Do you lead like a conductor?

FreddyConductingIf you know me, you know that a good part of my career has been devoted to music education. I was trained as a trumpet player, taught middle school general and choral music, directed (and traveled extensively with) a high school select choral group (I had some fun digging up recordings) and was musical director of the Freddy Awards (a televised awards program recognizing high school musical theatre) from it’s inception in 2003 until 2012. My favorite part of this work was rehearsing and conducting. I often wonder if what I learned as a music director helped to develop my passion for educational leadership. It seems like there are endless connections between the two. I’ve written about this before, and there is even a TED talk devoted to it – Lead Like the Great Conductors.

A few days ago, I was inspired by this quote on the Leonard Bernstein Facebook page:

The conductor is a kind of sculptor whose element is time instead of marble, and in sculpting it, he must have a superior sense of proportion and relationship. He must judge the largest rhythms of the whole phraseology of a work. He must conquer the form of a piece, not only in the sense of form as a mold, but form in its deepest meaning: where the music relaxes, where it begins to accumulate tension, where the greatest tension is reached, where it must ease up to gather strength for the next lap, where it unloads that strength. These are the intangibles of conducting, the mysteries that no conductor can learn or acquire. And after he has pondered these mysteries he is a great musician, but not necessarily a great conductor. To be a great conductor he still must have one more attribute in his personality, without which all the mechanics and knowledge, and perception are useless: and that is the power to communicate all this to his orchestra — through his arms, face, eyes, fingers, and whatever vibrations may flow from him. In this way he develops a kind of technique of gestures through which he speaks or talks to the audience. – Leonard Bernstein (Omnibus Presents: The Art of Conducting, December 4, 1955)

Go ahead….read it again. If you’re a school leader – principal, supervisor, director, superintendent – ponder the parallels between these words and who/what you are as a leader. How are you like a sculptor? What are your most developed senses? What is your “work”? What is the meaning you wish to communicate? What are the points of tension? Are they balanced by moments of relaxation? How do you communicate this ebb and flow to your “orchestra”? Do you ever heighten the tension? What are the mysteries of leadership? What is it that takes you beyond the mechanics and knowledge of leadership into the realm of art?



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