Tags: Anthony Maillie, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Claude Debussy, Emanuel Ax, Hélenè Grimaud, Katherine Stott, Marc-André Hamelin, Maurice Ravel, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Robert Casadesus, Vladimir Horowitz
With thousands of LPs, CDs, cassettes and even mp3s in my library and now being out of the limelight, I could listen to whatever I want for as long as I want. I am not suggesting that I have too much of a good thing – I just ordered 3 more CDs yesterday – but I listen best, as I did when I was pressed for time, when I have a concert to prepare for.
Marc-André Hamelin, the great Canadian pianist was coming to town and I bought my tickets over a year ago. Back then, I had no idea what he would play but I had to see and hear him and his vaunted technique. There are some who put him on the top of the pianistic heap because of his technique and unusual repertoire and some who drop him a few notches for those same reasons. Ordering early, we had primo seats, in the lower balcony on the essential left side which gives full visual access to the artist and those hands.
I was more than delighted when I first saw the program: Berg, Faure, Ravel, Hamelin!, Debussy, Rachmaninoff. Great names all, save Hamelin as a composer but no Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms — good, give them the day off. I love them but in music I am inconstant and seek variety.
As it happens, I have all the works in my room: Aimard playing the very modern Berg Sonata #1 and Stott the Faure Impromptu #2 and Barcarolle #3(!). I had many choices for the Debussy Reflets dans l’eau and the Ravel Jeau d’eau. For Rachmaninoff’s Sonata #2, I have a wonderful performance from the beguiling Hélenè Grimaud and one from 1968 on LP from the thrower of thunderbolts, Horowitz (which must be heard.)
My greatest pleasure came in preparing for Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit. Here too I had CDs at the ready but I chose three LPs that my Uncle Anthony gave me. As I listened to them it was as if he was in the room, as, in a sense, he was. He would listen, back in those old days, with a relaxed attention. Often, once the piece was over, he would recall how he came to have the recording. I hung on those words. Music is so much more than music to me, as it was to my Uncle.
Those 3 records:
- Robert Casadesus, the elegant Frenchman and a Grand Prix du Disque recording.
- Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, the Italian Magician from a live performance.
- Emanuel Ax, the much-loved American in one of his first recordings.
Hamelin was great and I felt electricity throughout. One of the works was his own as well one of the encores. His major composition was a very tongue-in-cheek take on Paganini that had us laughing and that is not usual at concerts. Something else: it is normal for a pianist to be marching on and off the stage after every piece or small set of pieces. It brings applause but has always seemed to me to be made-up, stilted. But not noble Hamelin: he played a piece or a small group, stood up and accepted the applause and then sat back down and as the English say, got on with it.
It was a great experience.
The belly and the chest putter are banned. Thank you — sanity has taken hold.
Some are moaning that this will hurt the “popularity” of golf — good. Golf has become too obviously a business as it became too ridiculously expensive as it mugged for popularity. When I fell in love with golf as a young boy it wasn’t because it was popular but because it was so challenging and mysterious and the grass was so green and a par felt so good – and later my love grew as I learned my history lessons and walked some historic fairways.
Golf is as pure a sport as there is, if you don’t litter it with golf carts and 20 minute rides between tees, dinner-dances, resort destinations and the idea that the game has to “grow.” Golf “grew” and look what happened. It grew worse!
I hope that this is just the beginning of the USGA and true lovers of golf taking stands: against the endless lengthening of courses, and balls getting longer and the clubs becoming “easier” to use, of $300. greens fees.
I feel like going and playing golf.
Tags: Al Zamsky, Grovers Disease, Terry Laughlin, Total Immersion
I am finally back in the water, a month after the discovery that I have “Grover’s Disease” – a minor condition that comes upon people after 50 (and supposedly goes away on its own) and causes upper body inflammation and, unfortunately, itching. Such a silly sounding name for itching but it kept me out of the water, not because it was proscribed, but because I saw no solution to my dilemma. I missed swimming.
I had attributed my itching to the chlorine and that must play some role but upon hearing an off-hand comment by another doctor – that the degree of inflammation is exacerbated by heat – I smiled with new hope. Just as on the golf practice range, where any whispered tip became that week’s game plan, I formulated a strategy: cold showers and no whirlpools. Now, in swimming, this means two cold showers as etiquette demands one before and one after. To this, as a show of commitment, I shave after I shower and not as I shower as is my long tradition. Concluding one experiment, I will say only this: my showers are now quite short.
In the water, I heard two voices. First was Coach Zamsky’s and his injunction to “make it fun.” Now, making it fun means to me using toys, like fins and pull buoys — things that make you go faster and make swimming easier – things that lend you the dream sensation of balance. By switching between toys and normal swimming you glimpse life with and without gravity.
Then Terry Laughlin of Total Immersion fame commanded: pay attention! but first I had to dismiss his dismissal of toys as unhelpful. Instead, I listened to his instruction to give focus to specifics, like the way my hand enters the water or how many strokes across the pool.
If you, like me, had well-meaning but not great coaches in youth, get them now. You have no time to waste.
Tags: Ingrid Mackey
“No, going to Home Depot would not be his thing.”
My wife Ingrid and the heating and air conditioning man were just walking out of the house through the garage as I returned from an important trip to the library. Later I asked her what she was saying as I pulled in. She said that the plumber was suggesting, now that I was home, that I could run over to Home Depot instead of my wife, to pick up some needed filters. Ingrid knows that I have sworn off Home Depot and their high shelves, having gone once.
