“I realized that my job is to awaken possibility in others.”

Frans-Aert - Conducting and Optimism

Benjamin Zander Center
Discussions — October 21, 2020

Following a conducting masterclass on Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic, conductor Frans-Aert reached out to Ben to share his thoughts on connecting with an orchestra:

Mr. Zander,

I was very glad that I applied for this interpretation class. It was much more than interpretation, much more than “just music”, it was about making contact. That’s the most important thing in life but also the most important thing in conducting. Sounds very simple but, not so easy. I try to be in the moment when rehearsing but my mind get’s in the way sometimes. Sometimes we are so busy with all sort of things or feeling insecure or tensed with a new orchestra. But when you connect with the orchestra and the music in the moment the reward is huge, addictive. This is what I miss most these days. What I also found great is when you talked about optimism, being the most important thing to bring to the orchestra as conductor. I loved that you said that, I’m a very optimistic person but again I sometimes forget that, specially when I have the feeling that I have to prove myself and try too hard. Lucky I know that I do that so it’s an ongoing process and keep you in my mind will help for sure! Your enthusiasm talking about music and just being honest I found very inspiring. It helps me a lot working with these emotions. It would be great if I could see you work with your orchestra or somewhere around. Would it be a problem to attend one of your rehearsals sometime in the future? Or is there a live masterclass to go to?

Again thank you for willing to share your thoughts and love for music. I felt lucky that I could conduct for you, will work on the eyebrows more. 🙂

Best wishes,

Frans-Aert (the Netherlands)

Ben Zander Response:

Frans-Aert, you make a great point about human contact being at the heart of conducting. The“voice in the head” is very powerful and very devious. It’s no good pretending that it will go away, it won’t. It’s lurking in the dark and then it pounces when it is least welcome: “You’re not good enough!” “Do you know how many conductors there are who are better than you are?” “You haven’t prepared enough.” The bad news is that the voice goes on and on, until you die. The good news is you can get it to shut up by saying to the voice: “Thank you for sharing, I’m busy!” But then, of course, you have to have something so compelling to be busy with that it is more powerful than the negative voice. “You connect with the orchestra and the music in the moment, the reward is huge, addictive.” We are all missing that so much these days, but it will come back. My dream is that when we get back to making music, we will all be clearer about our purpose. You remember the definition of leadership I read out to the class? Leadership is identifying the purpose hidden in the chaos of the moment. (My rehearsals are always open. When we get back to work, anyone can contact the BPO office for details. The interpretation classes happen once a month, usually at the Boston Public Library on Saturday morning 10 a.m. to 12 and then appear on YouTube.)

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