It’s a rainy Saturday morning in winter and I’m standing in a school hall on a wooden box, looking around at the eager (and not so eager!) faces of about eighty 8 to 12 year olds. I raise my baton, check to see all eyes are on me and then with a smile and a sweep of my arms I indicate for the music to begin.
The feeling is so vivid that it sometimes surprises me that this took place about 20 years ago. Although I was barely out of my teens, it wasn’t a chore to be up early on a Saturday morning getting 6 year olds to work through a 10-bar piece on the recorder. It filled me with fear and excitement to stand up on that box and conduct the orchestra that less than 10 years before I had been a part of myself. It made me so proud to get eighty children come together and produce (sometimes!) beautiful music. Bringing this all to mind I get a tear in my eye thinking of the enjoyment I got from that work.
As life has gone on and other work has filled my hours and days I’ve forgotten at times what it was like to be that person, that music teacher, that conductor. But over the past few months these thoughts have been coming back to me and I’ve been remembering how much I loved being in that role and I’ve started to think how I can bring that conductor back into my life.
It isn’t necessarily about the music, but the role I had on that wooden box with 80 eager eyes.
It’s about collaboration and helping people work together. It’s about finding the harmony in the distinctiveness and individuality of people and using the best of everyone to create something even more special and beautiful. It’s about leading the way and not being afraid to stand up on the box and just see what can happen when the baton lowers. It’s about bringing out the best in people, showcasing them and allowing them to shine at certain points while others play the supporting role and then when appropriate, changing that around. My orchestra may not be 8 to 12 year old beginner musicians any more but I believe the feeling will be the same.
Our strengths, our values, our love of work can show up in all sorts of different ways at different times in our lives. The journey through life and through work isn’t necessarily a linear one and we need to think about careers and work differently.
So why do we still feel the need to ask kids – what do you want to be when you grow up, as though there is only one response? As though there is just one role that will utilise all they love and all they have. Why not instead ask – what do you love? When do you feel the most alive? What ways could you bring that together to do something that makes your heart sing? What can you do now that you would love to do?
Rather than a job title, an industry or a box, why not see an accumulation of your best bits being brought to life?
And for those of us who are already in the midst of careers and work, if work isn’t quite what it was, what roles have you enjoyed in the past? How can you bring that to life? It may not be a change in job but a different thought about the one you are currently in. It may not be a change in industry but a different perspective about what you can bring.
My desire to label myself as a music teacher is slim, but I know there are many skills I now possess because of that role twenty years ago. I know it brought to the fore some key strengths that may have been hidden for a while. My box and orchestra may be metaphorical now but I will bring them with me wherever I go.