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The Power of Classical Music

Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music and helping us all realize our untapped love for it

Think About It

  1. Zander begins the talk by sharing the story of the two shoe salesmen in Africa. Describe something in today's world that one person might see as a glorious opportunity that someone else perceives as a hopeless situation.
  2. Think about Zander's assertion that "It is one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he's leading to realize whatever he's dreaming." Do you think this places more responsibility on the leader or the people he's leading? Can you think of a leader who is/was able to do this well?
  3. Listen carefully to the way that Zander plays the piano as if he were a child at different ages. Compare the sounds and the reactions of the audience to the different levels.
  4. Why do you think that kids stop taking music lessons? Do you think there is anything that parents or music teachers could do to encourage kids to keep playing without forcing them?
  5. Watch this video of a twelve-year-old playing the piece Zander is playing. What do you notice now that you've heard Zander explain the progression of learning?
  6. Zander says that as the students became more proficient, the impulses are reduced. What is an impulse in this context? What are some other connotations of the word? Is there a connection?
  7. Four different types of people were described with regard to their attitude towards classical music: those who can't imagine their lives without it, those who don't mind it, those who never listen, and those who think they are tone deaf. What group would you put yourself in? Survey at least ten other people and ask them which group they belong to. Make sure you survey different ages. What did you discover?
  8. "The conductor of an orchestra doesn't make a sound," Zander says. "He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful." Think of two other professions in which the person in charge has no real performance of his/her own, but rather depends upon his/her ability to make others powerful. How are these professions similar and different from music? What would be difficult about being in this position? How is it connected to his other idea of leadership and the ability to engage other people in your vision?
  9. According to Zander, it is the job of the "B" to make the "C" sad. In literature, we call this a foil — a character that highlights the characteristics of another character. Why is this important in literature and music? Why have something whose main purpose is to bring attention to others? Can you think of any other disciplines in which this is the case?
  10. What impact did Zander's playing of the Chopin have on you? Can you think of three words to describe your emotions? Why does Zander clap for the audience?

Do It

Read About It

Watch It

This interesting TED talk explores the development of music over time: Michael Tilson Thomas: Music and emotion through time

Surf It

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