Music and Business Make Good Bed Fellows

Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch
Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch

I recently had the honor of being a keynote speaker for the Ulster County Leadership Development Institute (ULDI) sponsored by the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce here in the Hudson Valley of New York State. The 25 or so participants were top employees sent by local businesses to help develop their leadership skills. Since I don’t make a living giving inspirational lectures, I often use these opportunities to make a connection between music and business, suggesting that one can learn something from each area. When I speak to business people about being more creative, I suggest they think outside the box and give them some concrete advice to do so. When I speak to musicians about business

Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch
Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch

skills, I suggest they think more inside the box and give advice for that. Too often business people are locked into a box of restrictive behavior while musicians are too far outside the box! We know that the left side of the brain deals with logic and objective thinking while the right side deals with intuitive and subjective thinking. Thinking out of the box for me is to open the side of the brain that one isn’t exercising to its fullest potential.

In my 90 minutes with the ULDI group, I started with a list of recommendations and observations that might shed some light on what worked for me and my goals.

The universe is expanding, the world is shrinking: Think big.
Act like a leader: The type you want to be.
Leaders need to be informed: Personally, locally, nationally, globally.
Leaders need to be generous: Help save the world.
Leaders inspire through their passion: Hobby or profession.
Leaders listen: Hearing is a physical activity while listening is a perceptual state of involvement.
Teamwork: Can’t do it alone, surround yourself with good people.
Humor: It helps almost any situation.
Leaders set examples: Honesty, hard work, passion, persistence.
If it’s important enough: Never, ever give up.

After the talk, I demonstrated a dozen unusual instruments from my collection. This was an effort to share my passion while indicating that things that stick out of the

Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch
Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch

pack get attention. Included in that demo were a Hang Drum, rainstick, Waterphone, pop gun, ratchet, Chinese opera gong and wind whistle to name a few. The Hang Drum is a wonderful instrument made by hand in Switzerland related to the Steel Pans of Trinidad/Tobago but convex instead of concave and played with the fingers instead of sticks. They are tuned to special scales that sound great no matter what is played on them. If you Google “hang drum”, you’ll discover many videos of proud owners wailing away on their Hang Drums. The problem for those wanting one is that these are low production and extremely hard to find. After demonstrating the instruments, I handed out drums to everyone and began to facilitate a drum circle. Drum circles are

Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch
Photo Credit: Bob Hirsch

great vehicles for creating a musical community with people of all abilities. For this one, I set up some rhythms with all the participants and asked each one, one at a time, to take a “solo” with the accompaniment in the background. Everyone responded beautifully while in a safe environment of the circle but having the experience of being in the spot light at the same time. This is very much like everyday life. As they say, sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.

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