Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Art of Possibility

There are many inspiring and meaningful messages from the best-selling book "The Art of Possibility" by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander. This book is a perfect antidote for helping one to survive in an overly competitive world. What's more, Benjamin Zander is Music Director for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. His techniques for experiencing a more purposeful and fulfilled life are gleaned from the vantage point of the conductor's podium. During his classes at the New England Conservatory, Mr. Zander encourages his students to place themselves in the future, and discuss their accomplishments in the past tense. This enables each student to feel as if they have mastered their goals and overcome fears. He has trained his students to lift their arms in the air, smile, and say "How fascinating!" after making mistakes. Mr. Zander teaches the art of risk-taking through music.

But what I especially love in "The Art of Possibility" is the game called "I Am a Contribution." In this game, you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you are a gift to others.It is a discipline of the spirit.

Today, as I attended the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra's final performance of the season "The Brotherhood of Peoples" at Meany Hall, I was struck by the energy and vitality that this wonderful group displays under the leadership of Maestro Adam Stern, and the spirit of contribution by each member of the orchestra. To a near capacity house, the concert began with Elgar's "Introduction and Allegro", a most challenging work for strings. The Elgar offered the principal strings ample solo opportunities as a string quartet, and they rose to the occasion. Next on the program was the Concertino for Flute and Orchestra by Otar Gordeli. Simon Berry, the 2009 Bushell Concerto Competition Winner and senior at Roosevelt High School, performed this jazz-infused work with complete mastery and poise. Bartok's "Dance Suite" rounded out the first half with peasant melodies from Magyar and Romanian folk traditions and hints of Arabic styling.

The program concluded with Beethoven's Second Symphony. One could quibble about technical imperfections. In today's world, mainly through the miracles of technology, we've grown accustomed to an almost sterile, antiseptic performance manner where, to quote Zander, "the voice of the soul is literally interrupted." How joyful it was for me to hear music played with such warmth and expressiveness; the art of possibility at its best.

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