Digger’s Pillars of Motivation

pillarsAfter my recent posts about Us-and-Themness, I got into an interesting online discussion with a music educator and barbershopper in Canada called J. R. Digger MacDougall (see some of his activities here and here) who shared the concepts he uses to analyse people’s motivations to join and then stay with an organisation. They intersect in some ways with the ideas from Maslow I have been writing about this year, but they slice through the conceptual plane at a somewhat different angle, and I thought that readers who weren’t in that particular group might enjoy mulling over them too.

He presented the concepts as four ‘pillars’, which is itself an apt metaphor to think of the support an organisation gives its members. If all four are in place, their commitment will be solid; if one is shaky or absent, it may continue, but will be more precarious; lose two and the whole shebang will collapse. And each of the four pillars has that useful quality that it presents some immediately practical considerations for an organisation to engage with; you can generate a to-do list from them quite readily.

Managing Melody and Words at the Same Time

So, this subject looks fairly straightforward. It’s what we do every time we sing. There’s the words and the tune, and doing them both at once makes a song. What’s the big mystery?

I’ve had two coaching experiences over the summer that drew my attention to the somewhat different imperatives of and modes of engagement we have with, respectively, linguistic and melodic shapes. I’ve written around these areas before when considering how to deal with over-articulation, or the particular challenges that face people singing in their second language, but new experiences of a particular issue shed new light on it, so I’m finding it useful to have another think about it. Actually, neither experience is new (I come across this question pretty frequently) - it was the juxtaposition that was telling.

Avoiding the Dangers of Us-and-Themness in Choirs

singing group cartoonMy last post was about why it is a problem when a choir starts developing factions. Criticism of one sub-group by another is an early-warning indicator that this might be happening - not least because that articulates the fact that the people doing the criticising are thinking of the others as ‘them’. So, our next question is: what can a director to inhibit such tendencies and to counter them should they appear?

The Dangers of Us-and-Themness in Choirs

usandthemMy recent post on the relationship between choral identities and musical behaviours included a passing comment that has stayed with me as deserving more thought. It was the point about people in one section being blamed by those in other sections for musical difficulties experiences by the whole ensemble. This bothered me; it feels like an unhealthy dynamic, with some members of a choir feeding their esteem needs from others’ vocal difficulties. And it’s a dynamic I have encountered often enough that it warrants some reflection on what’s going on, and why it makes me so worried.

So, in the case I cited, it was the basses who were subject to persistent bashing. It could be any part, though - I know of groups in which sopranos or barbershop leads have been subject to the same kind of treatment. Voice parts give an obvious opportunity to create a sense of us-and-them, but other fault-lines open up according to the circumstances of individual groups.

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