Handling Change

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor

We got a new symphonic band director this semester, and to say the transition has been smooth would be stretching it.

A lot.

Now most of us don’t handle change well.

We might think we do. We might say we do. But if we’re honest, we know that change — in certain areas of our lives and in large doses — is unsettling.

I liked our former band director. He challenged our artistic sensitivity, drew out the best sound from a somewhat rag-tag group of about 50 players, and sold our concerts to happy audiences.

But after our first rehearsal under a new guy’s baton, I found myself dragging.

Nothing was the same. He didn’t warm us up the way our old director did. He wasn’t as organized or sure of himself. He wasn’t comfortable directing a group with students and community members, and he had no clue what level we could perform at.

So we spent two full rehearsals sight-reading — boring — and time was ticking away toward our first concert.

Complaining to others and jumping to the drastic “solution” of quitting band entirely didn’t get me far, so I sat down and vented my feelings in an email to our new director.

I let it “simmer” for nearly a week, rewriting it a half-dozen times every day until I got just the right balance of honesty, concern, and tact. I offered suggestions, like letting the full band vote on which pieces we wanted to play for our concert, and selecting pieces our paying audience would enjoy listening to. And I volunteered to help however I could to make the transition smoother.

Imagine my surprise when some of these things were implemented!

Three weeks in, and more community members have joined, we’ve zeroed in on our concert pieces, and I’m having fun once again.

And that’s one of the beautiful things about being in band.

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. ~Author Unknown

10 thoughts on “Handling Change

  1. Debbie, I loved this post! And you’re absolutely right, change is something ALL of us have apprehension about because we don’t always know how that change will pan out. Nothing is certain about change.

    Yet, one of the things I do know (from my own life experiences) is the only thing that’s certain in life IS change. I’m one of those people who enjoys change because I get bored easily. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have apprehension. I do. The thing about change is that even when we want it, we hold on to what was, and very often expect everything to stay the same. Which is doesn’t. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve noticed that I’m adapting to change much faster than I used to.

    I am so happy to hear that your letter to your new director was well received. And because of the way you write, I’m sure your were honest, but also consciously aware of his feelings.

    I’m also happy to hear that your having fun again. And I’m sure the other members of your band are so grateful that you wrote that letter!

    Bravo, my friend!

    Have a great week! xo

    • Hey, Ron … and Happy almost-birthday!!! Thanks for sharing your experience. I, too, get bored pretty easy, so some things changing is just fine with me. Others, not so much. I guess I never realized how much I appreciated the former director until he opted to leave, ha!

      I think mine is testament to letting anger simmer a bit before venting out loud. This could have been a disaster, considering that my first attempt at setting down my feelings was so in-your-face! It’s good to get those angry feelings down, but sending them like that is too cruel. Part of me wonders, since so many changes were implemented so quickly, whether others offered similar thoughts in person or in writing, and he decided we might be right. Guess I’ll never know because I don’t want to admit to rocking the boat! Enjoy your work week — and look out for that blazing heat headed your way. xo

    • Thank you for reinforcing that message, John. A complaint box is just a place to dump ill feelings, but a suggestion box — when the suggestions are worded honestly yet tactfully — can be a positive thing. I’m fortunate the new guy was receptive to my suggestions.

    • I knew you’d understand! Why do we allow ourselves to get so attached to a band director that we’re morose when he/she moves on? I’ve seen it happen even since I’ve been in band, even as a kid. Girls in my sister’s class were wailing with grief when their junior high band director retired!

  2. Well done – sounds like you handed that brilliantly! Change can be very difficult to deal with, especially if you like the way things were. Even if it all works out in the long run – and it usually does – it doesn’t make it any less discombobulating while it’s happening. I’m glad it worked out – you’ve been enjoying the band, it would have been a pity to have to quit it.

    • Thanks for getting it, FF. I’d have been more broken hearted at quitting band than I ever could be at losing a director! Change really isn’t something we embrace, though I imagine we should. After all, who really wants everything to remain the same?!?

  3. “Think before you speak” is old advice, but it’s still good. It takes a certain amount of discipline — and common sense — to let things simmer a bit before expressing our feelings. Some years ago, I came across a modern version of that old adage: “Google before you tweet is the new think before you speak.” It’s funny, but think how much nicer social media would be if people took that seriously!

    Change is hard, and what you describe about your experience with your band director happens in other fields, too. It’s pretty common across denominations to assume that, when a beloved, long-time pastor leaves, the next one is going to be temporary: one or two years at most. The pastor who comes in knows that, too. People get over their unhappiness with the change with the first replacement, and then they’re ready for the second. In fact, there are some pastors who are so good at taking the flack from unhappy parishoners, they specialize in those short-term assignments!

    • I don’t think I’d be happy specializing in short-term assignments, Linda, though I imagine many business consultants do just that. I guess the good thing would be that, if you absolutely hated the task and the people, you could rest easy knowing it wouldn’t last forever!

      With my temperament, I tend to have a short fuse that I know can get me into big trouble. Therefore, I’ve restrained myself from speaking my mind in the moment, letting time soothe the ire a bit. Otherwise, I’d have to make a LOT of those Irish goodbyes!!

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