What Middle School Band Teaches Us About Business Success

school bandLast night I went to my local school district’s annual honor band concert. My youngest daughter is a musician and earned the honor of second-chair flute this year. All of my children are musicians, but she has a passion that well exceeds the other three combined. But that’s another article–you can read it here.

Since we had a musician in the band, she needed to arrive early.  This gave me quite a bit of time to observe the band and to see them interact with each other and with their director. And while I watched them prepare and rehearse and perform, I realized that there is much to be learned from the band.

Studying music has many well-documented benefits, including improving creativity and helping students increase both mathematic and language abilities.

But beyond that, there are many lessons musicians must learn that can help us in the business world as well. Here are just a few that stood out to me last night.

Be a Team Player

Have you ever played in a band or orchestra? It is most defnitely a team activity.  In order to create music that will be pleasing, the band members need to collaborate and work together.  Just one musician deciding to go off and do his own thing can make the whole thing fall apart.  There is a time and a place for individuality in both business and band music, but it needs to be appropriate. If you’ve decided to work with a team, be a part of the team. Work together and support one another so you can all be successful. Know your role and do your part. If you are the leader, be the leader. If you aren’t the leader, don’t undermine his or her authority by deciding to do your own thing. Have you ever watched a band try to play with an inexperienced director, one who didn’t know how to bring the band together? have you ever played in a band where the musicians didn’t follow the director’s cues? It’s not a pleasant experience for either musician or listener.


Be aware of what those around are doing, but focus on what you are doing and don’t worry about your bandmates’ performance.

It is important both in band and in business to be aware of what your colleagues and competitors are doing. But if you get too hung up or too worried about what they are doing, your own performance is going to suffer.  I have seen many entrepreneurs drive their business into the ground because they were so worried about staying ahead of the competition and one-upping their competitors that they stopped focusing on what they did best.


Practice Makes Perfect

The band never sounds as good on the first run-through as it does after a few practice sessions. It’s the same with your business.  Do you want to be known as the authority? Then work to become one. Know your field of expertise. Study and keep up with the latest developments and trends. Don’t rest on your laurels or think you know all there is to know.  That is the short road to business failure.


You’re Only as Good as Your Next Challenge

In a band, musicians are ordered by “chair.” It’s actually a very literal term. You sit in your section of the band in order of skill, from the best to the worst (I’m sure there’s some PC term for the kid who sits last chair, but you can find it on your own). The best is First Chair.  You can move up from your assigned chair by challenging the person who sits in the next chair up the line from you. A challenge involves the challenger selecting a piece of music for you both to play individually and to be judged by the band director. If you’re better prepared than the other guy, you win the challenge. It’s the same in business. Those who succeed in business are those who are constantly focused on being prepared for their next challenge because they know it’s coming. Don’t be caught by surprise.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

We all need a little help now and then. Some pieces of music are more challenging than others. A good music teacher can push you and inspire you and help you figure out the rough parts to truly hone your skill. There are very few self-taught, world-class musicians around.  There are also very few self-taught, world-class entrepreneurs around. The best ones, in both music and business, recognize the importance of teachers, mentors and coaches.  A great coach or mentor will push you and inspire you and help you figure out the rough parts to help you succeed in business.


And just like in the band, when we’ve learned our lessons and applied them, the result is a beautiful and inspiring thing.

What lessons have you learned from life that you have been able to apply to your business? Please share them in the comment section below.


6 responses to “What Middle School Band Teaches Us About Business Success”

  1. I really like what you said about not being so concerned with your competition that your own performance suffers. It seems to me that there is room for everyone. I would rather collaborate than compete. And isn’t that what is happening in a band?

    • marie leslie says:

      It definitely is. Playing in a band requires complete collaboration to do your best, especially when you are in a competition. While there is still opportunity and room for individuality, it is critical for success to support the group.

  2. Great comparison, Marie. I truly love the last point. Asking for help is key in having a successful business.

  3. Anita says:

    Excellent analogy. Love the fact your children love and practice music. Gifted.

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