What Instrument Do You Play?

| by Bert Armstrong


“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.” H.E. Luccock

I make no claims to being a classical music connoisseur. On a good day, I can pretty quickly distinguish between Mozart’s Symphony No 40 and Beethoven’s Symphony No 5. Beyond that, I can get a little confused. But I did have the pleasure of traveling the highways and country roads of North Carolina for the better part of 15 years with a business partner and friend who somehow maintained constant control over the radio dial. And seldom were we in the car together when I did not receive some educational nugget about a particular piece of classical music playing in the background of our conversations. 

What I learned on those memorable car rides will always stay with me. I learned that with a symphony, primary responsibilities of the orchestra's conductor include unifying the performers, setting the tempo of the performance, and listening critically to shape the sound of the ensemble and control the pacing of the music. I learned that bringing large groups of talented musicians and diverse instruments together at the right time and with the right blend creates the unique sound of a symphony orchestra. And the power of a great symphony is in feeling the emotional harmony those collective notes create. 

The image on the home page of the Armstrong McGuire website is that of a symphony orchestra. In part, it stands as a tribute to our founder and friend Tom McGuire, whose passion for music was dwarfed only by his love of family, friends, and community. He was Armstrong McGuire’s original conductor, teaching us how to unify people around common purpose, setting a patient tempo in helping clients make good decisions, and reminding us to listen critically and carefully in order to help shape ideas for the good of our clients and those they serve. The website image also reflects several core beliefs that each member of our team shares:

  • Our belief that we are stronger when we are embracing and celebrating the richness of our community’s cultural and social diversity.
  • Our belief that nonprofit organizations are at their best when individuals share their different knowledge, background, experience, and interest for the benefit of the missions they choose to serve. 
  • Our belief that when people choose to serve, those who are counting on us are deserving of our collective best efforts. 

We like to spill a lot of ink in our blogs and on social media celebrating the nonprofit and philanthropic organizations we serve. It is easy for us to do this because we consider it a privilege to partner with so many talented leaders and doers in the pursuit of making our community a better place. When reflecting on the investments and sacrifices made by those who drive the work in our nonprofit sector, I'm reminded of the famous quote from the 1995 film Mr. Holland's Opus:

"There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life."

We all benefit from the roles that board members, chief executives, staff, donors, and volunteers play in their organization's symphony, or, what we call, their mission. Thanks for sharing your work with us and for us. 

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