Leadership is sharing

Many years ago I recorded with my guitar partner Ozren, a fantastic album ‘A bit of Romance’ . We rehearsed the program for a few months jointly deciding what music pieces will be included in the music album. The nature of all violin and guitar music is that the violin is the leader, soloist, the guitar, the accompanist in a supporting role. There was no music written for the guitar as soloist and the violin as accompaniment. We however played for many years, and I often had to admit that the best ideas came from Ozren. We knew each other very well, as students playing together in bars and restaurants. Our rehearsals were dynamic, we barely spoke, mainly communicating through feeling, gestures and eye contact. We understood each other perfectly. Together we came to the point that it was time to record some good music!

I organised the recording in a beautiful castle outside the city with a good friend of mine as  music director to run the recording. He was quite sceptical love the phone telling me that guitars are quiet and recording with the violin can be quite a challenge. When we arrived at the studio, the music director turned to us and said that he brought a special microphone for the guitar, as it is a ‘weaker’ instrument. Both Ozren and I responded that Ozren is an excellent guitar player and that his  guitar will sound well without a microphone. After listening to a few bars the music director couldn’t help but not agree.

The recording went according to plan, the music director surprised at how balanced our team was.  He was very impressed with the guitar. Ozren was such a good guitar player that he turned the basic guitar accompaniment into equal shared leadership with the violin. He had a great guitar technique, understood and felt music excellently and anticipated, reacted quickly and effectively to the violin.

Towards the afternoon we came to one of the last pieces to be recorded, Vivaldi’s Winter form the Four Seasons. Here the violin leads with a beautiful melody with he guitar softly plucking the strings. After having recorded it twice, the music director bursts into the recording room and shouts out that he has a brilliant idea! To do justice to the fabulous guitar playing why don’t we switch roles? The guitar can play the main tune, the violin can pluck the accompaniment. We both liked the idea, but how to prepare it with so little time left? We decide to give it a try. I went to one adjacent room to practice my new part, Ozren in a another. In 20 minutes we were back in the studio. We recorded it in one take! We were so inspired, enthusiastic about the new sound and dynamic that pure music just came out of us!

The guitar playing the lead with the violin as accompaniment  was just brilliant! Needless to say, the piece became the most popular song on the album!

3 tips to how Music conductors motivate their orchestral players


Conductors lead highly trained artists toward a unified end product.  They have independent minds and are likely to resent authority, while at the same time they recognize that some form of leadership is necessary for them to perform together effectively. Frequently they know each other better than they know their conductor. It is important for a conductor to remember this as he leads the orchestra. The ability to motivate the musicians in an orchestra is one of the most important skills a music conductor must possess.

Here are 3 tips on motivation from the conductor’s handbook:

1. Immediate performance appraisal. As Napoleon said “A man wouldn’t sell his life to you, but he will give it to you for a piece of colored ribbon”. A word of praise, or even just a  thumbs up is a major motivator. Performance, appraisal and feedback are interwoven to improve output on a second…

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Are you a leader who is ‘on the side of the players’?

Business and music leaders face similar issues when working. Both have to be effective in enabling employees/musicians to perform their best. How do music leaders gain trust, respect so essential to achieving performance excellence? Here are the thoughts of an orchestral player as to the orchestral player – conductor relationship. Beecham, Boult, Barbirolli, Sargent and Karajan are considered the top world conductors of the 20th century.

“There is a very subtle aspect of the relationship between a conductor and an orchestra. We can tell if we are sitting as an assembled orchestra when a conductor takes one step towards us whether he is on the side of the players, whether he associates himself with us or not. We don’t even need him to reach the podium and say ‘Good morning’. We can tell. It’s something in the manner. Beecham had this quality, supremely, as did Boult and Barbirolli. Sargent not at all. And Karajan’s manner? Well, it was very pleasant. It’s a stupid word, I know, but it’s true. He was very pleasant. For all his celebrity and charisma, “when he walked out, we felt he was one of us.’

Are you a leader who is ‘on the side of the players’?

A Sense of Humour.

Successful music leaders are known for their sense of  humour which comes from a deeper understanding of life and people. It is a skill that often seperates them from the rest. Recently I came upon this delightful anectode, featuring the famous pianist Arthur Rubinstein. To give it a title, I am sure we could name it The Lesson of Life.

A friend of Arthur Rubinstein recalls:

We . . . awaited him in the restaurant. He entered, sat down at the table, ordered drinks in Italian (from the eight languages he speaks he selects one as an ordinary man would a tie), and started to apologize: ‘So sorry to be late. For two hours I have been at my lawyer’s, making a testament, What a nuisance, this business of a testament. One figures, one schemes, one arranges, and in the end—what? It is practically impossible to leave anything for yourself!

Is humour a leadership skill you possess? Do you think it would make you a better leader?

Arthur Rubinstein was a Polish-born pianist, considered one of the greatest pianists of all times. He is renowned for his interpretation of Chopin but also for his unique sense of humor!

The Fine Points of our Profession

My father used to tell me that a good book is read every 10 – 15 years. The reason he gave was that with time we read the book with ‘new eyes’. Our life experiences make us read further into the book, see elements we may have overlooked before.

