Conducting Your Life

- “Music” Lessons for Personal Improvement

by Candace Kubenic

Overture Business is great! You are the Maestro. Your company or department is meeting or exceeding industry standards, your employees are carrying out the mission of the organization, customer satisfaction is at an all time high, but you’re still feeling a little off key. Your life seems a little out of tune. Maybe one of these “music” lessons can help.

Lesson One – DO YOUR BEST – even when you don’t like the music.

Over the centuries choirs have sung a wide variety of music: classical, contemporary, simple, complex, melodic and …… just plain ugly. For one group there was a particular piece the whole choir hoped would get lost in the filing cabinet, never to resurface. But there it was on the schedule again. Every week at practice there was griping and complaining but it didn’t go away. They still had to perform the piece. And even though they might not have liked that particular piece, they learned about self - discipline and about always doing their best. Every task in our lives has some element to it that we wish we didn’t have to complete, something we can’t delegate. Whining won’t make it go away and procrastinating will only make it worse. What task are you dreading? Which assignment has you stuck? How can you do your best, get it done and move forward?

Lesson Two - DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY - you just might grow.

One choir was learning a piece of music that called for a number of percussion instruments: triangle, tambourine, finger cymbals and a cowbell. One of the sopranos volunteered to supply the cowbell. Of course, since she brought the cowbell she was asked to play it. Now it’s not difficult to play a cowbell, you just hold it up and strike it with a stick. But she was expected to sing at the same time! Being human, her first response was, “ NO, I can’t do that.” Of course she was really thinking, "What if I make a mistake? What will people think?” Not wanting to seem uncooperative, she reluctantly agreed. Guess what? She found that she could sing and play the cowbell at the same time! Every day you are faced with opportunities to do new things or try old things in a new way. I’m sure you’ve heard or said, “But, we’ve always done it this way.” There is a story about a man who complained about having the same lunch day after day. When asked who makes his lunch he replied, “I do.” What is it that you’ve been reluctant to try? Don’t pass up the chance to grow - say YES to new possibilities!

Lesson Three – BLEND - be a team player.

One of the challenges of singing in a group is to realize it is not necessary to sing as loudly as you are able. Here’s some advice given at a choral music workshop - If you can’t hear the person beside you, you are probably singing too loudly. When you sing in a choir you are no longer an individual. You are just one part of a whole group. Working in a group can be difficult. Do you help “blend” people with different personalities, past experiences, beliefs and values, or are you singing too loudly and drowning out the other voices?

Lesson Four - STAY ON KEY – don’t let others lead you astray.

There once was a lovely lady who sang in a choir. She never missed practice and she always had a positive attitude and a kind word for the other members of the group. But…. there’s always a but ….she truly could not sing on key. She had a very strong voice and it took a lot of determination on the part of those around her to sing the right notes and stay on key. Whether it is singing the right notes, reaching a goal or doing what you know to be right there is always something or someone waiting to lead you off track. What are your goals? It is much easier to “stay on key” when you have clearly defined goals. Be aware of who or what leads you astray and develop a strategy for staying on the right track.

Lesson Five – SUPPORT THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS – this may be your most important role.

Some choir anthems have solo parts, one person singing alone or with the rest of the choir humming softly in the background. It is an opportunity for one of the group to shine, to be recognized for the special talent he or she possesses. A soloist can be overwhelmed by anxiety; sweaty palms, a dry mouth and shaking hands. The support of the director and the rest of the choir enable him to perform at his best. Are there people in your life who need your support to help them succeed? Often your most important role is to provide support to another person. What kind of support can you provide? How can you provide recognition to others for the things they accomplish?

Lesson Six – EXAGGERATE YOUR VOWELS - be a communicator.

Singing is more than just notes. Every song has words that convey an important message. Sometimes those words are just what we need at a particular time in our lives. They touch us deep inside. They can reassure, validate our feelings, and enable us to express joy, hope, despair, love, pain ….. if we can understand them. One choir director always stressed the importance of the audience understanding the words the chorus was singing and instructed her singers to exaggerate their vowels. Have you ever had a favorite song that you knew all the words to only to discover when you saw the words in print that you had been singing incorrectly? Getting your message across is half the battle. Communication is a vital part of getting along with others, at home, at work or wherever we find ourselves. In order to truly communicate you need a sender and a receiver. What is keeping you from getting your message through? It takes more than just words to communicate. What other messages are you sending by your actions or expressions?

Lesson Seven – OBSERVE THE RESTS - every song needs some silence.

Some times the most powerful part of a piece of music is silence. Composers use the rest to emphasize, to separate sections of a song, or to add drama and suspense. From a singer’s point of view, it is the place to take a breath and renew as they prepare to move on. Sometimes those rests are not where singers need them and they may find themselves running out of air. At that point each singer must grab a quick breath whenever possible. Where do you need rests in your life? How can you “catch your breath” when there are no rests in your life’s song? Do you have hobbies or friends who provide respite? Are you getting enough sleep? When was the last time you took time off from your job to recharge?

Coda - Think about this: if you are not effectively “conducting” your own life, how can you provide leadership to others?

2008 Candace Kubinec All rights reserved

BHD Technologies, Inc. 2015