Hello and good day!
I went to a symphony last night with my family.
My son's violin teacher plays in an orchestra, and she gets us cheap tickets every time she plays.
It was a night of extraordinary beauty.
The music was so good that even my four-year-old son was on the edge of his seat with his mouth hanging open, spellbound.
When an orchestra is playing well together, there isn't anything else like it.
I love to see the musicians bobbing up and down, bows frenzied, cymbals crashing, horns cutting through and floating above it all, the vibrations reaching a fever pitch.
A good conductor appears to lose himself in the music.
The gentleman last night was tall and skinny with elongated features.
He had long arms and legs, was not graceful, and was balding in the same way that I am balding, which is not a very elegant balding, the middle and top disappearing while the outskirts remain.
If you were to see this conductor in the grocery store, you wouldn't think twice about him.
And yet, a conductor is a person of great and unique power.
It seems to me that a conductor's power is in their pull.
They pull the music out.
They will it into its proper form.
They've learned the composition so well that they know how and when to pull.
They know when to point.
They know when to plead.
They know when to command.
They know when to be soft and sentimental.
They know when to be strong and angry.
They know when to pound and they know when to tickle.
Whatever the piece requires, they pull just so.
The show was put on in an unexpected venue, a high school performing arts center in a gritty neighborhood.
I read reviews of the high school online and every comment was about how rough the hallways are. The overall rating was one star, and in the reviews, students complained of fights and drug deals and gang activity.
To give you an idea of the school, see the photo above.
As I walked from the parking lot to the auditorium, I saw trash can after trash can covered in graffiti.Can you imagine the negative impact this has on student morale?
I'm sure the administration has tried to do something about it, but it must be a lost cause.
Graffiti on trash cans is a sign of failed culture.
It means that the youngsters have no pride in the appearance of their institution.
Maybe they outright hate the institution. Humans tend to make ugly that which they hate. The idea that somebody deeply hates the place where they spend most of their day is very sad indeed.
Since you have to be there anyways, you might as well keep it pretty.
Even if you don't plan to do any schoolwork, it would be nice to pass the time in a lovely environment.
Given that beauty is preferable to ugliness, the act of choosing ugliness over beauty appears to me to be an act of self-sabotage, an outward reflection of inner loathing, a statement of how one feels about oneself.
Before the show, the mayor of the city gave a brief speech, and he struck me as a very genuine person.
He mentioned that he'd been begging this orchestra to come and play at the local high school for years and a couple years back it finally came to fruition. The orchestra now plays there twice per year.
He said that he wanted a real, professional orchestra to come and play in his neighborhood. He wanted the community to see that life offers many options.
Beauty is available for the choosing.
An outstanding highlight of the concert was a violin solo by a 14-year-old violinist. I wondered if she was nervous about having to play in front of a big crowd, being so young.
When the conductor raised his hands and the music began, the young lady launched into a virtuoso performance. Her feet were planted in a wide, confident, power stance, legs bent at the knees.Her chin was tucked down on the violin.
She bent at the hip and swayed side to side for emphasis at just the right moments, driving the emotion higher and higher, her bow moving light at first and then faster, and faster, and faster, until the music reached a crescendo.
The crowd burst into applause.
An usher brought her a bouquet of flowers, she bowed, and the wild applause continued on for several minutes.
Fourteen years old.
While I watched the beaming violinist standing there soaking it in, as she deserved to, I thought about the trash cans covered in graffiti.
It looks to me like the word in the picture above is "Pepito". Pepito is the diminutive of Pepe, and if I'm not mistaken, Pepe is a nickname for people named Jose.
Jose is probably fourteen years old too, walking around with a can of white spray paint in his jeans, choosing ugliness even though beauty is there for the taking.
Here are several concluding observations.
Great art transcends its environment.
It doesn't matter where that orchestra plays.
The music will always be gorgeous.
Orchestras are an amazing example of teamwork.
Everybody has to be on the same page and believe in what they are doing and want to realize the goal.
A single rebellious person can easily derail the work of the entire group.
I doubt that playing in this particular orchestra is lucrative and yet the musicians gave it their all.
Money is rarely the strongest motivator. I'd venture that many of the people in this orchestra work a day job to make ends meet.
I bet that they give more of themselves, more heart and more soul, to their less well renumerated musical work than they do to their higher paid official work.
The desire to sit in beauty and be a part of something larger than yourself is powerful.
The conductor gave an excellent display of leadership. He wanted it. He wanted it more than anybody there. You could see it in his movement.
He was pulling and pulling.
"Give it to me! Give it to me! I need it! I must have it!" he seemed to be saying.
That is how a leader needs to be.
Your team needs to know how badly you want the result.
They need to know that you won't stop striving until you get what you came for.
When they grasp the depth of your desire, they'll do their best to give it to you.
Watching excellent musicians is a great reminder about practice.
I looked up the definition of practice and it means to carry out an activity with the intent to maintain or improve proficiency.
It isn't just going through the motions.
It is working with an explicit desire to impact capability.
Anything that a person wants to improve or maintain at a certain level, and this could be health, parenting, marriage, friendship, writing, business, or music, requires practice.
The fourteen-year-old violin soloist obviously practices a lot.
And my final observation is that we always have a choice.
Ugliness is an option.
So is beauty.
In his wonderful book Man's Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl, a Jewish holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, writes that no matter how dire the circumstances we never lose the option to choose our outlook.
He held that it was possible to maintain a positive attitude, even in a concentration camp.
Many things are out of our hands, but not our attitude.
Attitude is the final refuge.
It belongs to us alone.
I wish that somebody could get this through to Pepito so that he'd stop tagging garbage cans at school.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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