided to the player.

"Services given for love' are services given without charge, but the use of them is not without cost. By using these “musical services” the leader accepts obligations; he must feed the faithful and he must also, through adequate propaganda, nourish the cause itself.  Nevertheless there are differences between these costs and the costs incurred in making use of paid personnel."

The costs to the member are time, energy, and the contribution of the member's musical skill. Quality of the player may be due to the feelings of personal guilt and inadequacy that a musician feels every time a mistake is made or a less than artistic rendition is accomplished. These are assuaged by participation in a high quality group performance. If members feel that their overall results are high quality, then large commitments of time and energy are justified. Where pride is present loyalty is enhanced.

What role does the Leader play? Band leaders and elected officers often assume the roles of ambassadors or become politicians who seek to influence the larger band scene.  After performances, members tend to organize their recollections in ways that enhance pride in their band, and as officers and leaders make statements which promote cohesiveness and group identity.

In larger and more diversified bands, such as military or professional bands, there is a feudal aspect which is felt in allegiance to a leader, specialized functions or roles for the various members often defined by ranks or pay differentials, and the transactional or pragmatic aspect symbolized by the pay for services ethic of the professional musician.  The large amateur band can, in the best cases, straddle these categories and feudal allegiances and organization, and depend instead on the volunteer's zeal and group cohesiveness.

Bands can thrive (using the North Shore Chicago Band Model) as player satisfaction is maintained through the highest standards in performance and organization, stringent attendance policies, and sufficient physical accommodations for the band rehearsal and performance spaces. . Access to an extensive library of the very best in accepted band literature, as well as a constant supply of the best new releases, keeps members continually interested in a variety of challenging material.
The North Shore Leader states: “The unpaid adult community band that does its thing strictly for the love of playing music is a beautiful thing to behold.  Free from the salary-oriented concerns and issues of livelihood, members can enjoy their recreational hours together in the rehearsal of good music and can share their talents on an unpaid basis with their friends and neighbors in concert.  One of the greatest thrills in the world is to accomplish great things on a completely volunteer basis.”

What kind of Band Leader is the best? Perhaps the most important factor in a band's overall personality is its form of organization, and the leaders selected for the organizational roles.  Two models seem to predominate. In one, the conductor is the absolute leader, responsible for finance, personnel, travel, schedule, bookings, seating, music acquisition, and indeed all phases of organizational activity in addition to actually directing the music.  Many commercial bands are structured in this way, and although an agent or impresario may be used, and some of the more menial tasks delegated, the leader has the role of absolute dictator.  This type of band very often exists only for a specific job or series, and is fully paid.  When organized only for a specific engagement in musician's parlance it is a "pick up band."  In the other model, the band is structured as a democracy, with elected officers, divided responsibilities, often the usual club model, with president, secretary, treasurer, and a music director who may be either elected, appointed, or employed. Town, municipal, and fraternal bands are most often structured this way, and tend to be primarily volunteer.

Regardless of whether the overall organization follows the democratic or dictatorial pattern, during the actual rehearsals and performances the conductor's word is law where musical matters are concerned.  This is a norm which is found in all musical groups: it has its origins in symphonic practice, the common training of musicians, and practical necessity.  There is also much variation in the amount of control actually exerted by the elected officers, versus the musical director, and a nominal democracy may, in fact, be a practical dictatorship.  A quasi-military arrangement which straddles the line between the democratic and dictatorial models is sometimes encountered. Except for the service bands and a few definitely professional bands in larger cities, nowadays most bands fall in to this category.  In most of these the leader is paid at least in part for his role and members are occasionally paid but mostly are not compensated monetarily. 

What are the characteristics of the typical Band Leader?  Bands often affiliate around a particular leader, and numerous examples of extremely dynamic leadership styles abound.  It might be fair to say that leadership of a musical organization is practically a laboratory situation for leadership style inasmuch as the vast majority of ensembles focus around the conductor who directs, teaches, chooses what will and will not be attempted, and often organizes, schedules and sometimes even arranges the financing of all activities of the band.  Some leadership styles encourage and foster a quasi-democratic participation with the affairs of the band, with the conductor as musical and overall director, but with club-like officers and divided duties in practical areas. A very few leaders provide such unique musical interpretations that fascination with the end result is of supreme importance for many members and becomes a key element in membership retention.

Leaders may be generally classified into two main types or styles: task leaders and socio-emotional leaders. Each type of leader will influence the band differently.  According to Nixon:
"...task leaders direct and strongly influence group task behavior, make important contributions to it, and are recognized by other group members for performing their leadership role.
...socio-emotional leaders tend to do the most to keep relationships among members cordial and friendly, to be most liked, to make tactful comments; to heal hurt feelings arising from group interaction, and to try to harmonize differences of opinion.  Thus, in general, this kind of leader or specialist tends to concentrate more than the task leader on reducing the frustration, disappointments, and hostilities or disagreements that develop in group interaction, and as a result may be better liked."25
What does the Band Leader do? The band leader talks more, moves more, does more than any other member in the rehearsal or concert situation.  The role demands exchanging glances with every participant, signaling the beginning and end of each phase of activity, controlling discipline and demeanor of the situation, and in general being the focus of attention and source of energy, as well as communicating every musical detail.  The leader must possess sufficient technical skill in a specific vocabulary of standard gestures and what has been called "the grammar of conducting," as well as a procedural skill known as "rehearsal technique," to be effective in communicating and coordinating musical detail. A broad background and depth of knowledge in music is also required in order to know which musical details he or she wishes to communicate. Trained musicians quickly lose patience with any music director found to be lacking in any of these areas.

