Take Care Of The Plane First


Trust me, this is one great analogy for the music field as we prepare to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic and begin our concerts again.

There is an amazingly simple but important rule in the aviation world which could easily apply to the music world (or any industry, really). When flying a plane, especially during a crisis, the order of attention goes: Plane, Destination, then Communication. This is known as Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, or ANC, and it is one of the first lessons pilots learn.

The top priority when flying is to take care of the plane first. The reason behind this seemingly obvious rule is all about keeping focus and not getting distracted, thus losing control of the plane. Probably the most famous example of pilots violating this rule is the Eastern Airlines crash in December of 1972. While entire cockpit was preoccupied with a lightbulb that had burnt-out on one of the indicators, the plane lost altitude and eventually crashed. Instead of maintaining the plane, pilots put all their focus and attention to a lightbulb, and that decision killed 101 people.

As orchestras and musicians get out of this pandemic and back to performing, it is an important lesson to keep the focus on what we do and why we do it. There are so many fantastic ideas and new initiatives that seem appealing, relevant, and exciting as we try re-vamping or as we attempt to engage with new audiences. Those things are all important. But if all the focus is on those new things, the organization will lose altitude and crash.

So take a moment and decide what is your “plane.” Is it your organization, or is it you, the artist? Once that is decided, maintain the plane first. Then decide your navigation, and then finally communicate. Communication can mean to colleagues, ticket buyers, donors, board, etc.

Whether your “plane” is an organization, or just you, an individual, it is most important to know the mission and purpose so that the focus is understood and you can best keep your “plane” airborne.

There are so many examples, but I wanted to leave this analogy on the general side and invite people to pause and decide a few things before the grand re-openings begin. It’s going to be a challenging re-start, so know if you are consumed with a burned-out lightbulb, or if you are actually flying your plane.

Be sure to read the very short document from the FAA which summarizes this rule. While it is geared towards pilots, it is some of the best advice in navigating our ways forward as we start up our concerts!

Read The FAA Safety Guide

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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