Remarkable people: Benjamin Zander

Music is his base

Very few people demonstrate and explain the benefits of responding positively to the world around us as effectively as Benjamin Zander.  The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra is “semi-professional”, which means that it is a volunteer orchestra who play to professional standards. He has conducted the orchestra for 30 years; and his standing as a professional cellist and conductor is without question.

Leadership is his forte

But his contribution as a musician is exceeded by his contribution as a speaker on leadership.

He combines speeches on leadership with his musical performances and has given keynote speeches at the World Economic Forum on at least four occasions.

In the book ,”The Art of Possibility”, which he co-authored with his partner Rosamund Stone Zander, they relate the following moving story.

A New Children’s Story

A little girl in second grade underwent chemotherapy for leukaemia.  When she returned to school, she wore a scarf to hide the fact that she lost all her hair. But some of the children pulled it off, and in their nervousness laughed and made fun of her.  The little girl was mortified and that afternoon begged her mother not to make her go back to school. Her mother tried to encourage her, saying. “The other children will get used to it, and anyway your hair will grow in again soon.”

The next morning, when their teacher walked in to class, all the children were sitting in their seats, some still tittering about the girl who had no hair, while she shrank into her chair.  “Good morning, children, “ the teacher said, smiling warmly in her familiar way of greeting them. She took off her coat and scarf. Her head was completely shaved.

After that, a rash of children begged their parents to let them cut their hair. And when a child came to class with short hair, newly bobbed, all the children laughed merrily – not out of fear – but out of the joy of the game. And everybody’s hair grew back at the same time.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Contrast that with the narrow thinking behind a recent incident at at school in the Australia when a child shaved her head to raise money for a charity in support of her father’s illness. She was barred from the school. The story is described here.

How daft is that? As others have asked, what would they have done if a pupil had lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy?

Sometimes you might wonder whether we live on the same planet!

Take time to watch …

If you are not familiar with Benjamin Zander’s presentation, then this is an uplifting experience. For example, this presentation (of more than an hour) was given at the World Economic Forum 2009 (and never mind the image quality, it is good enough!):

More on remarkable people …

By John Lewis

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