How to Build Your Support Team

Grace and Bloggers in Vancouver

There’s the idea that musicians– and creative people– are solitary creatures. We practice alone, perform alone, win alone.

But really, the best thing musicians can do for themselves is build a strong team of support.

You are the average of the five people around you. I suspect that if my friends in high school were more interested in music competition, then I would’ve studied less and practiced piano more.

Nonetheless, I’ve gotten a lot of help from my support team, which has grown into a network of mentors and friends who range from music teachers to CEOs– I couldn’t make it alone!

Recently, I went rafting and it was one of the most thrilling things I’ve done in a long time, but I also realized that it’s a great way to learn how to build a support team.

Here are a few lessons that musicians can learn from rafting, specifically about building a strong support team.

1. Pick people you’re genuinely interested in

Because if you’re genuinely interested in a person, you won’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not– you will happily offer value before you ask for anything in return. Important people are busy and there are probably tons of people asking for their favours everyday, so don’t ever start with that. Give first.

Here’s an idea: If you want to convince someone that you’re likeable, take them rafting and stick beside them on the raft. The familiarity principle suggests that everyone can be likeable if given enough time.

I didn’t expect the rowdy fun with the Vancouver bloggers, but it occurred to me that when people navigate risks together, they will grow closer. Everyone looked the same in helmet and jacket, so personalities took centre stage.

I appreciate how Hyak directed the whole trip– they handled everything from fixing our life jackets to feeding us– so we focussed on the fun.

Rafting builds a team because people work together to stay alive and ignite thrills. What I think of is if a music studio’s teachers are fighting over politics, they just need to go on a rafting trip to keep it real. An ensemble with a bad group dynamic can probably fix it with a rafting trip. Or come home with one less person.

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2. Pay attention to small tweaks that pay off big

During lunch, people began saying, “Grace, your lips look purple.”

Here’s my mistake: the bottom half of my wetsuit was loose and I was too lazy to trade for a smaller one.

When you are choosing a wetsuit, make sure it’s skin-tight. A layer of water will get trapped between the suit and your skin, so your body will warm that water and you’ll walk around with a personal heating device all day. If the water is cold and your suit isn’t tight enough, you’ll feel like you’re being assaulted by buckets of ice water.

We went on the first trip of the season, so the water was still cold; my bodyparts turned purple one by one.

If 20% of effort brings 80% of result, slipping out of a wetsuit and squeezing into a new one was probably part of that 20%.

As a musician, if you practice just one piece of technique everyday (like, one section of Hanon), lifting your fingers high and making every note spectacular, then that will be your 20% of effort. If you keep your fingers in great shape, then everything you play will seem effortless.

Similarly, if you can take 20% of your time to build genuine relationships with people you’re truly interested in, you will be delighted with the support. If you read a great article, just take the time to send the link to someone.

3. Do what thrills you

There were eight people on our raft, and Kristen was my buddy. The pair of us were switched to the very back for the class 4 waves.

During an unexpected wave, my foot slipped and I dropped into the middle of our boat, white waves everywhere. My first thought was, “Whoops.”

I’m not linking to the study, but this is similar to how stress and excitement have the same physical signs (fluttery heart rate, sweat, etc); if you chew gum before a big performance, your body will think you’re excited and not stressed, because your body thinks you wouldn’t be eating if you were in danger.

In fact, I felt like we were in total control of the raft at all times, even during class 4 rapids, because the river guide was great at communicating instructions. He’s our friend now; his name is Jared.

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Later, I jumped into calm waters intending to swim, but the cold was so shocking that I could do little more than swing around the raft. After Jared hauled me back in, Ricky said, “Does your face usually turn purple when you’re cold?”

If you find yourself feeling stressed or scared, turn that into excitement, and you will find that even the most nerve-wracking activities can be thrilling.

There were calmer moments to notice eagles circling above the forest, arms still ready to paddle. Jared called it “being perfectly in tune with nature”– I swear I’m not making a music joke.

If you’re interested in rafting with Hyak Rafting (Vancouver BC– they picked us up from a mall): I loved it so much that we’re teaming up to give away a free rafting trip to a lucky Artiden winner. Enter below– good luck!

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9 years ago

“An ensemble with a bad group dynamic can probably fix it with a rafting trip. Or come home with one less person.” Priceless! Made me laugh out loud :)

Jay B.
9 years ago

Having a group of people around you that support you no matter what is invaluable. Nonetheless, choosing the right personalities into your team might get a little tricky. This list of yours is very well written, you need to feel confident about your team members’ reliability and what is the best way to test that and strengthen your team’s spirit? Team-building, indeed! I appreciate your creative thinking, Grace! Good luck with doing what you love!