A few years ago my wife Amy was encouraged on short notice to attend a lecture by Benjamin Zander; due to non-existent publicity for the event they needed seat fillers at UNC’s Memorial Hall.
Despite the limited audience (Zander writes that he is equally enthusiastic when speaking to five people as he is 1500), Zander’s message of enthusiastic optimism and positive tranformation had her calling me on my cell phone before she even got home.
I read the book from which the lecture was given shortly thereafter, and I, too was moved by its inspirational messages. Last night, as I prepared to listen to James Ehnes play the solo role in Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky’s always-dazzling Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 35 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thompon Hall, I thought again about the many lessons of Zander’s work and how they are more relevant than ever.
First of all, there is something awe-inspiring about being in the presence of a world-class symphony orchestra. If we imagine that the average player has 20 years of professional playing experience, the 100+ members represent over two thousand years of human experience playing at the highest level.
There’s also something awe-inspiring about being in a concert hall like Roy Thompson. I am presently reading Concert Halls and Opera Houses by Leo Beranek, and having read about the tradeoffs between reverberation and clarity, I have to say that for a showpiece like the Tchaikovsky, there is no doubt that the clean acoustics of the hall complemented the outstanding performance of the soloist, not to mention the incredible tone of his Ex-Marsick Stradivarius violin.
In a week where the markets have seen unprecedented losses, and where common people have become distracted to the point of desparation, it was wonderful a very healing to be completely focused for a performance that demanded (and rewarded) pure attention.
I also know that Ben Zander is another person I’m going to have to invite to my facility when it is up and running. Until then, I’ll be thinking of the possibilities.