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Shaping Future Leaders through Music

Nov 2, 2015 5:00:00 PM / by Benjamin Zander

Perhaps, as you are browsing this site, you may be wondering: What is it that makes the BPYO such a powerful force in the lives of its young members?

I posed that question to myself when we returned at the end of June from our 18-day tour to the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland and then settled down and wrote an article, which was printed in the Boston Musical Intelligencer.

If you read that article, you can listen to the performances from the tour, just by clicking on a link embedded in the text, as well as read the moving descriptions of the orchestra’s activities in Europe by former Globe Chief Music Critic, Richard Dyer, but also find a detailed explanation of the philosophy, or approach to life which informs everything we do.

What does “Shaping Future Leaders through Music” really mean? Surely, in an orchestra there can only be one leader, or at best a few chosen players who sit in the first chairs. And how can we say we are shaping future leaders? Isn’t leadership an innate quality born only in few people? “No”, we say, “indeed it is not!” Leadership, like playing the violin is learned through good training and lots of practice. Every time we open our mouths, or interact with another person, it is an opportunity for leadership.

By now, many are aware that members of the orchestra have an open invitation to write comments and coaching every rehearsal on their “white sheets”, each one of which I read and, where appropriate, respond to. But there is one aspect of the leadership training that has not been fully explained and that is the Assignments.

Each week I discuss with Roz Zander, my Partner in Possibility, what the assignment will be. I tell her what is happening in the life of the orchestra and she comes up with an assignment to fit the situation. At the beginning of every rehearsal I announce the assignment. Then the members are invited to live all week through that assignment till the next rehearsal. The assignment provides a framework or lens through which to look at their life, or, perhaps, most accurately “a Game to Play.”

We took just two “assignments” to “guide us” during the tour to Europe:

  1. WALK WITH SPIRIT AND LOVE

  2. BE THE WHOLE

I was confident that if everyone in the organization would walk (and play) with Spirit and Love, the people we encountered would respond in kind. And they did. And if the players would be constantly mindful of the WHOLE, it would help to create an environment where listening and caring for the whole enterprise was the order of the day and that, in turn, would effect the performances, as well as the social interactions on the tour. And it certainly did.

Since the new season began in September, with 50 new members in the orchestra, we have been firing on all cylinders, not least with the assignments. Here are some comments from members:

Assignment: Lighten Up

Assignment: Come from the Power of a Child

Assigment: Take Three Giant Steps

Topics: Shaping Future Leaders through Music, White Sheets

Written by Benjamin Zander