Bombay Showcase

The conductor as a CEO

Western classical maestro Zubin Mehta will be in the city to celebrate his 80th birthday.  

With western classical maestro Zubin Mehta coming to Mumbai this week as part of his 80th birthday celebrations, I thought of this quick-fix corporate training programme called The Conductor As A CEO.

This idea stems from the fact that the functioning of any philharmonic orchestra is similar to that of any organisation.

Hence, this training session is meant for all Audi-owning corporate honchos, talent-scouting HR heads, weepie VPs, middle management strugglers, dreamy-eyed interns, ambitious management students and everyone in operations, technology, marketing, sales or wherever. The level of musical understanding doesn’t matter.

The programme shall be divided into two 60-minute sessions. There shall be a 20-minute break for coffee, snacks, nicotine and gossip. In practice, it shall have many tests, audio presentations, videos and role-plays, but that’s not possible in newspaper print.

Simple rules: workbooks and pens provided; late-comers to be barred; mobile phones off; no chatter with neighbours; one question at a time; no ROTI (Rejection Of Trainer’s Ideas).

The flow of sessions will be simple.

From 9 am, we shall talk of Western Classical Orchestra Setting.

Let’s start with how all western classical music has been written by famous composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and many others.

Major shows involve large orchestras with a specific setting. The conductor faces the orchestra, with his back to the audience. The violinists are on his left. The viola, cello, double bass, piano, harp, woodwinds, brass and percussion have special positions. Each musician looks at the sheet, and plays pre-written portions in the overall composition.

Now convert all that into corporate jargon.

The composer has written the standard operating procedures. The selection of musicians involves HR skills, based on their job profile and competency. Each musician plays a role. The music sheet involves a thorough understanding of procedures. The conductor is the team-leader. He strategises. One mistake, and the entire corporation faces a risk.

Like all companies thrive, western classical music involves process, purism, precision and perfection.

Following the break, the theme shall be The Role Of The Conductor.

First, let’s clarify that he isn’t a figurehead trying to attract the audience’s attention by randomly wielding his baton.

Let’s see what he does. (I am using the word ‘he’ as most conductors have been male, barring rare ladies like Marin Alsop and Simone Young.)

The conductor acts as the orchestra’s face, though in concert, he has his back to the audience.

He selects and mentors the musicians. He decides the choice of the orchestra’s repertoire and specific programme. He is completely knowledgeable about a large variety of compositions, getting into granular detail about each note played by each instrument. He is the backbone of rehearsal sessions, guiding musicians over timing, volume and expression.

In a live set-up, he ensures coordination in timing. With his presence, he motivates and inspires the musicians.

The conductor is an authority on auditorium and open-air acoustics, and knows how to produce the best sound at vastly different venues.

He trains younger musicians, acting as a role model. He is a team leader, encouraging camaraderie, and ensuring that there are no personality clashes.

Equate all this with regular corporate functioning, and you will realise that the conductor is an expert honcho with amazing interpersonal skills. As such, he actually plays the role of a CEO.

Zubin Mehta has done all this, and is thus at the very top of the league.

Narendra Kusnur is a freelance music writer


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 7:27:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/the-conductor-as-a-ceo/article8460115.ece

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