After many years I am currently reading a book by Leopold Auer, the foremost violin pedagogue at the turn of the 19th-20th century. He raised a whole new generation of violinists, Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman who defined violin playing and are up to today looked up to by most violinists.

In his book,’Violin Playing As i Teach It’, Auer in his own words, ‘gives the serious teacher and violin student the practical benefit of t he knowlwdge acquired during a long life devoted to playing and teaching the violin’. As a student this book was my Bible. I analysed, reread the chapters on how to develop violin technique, learn new music etc.
But now, I discovered a chapter in the book that at the time seemed superfluous. Auer writes about ‘the feeling of the professional man for the detail of his profession. Not only is it necessary to know the technical aspects, details but grasp the fine points of his/her art and comprehend all the shades.’

Looking around me, I realized that those of us who do possess this feeling make the difference, take the step from ordinary to extraordinary.

Do you think this can make the difference in your professional life? Do you grasp the fine points of your profession?

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Haydn or Mozart – How do you face challenges?

The names Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn foremost evoke in us the greatness of music. When we listen to their sublime music, little do we think of their daily lives or challenges they faced in their profession. Being a musician in the 18th century was not easy. Both Haydn and Mozart were mere servants in an aristocratic household. What differed them were their very diverse communication skills.

Haydn was a good-natured, easy-going person who enjoyed an amicable relationship with his employer,Prince Esterhazy. However, a serious rift between them happened when on vacation at the Prince’s hunting lodge. The Prince wanted to prolong the vacation and ordered that all musicians must stay, even though they were seperated from their families for a long time. Haydn decided to challenge the Prince with composing a symphony whereby one by one the musicians ceased to play and left the stage. The Prince was not offended, took the hint and said ‘If they all leave, we must leave too!’

Mozart, a child prodigy was employed by the Archbishop of Salzburg. Their relationship was far from idyllic. As Mozart wrote to his father, he was not allowed to sit at the dining table with the archbishop and his friends, but with the cooks and valets! When he asked for permission to play at a charity concert, he was flatly refused. Mozart’s answer to the archbishop was if kicked hard, he would kick back harder. Their relationship rapidly deteriorated with the outcome that Mozart was expelled from the archbishop’s service very soon.
These two stories show us different management styles and different reactions.

As a leader, are you more Prince Esterhazy or the Archbishop of Salzburg? When challenged are you more Mozart or Haydn?

How to Overcome the Last Stumbling Block to Excellence

Working on a new project we often come to a point where it just doesn’t seem to move forward. We work hard, do all the steps but we feel it’s just not ‘it’. Have you been in such a situation? What’s that last necessary step to make it the ‘it’?

As an ambitious, aspiring violin student I practiced 8 hours a day to achieve my violinistic dreams. I had a great professor at the Academy, one of the foremost violin pedagogues in the world. Two years into my studies I could boast of an excellent violin technique, good musical knowledge but somehow I wasn’t happy with my playing. It just wasn’t ‘it’. I started practicing more, studied harder but I still seemed to be missing that last step to performance excellence.

At the time my father visited me and went to my professor to inform himself of how my studies were continuing. My professor told him I was diligent, hardworking and that I had made a huge progress. However, I was still not reaching top level performance.

‘What should she do? Practice more?’ asked my father.

‘No, Bibi should just go for regular walks, let her mind go and excellence in performance will follow’ answered my professor.

He was right. Reflecting now, it was the most valuable information he had given me and for me this method works up to today. If you are facing a similar situation, go for a walk, jog or do some activity that, as my professor said, ‘lets the mind go’. The stumbling block will fall and excellence will follow.

Bach and I

These days I am working on the sonatas by J.S.Bach, preparing for whole evening Bach concerts that will take place next year. I noticed that at the same time I am more constructive at other things I do. A puzzle? Famous cellist Pablo Casals used to say that he would start the day by playing music by J.S.Bach. It was a habit he developed from the age of 10.Casals further explained that the reason for this was that his day would be more productive and that he would make better decisions.
For us musicians Bach obviously is a source of inspiration and creative thinking. The immense value  and wealth music brings  in our lives was my inspiration to create Music & Leadership, provide the shift in thinking towards creativity, inspiration, productivity.

How do you start the day? Do you have your ‘Bach’ to provide constructive and creative thinking?

Music as a Metaphor

In today’s world we are becoming more aware that learning from others, sharing different perspectives and experiences has become a necessity. Knowledge and experiences from leaders from other disciplines opens new visions as to the art of leadership. Leadership can be found wherever there are people who lead and people who follow, wherever there is interaction between them.

The world of music provides us many examples of leadership, of people working together to achieve great results. Musicians offer unique insight into how to listen, communicate and cooperate with others, use their imagination, create or solve problems.

Exploring the parallels between music and business we see that musicians and executives face similar issues at their workplace in dealing with leadership, teamwork, communication, performance value, change, competition, cultural diversity.

Music gives us the unique possibility to visit another place or time. Music history can teach us how musicians managed change within the political, social economical turmoil of the past.

By using music as a metaphor we are offered a new way of thinking, creating a new platform for discussion on key business issues.