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.

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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 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 by second, minute-by-minute basis so immediate improvement is achieved.

2.Consider every musician a member of your family.Know all your members by name, address their concerns. When you walk out among the orchestra know that you are one of them.  A famous conductor came for a rehearsal, turned to one of the bass players and asked: ‘ How is your kid doing today – recovered from the flu?’ The bass player was from then onwards  ready to give out his very best for every rehearsal and performance.

3. Never critize or correct. After a viola player missed his entry, great conductor Herbert von Karajan looked over, as if to say, “I know my job, I hope you know yours. I won’t say anything now, but when we come to the recapitulation you’ll know what I am doing, and we’ll see what you do.” When the recapitulation came, of course, the player was ready and played it.  Karajan just glanced over again, as if to say OK, but not a word was spoken.

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!

New CD Release this month!

The last few months have been very busy and finally on November 10 made it! My 5th music album was released on November 11 with a release concert and reception the evening before.

For a musician a release of a new album is the pinnacle of one’s work, one’s ability to create something exceptional. I have been often asked: ‘How long does it take to make a CD?’ The answer I give is ‘A whole lifetime’. It is the result of years of work, research, concerts and then the idea comes ‘let’s record this!’

Choosing the music  for this album was a challenging task. I wanted to combine music from different genres that I have been performing for the last few years. The CD begins with the traditional peruvian song El Condor Pasa, continuing with 19th century central european salon music (Franz von Vescey – Valse Triste) to film music of today: Love theme form Superman by John Williams. The CD culminates with the famous Brazilian song Tico Tico.

The first reviews of the CD ‘As You Like It’ are great.  As the title itself says it is music upon demand. You can listen to it at different occasions. You will enjoy the CD relaxing at home, listening to it while driving your car, having great background music when your friends are visiting, or you are working at the computer.

Here are a few photos from the CD release concert and after reception. The concert took place at the Czech Museum of Music in Prague. And last but not least, I would like to thank a  wonderful supporting audience who helped create a memorable evening!

1st copy of ‘As You Like It’

Me and my Mom!

‘As You Like It’

Music Treat

Last night I came upon this delightful  anectode, again featuring the unsurpassable 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!

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 Music Minute

“How to choose an instrument”

I am often asked how I decided to play the violin. After all, the violin is considered the most difficult instrument. When I was 5 years old my parents played a record (an age before the CD!) of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. I fell in love with the leading theme and insisted that if I started playing an instrument it would be the one that plays that theme. As my older sister was playing the piano it was expected of me to play it too. After all a piano is quite expensive so one should fully use the investment! I persevered and in time became a violinist. Interestingly my debut as soloist was with the Mendelssohn concerto.

What instrument would you or your child play? Do you have a problem deciding?

Each instrument is different. Some are easier to start with, like the piano or recorder, some more difficult, like the string instruments. However, after the initial start the time and effort you will spend are the same.

What do I recommend? Choosing the instrument is a personal decision. Every one of us will make a different choice. Your child will too. Listen to the sound, the colour. (as I did) The shape too can inspire you, as many instruments are works of art. From my experience as a teacher, the instrument we choose is a reflection of ourselves. Very often the choice is instinctive, or sometimes it’s a matter of physique- a person’s hands and fingers may be suited for playing the violin, say, more than the flute.

At your first lesson you might feel a bit strange, as your hands will be required to do movements they have never done before. Do not be discouraged. You can compare e.g. the piano with writing on the PC, or the violin bow with an iron. After a couple of lessons you will get used to it.

Tomorrow you daughter or son might come to you and say: “Mum, I would like to play the oboe”.

Encourage your child. He or she has made a personal choice, one to be respected.

3 Tips to better communication – Lessons from Music for the Businessperson

Effective communication is the key to success and is made of many qualities: speaking, observing, watching, sensing, understanding, paying attention, and most importantly listening. Let us identify  some of the essential tools to effective teamwork within a music ensemble.

  1. Listening and paying attention.  Listening is an art and is the first essential tool.  It is not only listening to the words spoken but also to the manner, tone, body language. Listening within the team in music is also achieved throgh eye contact. An important part of listening is silence too. Silence gives us the time to think and process what is said around us. By paying attention to our colleague we not only listen but learn more about the person and the work being done.
  2. Talking to each other.  Another essential tool is learning to talk to each other. One must  accept  critisicm, find ways of commenting on each other, point out if one is late or not playing correctly.  Keeping the tone positive and constructive and giving immediate appraisal if someone is working well is needed. One values the other’s opinion.
  3. Watching, observing, sensing each other. It is surprising how  we tend to be in our little worlds, turned away from the others in the group without realizing it. Musicians very easily tend to hide behind their music stands. Working with business teams teambuilding exercises through music, participants were surprised how initially they were turned away from each other and how establishing constant eye contact team performance improved.

I believe the most valuable lesson we can learn from music is that each of us in a team has something special to give, that we must become aware and have joy in other people’s achievements and strengths.  The result can only be a successful, winning and empowering team.

The ultimate goal of teamwork from the music perspective is to achieve an “upper, outer voice”, a corporate personality that is more than the sum of it’s parts. As Steve Jobs who used the Beatles, a quartet,  as a model for business pointed out “4 guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check, they balanced each other, and the sum was greater, the total was greater than the sum of it’s parts. “And that’s how I see business.”

The Music Minute – “In the Mood”

“In the Mood”

I surprise people when I tell them what kind of music I listen to while driving the car. Being a classical musician, one would take the answer for granted. However, that’s the surprise- it’s not classical! I decided one day after driving from Vienna to Prague and listening to Brahms Violin Concerto that my mind drifted away so that I drove half as slow as the other cars on the road. From then on I listen and drive to pop and rock music only!

Depending on our mood or how we would like to feel determines our choice of music we will listen to. Every one of us has his/her own choice. If you are tired, you might choose a Chopin waltz or a Mozart serenade. Maybe a particular Mozart symphony will fresh you up after a long day. Or, if you have an important meeting, a Bach fugue might sharpen your wits. The wealth of classical music is that it offers us a music piece for every mood.

Why has music such a magic influence on us? Famous Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras believed music to be a reflection of the Divine order of things. Music principles as mathematical ones too were during Pythagoras’ time considered to be identical to the structure of the Universe itself. On that idea the ancient Greeks created music theory and is part of our music up to this day, in classical and popular music too.

Here we might also have the answer as to why music is said to “soothe our soul”. No words, colours, forms can create that feeling. Music goes beyond words and gives voice to the inner need for sound and rhythm.

Didn’t Glenn Miller name his famous music piece “In the mood?”

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