Monday, June 11, 2007

Everything is Possible....

I first ran across Benjamin Zander at an event for senior leaders for my employer. The event, among the first in an annual series, was held, according to custom, at a smallish golf resort in central Florida, a site particularly preferred by our company president. Each year is themed, and we try very hard to present a different or unusual experience for the participants. At the meeting on the year in question, participants came into the resort ballroom for the opening session to encounter the entire Orlando Philharmonic arrayed about the room, appropriately for an orchestral performance. Seats were available to the new arrivals, scattered among the various sections and players. Some delighted, some bewildered, everyone found a seat.

Preliminaries accomplished, Maestro Zander raised his baton, and we were instantly surrounded by the cannonade of the opening passages of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony… DA DA DA DAAAAAAAAH, DA DA DA DAAAAAAH… I had heard the piece performed many time on recordings, and even once or twice live, but I had never heard such a thing as one experiences from among the players of the orchestra… it was a magnificent assault, not only on the ears and eyes, but upon every fiber of my body… sitting among the celli and the basses, I gained a whole new appreciation for “resonating” with the music!

For the next three hours, Ben Zander walked us, step by step, phrase and passage, through all four movements of Beethoven’s iconic piece, pausing, digressing, discussing, and cajoling along the way, sharing his insights into the music, the elements of the orchestra and the ways in which they interact to create ‘symphony’ (or possibly not!), all as one enormous metaphor for human existence, society, and harmony. This was indeed leadership of a caliber and order of which I had been heretofore essentially unaware. Those fortunate enough to attend this session, now some ten years ago, still talk about it… more significantly, they still exercise what they learned that day!

Over time, the glow of that Florida afternoon gradually dimmed, and although I too remembered the lessons, I thought of Zander only as a wonderful memory… a one-time experience. Then, several months ago, I had an opportunity to attend a ‘corporate training’ experience offered by one of our vendors, and low and behold, they used some video material from no less than Ben Zander… coaching and cajoling and leading and teaching and inspiring various young musicians. I was again delighted and captivated.

After the session, I rushed right off to the internet to see what resources might be available from Mr. Zander… the videos were available, but FAR too expensive, but it seemed there was this book… The Art of Possibility. Now recognize that Ben is a secular author in a secular business, firmly ensconced in a secular world… but also recognize that in some, even without awareness, there may be a spirit that transcends those secular boundaries. I believe it is so with the spirit of Benjamin Zander. Honestly, I really did find myself at times laughing out loud, and at times experiencing tears of joy as I thoroughly enjoyed my way through the pages and chapters of the work of Ben and his wife Rosamund. The book enlivened and renewed my perspective on my role as a leader and as a teacher… and with such a unique approach that I found the book a perfect solution to a perplexing problem…

The Beach boys graduated from High School last Saturday, and I was faced with the seasonal conundrum of providing each with an elegant, meaningful, and yet thought provoking gift… what to do… what to do. Remarkably, Ben and Rosamond’s book a beautiful treatise on a vibrant and vital approach to life, also follows a wonderful, indeed masterful musical metaphor throughout… in the case of the Beach’s, something for everyone. I’m hopeful they enjoy the work as much as I did… I kind of think of it as an extension course in World Views.

Over the few days since completing the book, I’ve also found at least two other significant and apt applications of the practices, and then Toph (Beach) went and mentioned the book, so I thought I’d plug it too! Also, Ben has a website with his journal in it, which makes for fun and interesting reading. Enjoy!