Because of the complexity of group performance, the sections and individuals are dependent on the leader for their music making, and generally do no more than a little warming up and practicing until directed by the leader, who by his or her actions catalyzes their efforts into a product which is more than the sum of the individual parts.  Musicians are conditioned to expect this type of leadership from the beginning of their musical training, through hours of classes and rehearsals from childhood on.  The teacher is the center of the band class, and the pattern is carried on into adult membership, where the leader usually assumes the role of teacher in any matter of musical complexity.  Indeed it is only this type of leader-centered organization which permits the finely coordinated effort of a large number of individual instrumentalists to be rendered into a single unified performance.  It is not surprising that the leader as teacher assumes so much importance in defining the individual character of each band.  It is also not surprising that the leader, when charismatic, can engender an almost fanatical loyalty among members.

What are the ideal characteristics of the best band leader? Through the years of musical training, much of which is a striving for almost unattainable levels of perfection, the better musicians come to expect something very special, almost super-human from their ideal leader. They seek a leader who can assuage their practice-room guilt, overcome their performance anxiety, and make of their effort something much more glorious than their own mere tooting. Their leader, through vision and technique, creates a unified artistic performance in which they share the applause, acclaim, and ultimate satisfaction.

This is the fantasy leader that classically trained musicians idealize: totally task oriented and places musical values far above people values.  In total control of the materials, he mesmerizes the musicians.  His vision of the ideal result is clear, convincing, and perfectly formed.  Discipline is sure and immediate; no deviation from the artistic ideal passes unnoticed.  Performance is paramount. For the band players, all decisions are made for them, they can play, must play, perfectly, in an exquisite state of performance euphoria. This type of leader, although rare in the real world is the quintessential "great man."  Leadership research with task groups shows that people will turn over their decision making rights to a leader who will take the responsibility.

In reality, especially in amateur music, such a leader can seldom be found, and could no more function with amateur musicians than those musicians could cope with the tension of perpetual and unrelenting discipline in the quest for musical perfection. In many organizations separate leaders emerge, creating a "differentiated leadership structure" with the music director as task leader, and the socio-emotional leader as manager or president.  Bands which have a constitution which divides the authority into various offices would be assumed to foster this kind of pluralistic leadership. 

BUT What is the “right” band leader in general?…..One of Nixon’s principal findings  was that where the legitimacy of task activity was perceived by the group members as high, a single leader could occupy both task and social-emotional leadership roles: where the legitimacy of the task activity was perceived as low, increased disliking of the task leader resulted in the emergence of a social-emotional leader.  In terms of bands one could infer from this that where the players were happy with the music being played, the reasons for playing it, and the level of the performances attained, satisfaction with the task leader would be high, and a separate social-emotional leader would not be required or would occupy a less prominent role. This is indeed what can be observed in amateur bands.  On the other hand, where members perceive the goal attainment to be low, and the legitimacy of the task or the leader to be low, a differentiated leadership is much more likely, and the prominence of the social-emotional role is increased.

Nixon’s finding was that legitimacy of the task and pressure to achieve as a group were more important than either reward system in determining whether leadership differentiation was to occur.  His overall conclusion bears out the situation observed in band leadership that preoccupation with a valid, legitimate task, increases member satisfaction with a task leader and diminishes the need for a differentiated social-emotional leader.

And what difference does the Leader make to the Band? What this means for the bandsperson is that satisfaction with the music, the level of performance, the kinds of venues, give legitimacy to the task of band membership, and increase satisfaction with a task type leader, while diminishing the importance of a differentiated social-emotional leader. Insofar as satisfaction with the leader is a major component in attracting and retaining membership in an amateur group, maintaining a perception of high legitimacy of the task is a vital element in recruiting.

It is in this outweighing of competing interests that the associational value of band membership is most important. Except in the case of the full-time professional musician, for whom pay for services is expected to be the most important factor, and whose loyalty to any band or leader extends as far as payday, the amateur musician's membership in a band depends on a complex of intangibles to produce a feeling of loyalty.  The band member who is loyal to the band is enmeshed in a web of rights and duties which serve to support his continuing commitment to furthering the goals of the organization.  Each band differs in the exact balance between musical and extra-musical factors, and between tangibles and intangibles. The most successful bands are those that engage the musicians' attention in musical and non musical ways in a manner which strengthens the bonds of loyalty.