This is not widely known, but my Masters thesis project was a semiotic analysis of “The Beauty of All Things”, recorded by Kurt Elling. The word “gorgeous” doesn’t even begin to describe the song. Beautifully put together, arranged, and delivered. Elling is likely given much credit – and rightfully so – as the vocalist and “focal point”, but don’t overlook that this was a collaboration with Laurence Hobgood. They wrote and performed that song together. Elling and Hobgood had a partnership that lasted for twenty years!

Do not make the mistake of thinking that just because there is a soloist or a “feature” that they are fully responsible for a good “performance.” That is not how music is made. And unfortunately, the conservatories do very little to address the problem, even to their own students.

Unless the soloist is singing completely A Cappella with absolutely no one else, the soloist does not make the music happen by him/herself! Everyone on that stage – whether backing vocal or in the band – is a collaborator. The chief collaborator is whoever coordinated the entire thing. 90% of the time, it is most likely not the soloist!

You know… I love piano concerti. I think my favorite one is the Grieg Piano Concerto. Piano concerti cannot be performed without an orchestra. The performance that happens on the stage is a collaboration between the soloist and the orchestra, primarily the conductor. There’s a give and take that happens between the soloist and the orchestra, which is “played” by the conductor. A concert pianist cannot perform a concerto without an orchestra! If he/she does, then half – or quite possibly considerably more than half – of the music will be missing!

One of the saddest things I’ve seen is when churches put the musical decisions in the hands of people who don’t have an understanding of music and see no need to even educate themselves. I’m not suggesting that one needs to have a graduate degree, but there should at the very least be an earnest desire to learn, grow, and develop your craft. Too many people I’ve seen make it completely about themselves.

If you’re going to be a leader of musicians, understand how music is made. Understand what it takes to make music. Invest the time into developing your skills. Invest in relationships that allow you to create something even greater. Otherwise, what you have right now is going to be the same old tired shit you have a year from now.

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