A Different Kind of Music Lesson

When I was very young I wanted to take piano lessons. My older brother was doing it and I enjoyed imitating everything he did even though there was a six year difference in our ages. Besides the obvious advantage he had by virtue of being more mature and disciplined, he also by nature was more of a studious person, comfortable staying indoors for long periods of time, while I was the outdoor type. Every minute of my day was dedicated to playing outside, which is not remotely conducive to becoming a competent pianist.

Much later I did learn to strum a guitar and finger the major chords plus a few minor ones. That allowed me to be part of our impromptu folk groups, not just to harmonize vocally, but to be a player in real terms, a musician if only at the most elementary level.

I must thank my competitive nature for this accomplishment, engendered from all those prior years of playing outside games since competition was my motivation for learning to play the guitar in the first place. A girl I met during my college years could play and I was not about to let her show me up, at least not in this area. She has subsequently found many other ways to do so during the 40-plus years of our marriage.

Still, I love music and am disheartened at this late stage of my life by the awareness that I never developed the proper discipline to read and interpret music the way I can words. A large part of my management career required some fluency in communicating with others of differing interests, whether they be clients, staff, supervisors or peers. But had I been as fluent with musical notations as I was with blog posts, news releases and promotional talking points, I would have been in league with those who can speak the language of angels.

One of my recent reads is a book published in 2016 entitled Absolutely on Music. It consists primarily of a sequence of discussions between the celebrated conductor Seiji Ozawa and novelist Haruki Murakami. I honestly understood very little of it. I simply lack the knowledge of the classical music they discussed in order to capture the nuances of the points they were making about composers and the challenges of leading others in creating inspiring performances on an orchestral scale. But Ozawa did make a few statements, which I found both intriguing and applicable to my own professional experiences and therefore came away with an awareness of having enjoyed a music lesson of a different kind.

When asked if he spent his time preparing for a performance by memorizing the score, Ozawa said no. A conductor, after all, has the score in front of him when he conducts the orchestra. Rather what was of the utmost concern was his ability to understand the score. And this is where I felt that being a manager and being a music conductor crossed paths, sharing a common perspective. A large part of my time was spent presenting my organization to customers, members and donors, which required me to have the most complete understanding of the organization possible. No one would acknowledge me as being an artist or call me maestro, no matter how effective my informed presentation might be. But I do believe that my compatriot, conductor Ozawa, would understand and offer a respectful nod of affirmation.

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