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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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

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.



What is the Music Leader up to?

Attending a classical concert you’ve seen conductors on their job – they present themselves to the public apart from the rest of the orchestra, orchestra members look at them with respect and awe, wave their hands in the air. Have you asked yourself, what are they really up to? The conductor does not play an instrument, doesn’t make a sound, but he is the star of the evening. He is invited to shows, appears on billboards etc. So what is his power? His true power derives from his ability to make other people powerful. He needs to be effective at enabling musicians to play their best. Next time you go to a concert observe the conductor leading the musicians to a unified, powerful performance.

Fritz Kreisler – the beloved violinist

Fritz Kreisler, one of the most admired and loved violinists died 40 years ago today in New York. Kreisler has been in my life since early childhood. Listening to him playing on the many records we had at home, reading stories and anectodes were always a source of joy and inspiration. As a young aspiring violinist I wanted early on to play his music, whether his original compositions or one of his numerous transcriptions.

Fritz Kreisler was born in Vienna on February 2, 1875. Early on he showed remarkable talent and was tutored in Vienna and Paris by the best teachers of the time. After an initial good start his career began to falter and Fritz took up the study of medicine and arts. He also enlisted in the Austrian  army, served as officer and was wounded in the 1st world war, but eventually returned to the violin.  Kreisler not only regained his brilliant technique but became a master of interpretation. His sweet tone and expressive phrasing were his signature. Living in Vienna and Paris between the two world wars, Kreisler moved to the US prior to the 2nd world war and remained there till the end of his life.

Along with his busy concert schedule, Kreisler wrote numerous pieces for the violin, delightful encores, such as ‘Liebesleid’, Miniature Marche Viennoise or this sweet Toy Soldier March, both of which you can find on my album ‘As You Like It’

Kreisler’s fame went beyond just playing the violin. He spoke 7 languages, was made Commander of the Legion of Honour in France, received the Beethoven Gold Medal in London. Known for his equisite humor he was a very welcome guest at royal and state functions as well as dinner parties. His anectodes are memorable.

‘A woman who rushed up to Kreisler after a concert and gushed, “I’d give my life to be able to play like that. Kreisler answered the woman, “I did.”

Kreisler was invited to a dinner  with a note requesting “Please bring your violin with you”. Kreisler replied “I will be happy to come, unfortunately my violin cannot as she does not eat dinner”

Kreisler is honoured as one of the best violinists of all times but most of all as the most beloved one.

Arturo Toscanini – a brilliant rise to stardom

Listening to a radio show in the car earlier this week, a remarkable event in the life of Arturo Toscanini, considered during his lifetime ‘the greatest conductor of all times’ came to my attention.

Toscanini was born in Parma, Italy where he won a scholarship to study the cello at the music conservatory. As cellist he joined an opera company with whom he went on tour to South America in 1886. While rehearsing ‘Aida’ in Rio de Janeiro  the performers were more and more unsatisfied with the local conductor who was supposed to lead them for the opera performance. The conductor was sacked, subsitutes were found but still, the orchestra, choir and singers were still unhappy. The evening of the performance arrived, the show starting with complete chaos among the performers. The audience highly unhappy started to show signs of discontent and the conductor was forced to leave the stage. No one knew what to do, when suddenly Toscanini got up, left his cello and took over to conduct the orchestra. What was most remarkable he conducted the whole opera by heart! That evening a star was born.

When he got back  to Europe, Toscanini returned shortly to the cello chair, but was soon more and more in demand as conductor. The rest is history. For us today Toscanini provides an inspiration to what we can achieve if we have courage, belief and faith.

3 tips to Leadership – Lessons from Music for the Businessperson

What leadership skills can a businessperson learn from a music conductor?  The conductor’s handbook includes a list of necessary/required leadership skills. Here are 3 tips:

1. Full command of resources/excellent musical knowledge

A music conductor is considered the most knowledgable musician in the music world:  deep insight, understanding  and command of the music work performed (let’s translate it to ‘business plan’), as well as of the orchestra/team he is leading.

2. Confidence in the art of gesture

Standing and leading in front of sometimes over a 100 people is not an easy task. The music conductor must project confidence, determination, power of will to be able to lead musicians towards a unified  product.

3. A good physique and good temper

To get the best out of the orchestral players, the music leader must possess skills to be admired, respected – someone you look up to.

Can you apply these skills to your leadership? Look out for the next blog on the next leadership tips!

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