Since I’ve been playing with an orchestra, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern in my playing. I play more or less incompetently when practicing alone, but play decently to well when playing with the full orchestra. Part of the reason for this is that since there are other trombonists playing the same part I am, I can sort of cheat and follow what they are doing.
A larger reason is that hearing the full orchestra helps me to understand what my part is supposed to sound like. Often I have a lot of measures of rest at one time. While I do count them, often I don’t need to, because I can hear in the music where my part is supposed to be. This is not simply familiarity with the songs, but you can hear a hole where each part is supposed to be if it isn’t there.
I also realized that music by nature is social – there are no solo artists. What we call solo artists are truly not. They are still supported by other musicians. Even artists like Prince who play all the instruments on their recordings could never perform without other musicians.
This is no different than life, I suppose – there are no solo acts in life either.