My teacher friends laughed at me when they saw all my students make a point to approach the piano together, sit at the same time, put their hands on and off the keys at the same time, then stand together and leave together. I guess they never thought about whose students were bringing back trophies and whose weren’t. The point of all that togetherness was to infuse oneness into them. Your performance starts from the moment your names are called; that single four- or six-handed creature acted as one from then till they hit their seats in the audience afterward.
The performance aspects were trickier. Who has the melody? Does the partner have a counter-melody or an oom-pah-pah chordal accompaniment? Does the partner enter with the same melody a few bars later? How can the one with the steady underlying rhythm make it stable enough to help the syncopated partner, without overpowering him? Are the dynamics terraced or interlaced? How each partner plays his part depends upon the answer to all those questions. What a lot to remember and listen for.
I had one duo that excelled at all of this. They played together for ten years and by the time the older graduated from high school, I was positive they were even breathing in sync while they performed. They played pieces where one partner got up, walked around the piano and sat down to play again; then later in the piece got up and went back to his original position, all without stopping, without errors, and without one of them falling off the bench! They played pieces where the one higher on the keyboard picked up his hand and put it between the other’s two hands and then continued playing, without a hitch. If you were not watching, you would not know anything had happened. Once they played a piece where one’s left hand was on the black keys above the other’s right hand on the white keys, and they never once got in each other’s way. Now that’s teamwork. (Did I mention that Nathan was one of the partners?)
Perfecting the piece was not enough for them. They even created entrances, with both walking down opposite aisles exactly together and approaching the judges’ bench from opposite directions with a flourish precisely at the same time in the middle of the front row. At the end of the piece they each crossed the outside hand to bounce off the last note with the inside hand, and held their hands up for exactly the same three count—non-verbally. They simply knew each other that well.
And I remember my baby duet. A little stepbrother and -sister act in the Primary 1 category performing “O Susanna.” When one had the melody the other played softer; when the other came in with the melody, the first one pulled her tone way down almost instinctively, and then back up again when it was her turn. These were 8 year olds, mind you, and it was flawless, seamless, and so amazing the judges looked at each other as soon as it happened. I knew then we had it, and sure enough, we did.
That is what teamwork is all about. You know that old coach’s saying, “There is no I in team?” Unfortunately, many people still manage to spell “me,” and the team is never as unified as it could be. Teamwork means doing what is best for the group. It means constantly putting someone else ahead of me. It means making an objective judgment of what is most important at a given time and not forcing my issues to the forefront if they are less critical than another’s. It means not complaining if I don’t have the lead and trying to horn my way in anyway. It means not whining when I don’t get the praise I think I deserve. If one of my students had said, “I don’t care if I don’t have the melody. I am just as important as her, so I’m playing my chords just as loudly,” they would have never won anything. In fact, they would never have gotten a superior at the district level and not made it to the state competition. What’s best for me will very often ruin it for everyone else. And we all need to have that feeling. If we do, no one feels left out or unappreciated.
Why is it that we cannot see these things when we are the ones involved? Are we really so dense? Is it pride? Is it arrogance? Is it our rights-oriented society? Whatever it is, we need to get over it, so the church can once again make known the manifold wisdom of God, Eph 3:10, and we, through our unity, can cause the world to believe, John 17:21.
Doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind, each counting other better than himself, not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Phil 2:3,4