Monday, April 29, 2013

Why We Yell

Last week in rehearsal, I yelled.
No…That’s not accurate…
I completely lost my [expletive deleted].
Why do we yell? Why do we feel, as directors, teachers, and conductors, that completely losing your temper is the only course of action left? Do we not realize that we might be doing more harm than good?
Sure, it’s not fun to be the bad guy. But I feel like anyone who yells may not see both sides of the situation, and this is what makes me feel tremendously guilty moments after.
I always tell my students, or whatever group I’m working with, that they should never be concerned about me, or the group, if I yell. Yelling signifies a boiling point of frustration, but it also means we care. If we didn’t care so much about the project, we wouldn’t get so mad. So the moment I stop yelling…the moment I let the mistakes go by without correcting them…that’s when they should start being worried.
Now for the flip side. Being on the receiving end sucks. Nobody wants to be treated like they are second-class citizens. I mean…would you? Would you really enjoy it if someone you liked, respected, or cared about suddenly screamed in your face?
In my experience, there has always been two kinds of people who are on the opposite end of my wrath. First, there are the students who fall right within the bulls-eye of my frustration. For example, it’s the day before the concert, things are not going right, and nobody wants to focus because they don’t see the disaster that you see. These are the “students who set you off,” and most likely, they won’t be happy with you moments after. Most will calm down, some might quit. This is simply out of your control. You cannot control what others do, nor can you control how they should, or will, react.
Second, there are the “thank the lord he/she just said that!” students. They have been waiting patiently on the sidelines for this exact moment, when the group finally gets what’s coming to them. They think you’re a god now, because you said what they have been thinking for weeks, as if you just suddenly read their minds. Of course, they’ll never say this out loud. They don’t want to be ostracized as the “brown noser(s).”
Does anyone win when they yell? I’ll admit, sometimes, a little kick in the pants is what the group needs. There have been moments when a good scream-fest is exactly what was missing from the process. And there have also been times when screaming was just too extreme. Maybe…just maybe…they didn’t really deserve that.
All I’m saying is…choose your yelling carefully. And make sure the students know that aggressive, red-faced, obscenity-laced sharing is caring.
Marc Silverberg
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