Peter Hilton - Speaking & training

Musical ensemble safety

How musicians small groups get psychological safety


Musical ensembles, like software development teams, only function properly when their members have established and continue to maintain psychological safety. But amateur musicians establish a higher standard for this safety, when they work in small groups, which is especially scary without formal musical training.

This talk uses personal stories from early music vocal quartets and quintets to illustrate ensemble safety, and how software development still has a long way to go before we can take this safety for granted. Attendees will be able to compare their own teams with concrete examples of ensemble work in a different but equally nerdy field. You will learn how to share responsibility for your team’s development, and rely less on a single leader.

Note for organisers

There are no strained analogies between software development and a different field in this talk; performing music is different to writing software. But the difference removes distractions from the talk’s central topic: how a small group of people work to achieve harmony in what they do, literally and figuratively.

Speaker bio

Peter Hilton is a product manager, programmer, writer, speaker, trainer, and early music singer. Peter’s professional interests are automation, software functional design, and software documentation. Peter consults for software companies and development teams, and delivers the occasional presentation and workshop. He also sings baritone with a chamber choir and a new vocal quintet in the Netherlands, and specialises in sixteenth-century renaissance polyphony repertoire.

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