July 15, 2022
Generalists vs Specialists: Music Edition
You might be tempted to think that an orchestra conductor is a generalist and a lead violinist is a specialist.
After all, a conductor knows a little bit about a lot of instruments and a violinist knows a lot about a single instrument.
But this would be a category error.
A conductor is operating at a different altitude than a violinist.
A conductor surely benefits from knowing a little bit about a lot of instruments, but he or she isn’t trying to make a living playing any of them.
A conductor plays the orchestra as a whole.
In a sense, the orchestra is the conductor’s instrument.
And if you don’t think getting 80+ people working in perfect harmony is a specialized skill, give it a try some time ;-)
Okay, so... what would be an example of a generalist musician?
A generalist musician would be someone who thinks it’d increase their odds of getting into an orchestra by auditioning for violin AND oboe AND french horn AND timpani.
That’s probably not a winning strategy.