Friday, October 9, 2015

leadership lessons learned from conducting

Last night I had the honor of conducting our University Choir at the conclusion of the 2nd Annual President's Concert in a work that I first sang and played back in high school - The Last Words of David  by Randall Thompson.  The first part of my career was spent on the podium, both with bands and choirs...I even received my masters in conducting in 1986 from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Last night was a treat for me - and brought back many good memories.

As one who thinks about leadership, I have often compared my personal leadership to how I thought about my role as a conductor, so today I want to share several maxims about conducting that I also believe to be true (for the most part) about leading any type of organization:

  • The music is only made by the people who sing or play - not by the conductor
  • Good conducting comes from years of practice - and its much more than waving one's arms around
  • The larger the group, the more need there is for a conductor
  • The hard work happens long before the performance
  • Someone else wrote the music - the conductor's job is to help interpret it
  • The better the singers or players, the more difficult the music one can choose to perform
  • Every movement by the conductor should have a purpose...and will impact the performance for the better (or the worse)
  • The smallest (and often most undetectable) movement can sometimes make all the difference in the world
  • Less is more - to get a choir to group to play more intensely, make smaller movements
  • There are critical moments in any piece where it is crucial for the players and singers to watch the which times the conductor must make sure that what she does helps the group rather than being disruptive
  • The better the conductor knows the score, the more time he can spend looking at the choir or band
  • Making direct eye contact with individuals is crucial - it tells them that you care about them...and the group as a whole
  • Conductors must have flawless technique...AND allow their emotions to come out as well
  • Everyone in the group is important - make sure they all understand how they contribute
  • Individual players or singers cannot go will destory the final outcome
  • Groups play better (and are more inspired) in front of an audience - after all, that's the reason for practice
  • There is no perfect performance - you eventually need to get on the stage and let others listen in on what you do
While not every maxim holds true for every ensemble or performance, for the most part these can be applied to leadership of any group or organization...I will leave it up to the reader to figure out what each one means for them individually. Questions? Comments? Leave them in the space below...

1 comment:

Jim Blanchard said...

I thin the comment about the musicians make the music, that it is their talent that should be noticed is the one leaders should consider. Great CEOs are the ones who can bring out the exceptional performances in their musicians.