Chamber Orchestra and Growth Mindset

Beginning in January, CYSO began a Chamber Orchestra pilot program. This new chamber orchestra performs repertoire written for a smaller complement of musicians than the full Symphony Orchestra, with the added component of seeking to enrich Chicago’s cultural landscape through performances focused on social impact. The program serves as a leadership development incubator with a focus on developing musicians who are empathic and informed citizens. The Chamber Orchestra seasons revolves around a specific theme, studying a work whose subject or composer relates to the season’s focus, as well as engaging guest speakers and discussions around the theme during the dinner break at weekly rehearsals.
In the shortened pilot season this spring, students will study Schubert Symphony No.2 and explore mental health and well-being, specifically how creativity and resilience go hand in hand. Dr. Kate Carter spoke at the very first Chamber Orchestra break-out session, leading a discussion on “Fixed vs. Growth Mindset.” A versatile performer and CYSO Chamber Music coach, Dr. Carter’s performances as a soloist and with various ensembles have been heard across the US and internationally. Her presentation was adapted from the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to be a useful framework for young musicians. 
Oboeist Oliver Talukder wrote about his experience during the first Chamber Orchestra rehearsal and how the ideas of Fixed and Growth Mindset changed the way he approached challenges as a musician and a young person.

“Chamber Orchestra Registration” was the subject of a lot of the emails I was receiving from CYSO for the last few months. I was on the fence of joining because I thought it might add too much to my plate. Finally took the leap and signed up—and there are no regrets with that decision.
At the first dinner lecture and rehearsal, I was thoroughly surprised with how much I loved each and every aspect of this ensemble. The dinner lecture by Dr. Kate Carter about a Fixed Mindset vs. a Growth Mindset was particularly interesting because I got to know more about myself regarding what type of mindset I have. I was shocked to realize that I was a mix between a fixed and growth mindset, and glad to discover that people can change how they think.
Kate listed the tendencies/cons of having a fixed mindset which included:

  • Avoiding challenges
  • Getting defensive or giving up easily
  • Seeing effort as fruitless
  • Ignoring useful feedback
  • Feeling threatened by the success of others

And she also listed the tendencies and pros of having a growth mindset which were:

  • Embracing Challenges
  • Persisting in the face of setbacks
  • Seeing efforts as a path to mastery
  • Learning from criticism
  • Finding inspiration in the success of other


I thought of different moments in my life where I felt like I had a growth or a fixed mindset. In moments from my academics, to my musical journey, and to other aspects of my life I found a pattern: I learned and achieved more in my “failures” than I did when I succeeded. I had an awakening!
For example, one time I was trying to tackle this one fast etude and I could not get it up to tempo so I just gave up and said, “There’s no use.” I brought it to my teacher and she explained different techniques to fix it. I learned more about my personal tendencies on the oboe than if I had just given up and went to a different piece. My fixed mindset in this situation had changed to a growth mindset instantly.
 This lecture inspired me to always take advantage of every opportunity that I have. I made a goal to keep having a desire to learn because it’s not the destination that matters, but the road you took there.


16-year-old Oliver Talukder is co-principal oboist of CYSO's Symphony Orchestra. He has been with CYSO for two years and studies with Xiomara Mass. Oliver is a sophomore at Maine East High School and enjoys singing opera in his spare time.  

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