March 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts March 1998 Current Issue
March 1998
Short Cuts:

Conductor Boris BrottHow long does it take to teach a packed audience of non-musicians to play a few bars of Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony? Boris Brott can do it in about 10 minutes.

The conductor begins with a lively 25-minute presentation in which he draws parallels between music and business, examining the tenuous mix of teamwork and leadership, the need for creativity and the joy of success. Then, he asks attendees to reach under their seats to find a tone bar -- like a one-note xylophone. The audience has been divided into five sections, each equipped with a different note. After a few practice rounds, they've done it -- they're playing classical music. And, more often than not, they stand and applaud, clapping as much for themselves as for Brott.

Since 1991, this simple program has often called the conductor away from his Hamilton, Ontario, home on assignments worldwide. In his travels, he splits his time between leading symphony orchestras as a "guest conductor" and leading corporate groups. (Brott is represented by Vincent Lupiano in Oakland, N.J., 201-651-0747.) The idea actually came from an IBM executive who watched Brott conduct and asked if he would address IBM employees about the parallels between businesses and symphony orchestras.

His tone-bar exercise in itself is a miniature model for how successful businesses are run, says Brott. "It demonstrates the skills of being part of a team. You have to listen, you have to take direction from a team leader, and you have to take direction from those around you."

But while the client might strive for business results, Brott likes to reach his audience on a personal level. His greatest compliment is when a participant tells him: "This has really touched me." Equally fulfilling for Brott are the converts -- audience members who, "believe it or not, have come to classical music as a result of this experience," he says.

It's not only classical music that's making an impression on meeting groups of late. One World Music (888-663-9753) leads several similar workshops. One, called "Synergy Through Samba," has audiences of 20 to 500 cooking up a festive Brazilian beat. "Just as the samba involves a creative tension between a march and a dance, organizations contain inherent tensions between departments that provide structure and direction and those that provide opportunities for creativity and innovation," says Gary Muszynski, founder and president of the Berkeley, Calif.-based company.

It's quite an achievement to get rhythm out of hundreds of employees from the likes of Ford or Pacific Bell. Says Muszynski: "The magic of going from cacophony to cohesion so quickly is the musical equivalent of landing a man on the moon." * LOREN G. EDELSTEIN WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU MAKE TO THE ACADEMY AWARDS CEREMONY?

"I wouldn't let anyone cut off Frank Sinatra. Also, I'd make the nominees send in ahead of time the names of people they'd want to thank if they win. Then, when the winners are at the podium making their other comments, those names can be run on the screen for the audience."

Melanie Dawson Jackson, CMP


Jackson Planners

Atlanta, Ga.

"I would restrict the speeches to a maximum of one minute. I'm sure that would make it more interesting and appealing to the audience. Fast-paced programs keep people's attention."

Christina Raabe

Meetings Assistant

Minerals, Metals & Materials Society

Warrendale, Pa.

"I would cut some of the categories. At my convention, I have just the right number: three. But you can't really equate my convention with the Academy Awards."

Olga Damschen

Senior Meeting Planner

American Psychiatric Association

Washington, D.C.

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