December 19th, 2019

Five in Ten's TARDIS

Being helpful vs. being an arrogant know-it-all

In non-important situations (meaning, no serious consequences, not life-or-death) where you see other people having difficulties and you believe you know how to solve the problem, do you tend to step in and offer your (unasked-for but probably good) advice, or do you stay quiet because you don't want to come off as an arrogant know-it-all?

I just had this situation happen tonight and looking back on it, I'm wondering if I'm starting to get a reputation of being too arrogant.

I'm in a couple of adult community concert bands in my area, and the rehearsal tonight was for the band that's really casual, for people who just want to play no matter their skill level. The general skill level of the band is pretty low, though we have a number of pretty good musicians. My general attitude is that I like to learn to play different instruments, so though my best instrument is clarinet and to some extent sax, I play French horn and sometimes trombone or percussion for the group even though I'm really not very good at them. Most people in the band know that I switch around a lot. The conductor, Tim, is a good friend of mine and though he's a band teacher and plays all instruments, he is primarily a brass player.

Tonight, we were practicing a piece which the saxes (all casual players) were having a lot of problems with. They had to switch between two notes rapidly in a strange tempo, so Tim was working with them to get the timing right. However, I could see - and Tim couldn't, because he's not really a woodwind player - that the problem was that it was difficult to switch back and forth rapidly between those particular notes, in other words a problem with fingering, not with timing. So I raised my hand and pointed it out, and then got out my phone to look up alternate ways to play those notes.

Should I have stayed silent? I'm not concerned with what Tim thought, because he's a good friend and knows I'm competent, and he isn't the type to get offended when someone else butts in. But I'm kind of concerned that the rest of the band are starting not to like me because I do speak up like that. In most bands I've been in, the conductor is the one who makes the suggestions and decisions, except for the few instances in which there's another teacher or professional who has more expertise in a particular area. I'm not a musician of any skill and I don't work in a music field, so maybe people are starting to resent that I think I know things? I don't know.

Thanks for thoughts on this you might share!