What It's Like to Lead a Symphony Orchestra

Roberto Diaz: Leadership, of course, first and foremost, is about interrelationships with people.  Certainly as a leader of an institution, being able to read people’s emotional needs or body language on any given situation is incredibly important.  

As principle violist of the National Symphony in Washington or in the Philadelphia Orchestra, managing a section of twelve unbelievably talented and accomplished viola players and how this section related, not only to the rest of the stringed section but to the orchestra; and being, in a sense, the representative of the viola section in front of the music director, and when you add to that the fact that, on any given moment in a concert, the conductor may ask for something that’s a little bit different than what was rehearsed, how do you translate a gesture into leading a group musically in a certain direction?  

So there are all sorts of unrehearsed, unstudied, unplanned decisions, and you do it with body language and you do it with emotional connection to the folks around you, and I think that all of those qualities that one has to develop and those skills that one has to develop come in extremely handy - with faculty, with board members, with staff, with students, with parents, with friends, with volunteers and the outside world, in representing the institution to the outside world.  

Being able to read people’s emotions and people’s body language is something that, certainly, you have to develop these skills.  There’s no question about it.  Otherwise you miss tremendous opportunities and you probably have to spend a fair amount of time doing some repairs or damage control for things that could have been easily avoided. 

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd 

Roberto Diaz, former first chair of the National Symphony Orchestra, explains how exactly you go about bringing 80 to 100 musicians together in one synchronized, improvisational team.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

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  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
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