Thursday, September 12, 2013

Representing another



Just recently the Taiko Community Alliance (TCA) had its first conference full of brainstorming and information-gathering.  Because there was limited space, there were only a limited number of participants allowed.  Realizing that so few people would not necessarily cover the wide range of people playing taiko in North America, the organizers came up with a novel idea: each of the participants would conduct an interview with another taiko player in North America, get their perspective, and represent that person as a sort of proxy during the conference.

What does this do, aside from causing a bunch of people to be schizophrenic?  It allows a person to bring their own perspective to a conversation, but also help advocate for someone else whose voice might not get heard otherwise.  The TCA asked some people to be interviewed and sent out a open call for others who wanted to be heard.  I’m not privy to exactly how groups were then sorted, but there were then categories of people made – people just out of collegiate taiko, teachers and leaders, taiko professionals, etc.

There is a potential downside to a system like this, where a person can say they’re speaking for someone else in order to deflect reaction at a controversial idea, but in this situation, I don’t think that was happening.  It looked like people were happy to not only bring a different viewpoint but also try to understand it better for themselves.  From everything I saw via streaming video and heard from people who went, that “proxy advocation” was a real eye-opener.

So let’s take that idea into your own group(s).  All of us to a degree are selfish, because we’re human.  We all have our individual needs.  Maybe you want less time to warm up and more time playing.  Maybe you like the newer compositions more and wish they were practiced more often.  Maybe you want fewer notes given overall because it’s taking up a lot of time.  Like the TCA did, think of the different sub-groups within your group and what their concerns might be.  Do the older members need that warm up time more than you do so that they avoid injury?  Do the people in charge feel the older compositions better represent the group?  Do the newer members need those notes in order to make the most improvements?  Those are the things that having another perspective can give you.

It’s not possible to always represent someone else, but it’s something that makes you a more peripheral and more compassionate person.  Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is a clich√© perhaps, but there’s a reason why it’s stuck around as long as it a has…

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