I was at the symphony last night, and saw something that really struck me. Yo Yo Ma was playing Hindemith’s Cello Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony, when, in a pause of his playing, he motioned his bow towards his music. The air conditioning in the symphony hall can cause music pages to turn, and this is what MTT, the conductor, must have thought. Because, moments after Ma pulled his bow back, and starting a long passage of playing, MTT, now thinking that Ma’s music was on the wrong page, turned the sheet of music for him, and held then held it there with one hand, while conducting the rest of the orchestra with the other. After a while, MTT removed his hand, and the page stayed where he had held it. About 20 seconds later, Ma turned the page back to where it was, not missing a beat. The air conditioning had not turned the page, he was simply motioning his bow to the next part of the score he would play. Better yet, while MTT held Ma’s music to the wrong page, Ma played as if it was exactly what he needed, and played brilliantly. He didn’t look panicked, he didn’t try and turn the page out of MTT”s hand. He just played by memory, and turned the page when he needed to, and when it was not a distraction to MTT or the rest of the orchestra.
This reminds me about how important it is in business to be ready for any challenge, and to stay cool under pressure. Many times, a design does not go as planned in the field. Rather than try and force a design that may not work anymore, we look at all options, and then diplomatically come to a resolution with the contractor, agency, or client. I think this is one of the many qualities that defines leadership.
– Michael Tarnoff