The orchestral conductor, Benjamin Zander, is a frequent business speaker and famous for his TED talk. now viewed by more than eight million people. Conductors are sometimes viewed as the last of the great dictators. Zander is different. He had an epiphany some years ago when he realized that the conductor of an orchestra plays a different role.
The insight transformed his conducting and his orchestral musicians immediately noticed the difference. Now he’s a leader who asks for input in the form of written comments at every rehearsal. He understands that the musicians’ skills and experience enhance his own.
His gifts as a teacher are remarkable too and they are now shared through masterclasses for all of us on YouTube. The students perform with technical brilliance before he enters in with a consistent message – it is time to relax and let go of the kind of competitive excellence their preparatory training has provided and instead relate to their audience. Transformation happens before our own shining eyes. (This sample and others are well worth watching now or at a later time. To enjoy it to advantage if your time or tolerance is limited, listen a bit to the beginning and move the arrow to 9:00 minutes and watch some hair pulling – not a conventional teaching technique – but see how effectively it works in creating a totally different kind of performer).
Zander’s passion is for introducing classical music to those unfamiliar with it and he does so with incredible skill and experience in making audiences and performers connect. It’s a worthwhile example of how a leader inspires and transforms performance.