Never Give Up Your Dream

Keep up the daily effort and keep your dream alive.

Recently, I saw the excellent Trinitas program from Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. Performing among the many talented artists that night was Shane Chen. Shane impressed the audience with his playing, energy and enthusiasm of his performance of the Schubert Rondo in A Major for Violin and Strings D438.

I was surprised to hear that it is only in the last three years Shane has pursued a career as a professional musician. When he approached ANAM 3 years ago looking to restart a musical career, he was working in a shipping company having given up his dreams of a musical career for a more remunerative pursuit of commerce. Importantly, he had kept up his passion and practice and remained ready to take risks for his dream. Those risks were very real given his path was unconventional for a classical musician. The teachers at ANAM saw his potential and after 3 years of hard work, Shane talent & passion shines in his performance.

If you face a challenging career dream, follow Shane Chen’s example:

  • Keep up the work towards your goal. Daily practice of some kind creates options. Surrender guarantees your option is lost.
  • Take risks to do what you want. The path to success is not easy, sure or straight.
  • Find great people to help.

The last point is why I believe organisations like ANAM and MCO and teachers like Bill Hennessy are critical to the careers of artists in Melbourne. Stories like Shane’s show the support talented artists need to pursue their careers and brave the risks involved. Without someone to nurture talent and and providing support & opportunities, fewer artists will pursue their career dreams and produce great work.

So as you pursue your career dreams, what can you do to help the dreams of others be realized?

P.S. if you need a suggestion, MCO would love your help to continue to realise dreams and create great music

Leaders reach magic in people

The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.” – Blaine Lee

As a board member of Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, I have had the opportunity over the last 5 years to witness the power of leadership in drawing out the magic of exceptional personal and team performance. In that time, I have learned a great deal about leadership from William Hennessy, MCO’s exceptional Artistic Director.

MCO performs works both conducted and unconducted.  A group from 8-30 performers is led either from a conductor’s podium or from within the orchestra.  However the group is led, you see five elements demonstrated by the leaders in the best performances:

Passion:  A great leader brings passion for the work, the players and for the performance.  That energy is infectious inspiring the players and will be conveyed to the audience.  This passion is inspired by a sense of creative purpose and a will to create excellence.

Preparation: Preparation runs from design of the program years in advance through rehearsals to the minutes before performance.  Quality of preparation for performance is key to the results of the group.  An audience only gets one chance to hear a great performance. Every thing must be done beforehand to maximise that outcome.   

Attention:  Great performances just don’t happen.  They are shaped by a meticulous attention to the detail.  No leader goes through the motions or relies on their big picture view of the desired result.  Leadership of an orchestra cannot be outsourced.  As lean organisations where everyone must pull their weight, the leader of an orchestra must pay attention to every aspect of performance to lead a great result.  Their eyes and ears are constantly alert to the detail of the work and to their next intervention.

Communication: A leader does not need words to communicate.  A tempo & level of performance can be set by role modelling.  Coaching can be made with a glance or movements of the body.  However delivered, the communication is continuous and two-way.  Leaders receive feedback from the players in the same way and use that to shape the group together in a great performance.  The leader is looking to ensure that the whole orchestra remain together at the peak of performance in the work.  

Effort: Leadership of an orchestra is not a passive endeavour.  It is physically and mentally demanding work.  Beginning well before performance in planning and rehearsal this effort continues through until after the audience has left the hall.   You don’t lead an orchestra through hierarchical position.  You lead through sustained physical engagement with the players and music.  It is not uncommon to see a musician using every spare moment to practice for a piece.  The same applies to their leaders.  

All leaders can learn from other domains.  Come see MCO perform and be surprised by the magic of leadership in another domain.

Follow your heart

Keep following your heart and your biggest dreams, no matter how far away they might seem at times – Commander Chris Hadfield

Dealing with big career choices, or even little ones, can be a bewildering process.  There are always too many pros and cons, there is lots of helpful and unhelpful advice, there is too much uncertainty and often we don’t even well understand our own thinking and preferences.

Mentors can play a critical role in providing an external perspective in these choices.  They can also help straighten out tangled thinking and the influence of other’s views.

Most powerful of all is the question that a mentor can ask:

‘what does your heart tell you to do?’

For many people, when they put all the logic aside the answer is crystal clear.   Their heart knows what choices they have to make to move forward on their passions, to realise their career ambitions and to live without regret.

The voice of the heart can be muddied by all the complexity and pressure of a big choice.  Find the time or the help to listen to it, however quiet, and you will move forward with more confidence.

Follow your heart.