When the orchestra conductor, Leonard Bernstein, was asked what the most difficult instrument to play was, he answered without hesitation:
“The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm.”
Few of us aspire to take a supporting role, to work in the shadows, but it’s these people who are often – though unrecognized – the linchpins within a team.
Believing, of course, that all of life’s lessons can be learned by looking at the Count Basie Orchestra, I’ve often been inspired by his rhythm guitarist Freddie Green. Green is a legendary jazz guitarist, known best for never taking a solo (ok, apparently he did play one). He worked in the shadows. This guitarist faithfully laid down chords, helping maintain the rhythmic and harmonic foundation of the band.
“Rhythm guitar is like vanilla extract in cake.
You can’t taste it when it’s there, but you know when it’s left out.”
– Irving Ashby
Maybe we need more people who aspire to play second fiddle with enthusiasm, as Bernstein said. Maybe we need more people who lead from the shadows (and need to be grateful for the ones that do).