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?

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.

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.