That was just the other day and yesterday was Christmas in May: the handyman was on-site. Ingrid had a long list on her iPad and Mark - a stellar fellow who has been to our house before – and she went from pillar to post speaking in the tongues of plumbing, electricity, painting, hole-filling-in and bricklaying. Ingrid is quite handy and rightfully styles herself a troubleshooter. Her father was a plumber and then building inspector. I have to thank (and I mean Thank!) my father for my un-handiness though my brothers somehow have not followed his or my lead.
Mark, knowing the lay of our land didn’t make the rookie mistake of asking my opinion on anything. Ingrid had him focused. My feelings were not hurt but I felt my otherness and decided to do something useful. I went to work out.
Tags: blue laundry balls, Mary Bond
In my golfing days I never gave up the hunt for “secrets” to the game. Using golfer’s speak I would say, humbly with the proper equivocation ( a form of obeisance to the gods), that “I may have found something.” Now, the ideal person to let in on to this new secret is a non-golf-playing wife. In the best of all worlds she would exude complete pleasure, even jubilation at this new-to-mankind discovery. She would want me to recount all the details that led to this moment and I’d be more than happy to dish. If she suggested taking pictures of my swing to immortalize my secret, I wouldn’t say no.
This wife would not mention any of the past secrets that didn’t pan out or the number of times I had quit golf less than 12 hours after the announcement of a new discovery. No, this wife would take each of the succeeding secrets as if they were newly sprung from the head of Zeus.
But, as the world turns, disinterest enters your house and then sarcasm aided by long memories brings up the bones of past follies and you keep the new secrets to yourself or if desperate, without hope of success, tell your children.
Now that my seasons on the short grass are on hiatus, I have found another avenue of discovery. Going on three years now, attempting to rehab my hip and now my knee, I have fallen in love with therapists, each one a savior, masseuses, yoga, Pilates, books, videos, over-exercise, rest, web pages, any thing that will whisper hope in my ear. Yesterday I may have found something.
On Mary Bond’s great blog she demonstrated the use of the humble blue dryer ball, the one that helps fluff up your laundry. Using it as a tennis ball (a previous secret) under your feet and hip, it does miraculous things. I ran to laundry room. We had them!! One of the wonderful benefits of not working is that you can pursue secrets throughout the day.
I felt immediately better and pranced around the house. Dare I try the steps? Yes, that was better too. Not all better, but surely better. Luckily my wife was home and, forgetting about my golf secrets, I crowed. She listened and said that was very interesting. I suggested that I might need new laundry balls as that might be, if not a new secret, a corollary.
Later at night, after a new session of wriggling on the floor with my new secret and as I began to give my wife an update, she said “here we go again.”
Even a secret as solid as this one, coming as it does from a blog, could not impress her. It is hard to impress a wife.
Tags: Al Zamsky
“The only times I said something important was when I was talking to someone the way I am talking to you now, one-on-one. When I spoke to my whole team or to a group, I never knew who was listening or who heard what.”
We were seated at the sharp Waterleaf restaurant at the College of Dupage having lunch. As we usually had breakfast for our get-togethers, this was a departure. Surprising, too, we both had a glass of wine. Coach said that this was the first drink he had on a campus where he ruled the swim program for over thirty years.
It is my way with Coach to ask him questions, not only about the old days but about current issues I am thinking about. So, this time I asked him what are the keys to Coaching. After thinking about it and noting how big a question this was, he said that it “begins and ends with communication.” Then he reached over to me and made his point about talking one to one.
Person to person, there is no substitute for it.
Tags: Dolly "Dolls" Mackey
My Mistress loveth not butterflies
Flitting from branch to branch nor is she
Amused by scampering squirrels but
Of all, she most abhors the black cat.
Stillness in nature, she says,
Is what she craves and a falling
Leaf or whiff of smoke,
Prods her to impatience.
She has a love – no, not I –
It is the olfactory muse, deep
In wet grasses and gardens,
To that only will she stoop.
“Nobody ever calls.”
These words came from an excellent trainer that we were using for the second time. She was once again making an offer: now that we had been in her training, we could call her and she would help us — no charge. Then she added, “I always make the offer and nobody takes me up on it. Nobody ever calls.” This lady is really good and we make presentations all the time. What gives?
Well, one thing is quite apparent: if you really, really need someone to be trained on something, going with the flow won’t get it done. It is the rare person who will both extend the training and use all resources to improve. In my last post I suggested why this is the case. So, what should you do?
I suggest we steal from the Arts, in this case the Master Class for the first of this two-pronged suggestion: when you do have trainers in, increase the intensity and duration of the coaching. Don’t spend 5 minutes making suggestions – spend an hour going back and forth as they do in Master Classes. It will be uncomfortable – great!
My second suggestion is that the training be sustained until Mastery is achieved. Time out of the field? When I hear this excuse, and I’ve heard it a lot, I laugh. While we are in the field, most deals still get delayed so why not become great at something while the customer is dilly-dallying? (It could be that the endless delays are launched, in part, by the confusing vendor presentations at the beginning of the cycle.)
Imagine if you – and every member of your Team – was, hands-down, the best thinker and presenter the customer ever saw. Ever!
This is So possible because your competitors are minimizing the minimum training they are getting.
(note: I refer to thinking and presenting. Presentations are thoughts delivered. They always are. Wouldn’t our jobs be so much more interesting if they were our own thoughts?)
Tags: Don Draper, Mad Men, Presentation Training
In my previous post we entered the world of the piano masterclass. Now we will examine training in the world of software sales. What follows is not based on studies but on my own experiences over 39 years and nine companies. The focus will be on Presentation Training.
I have had great Presentation Training and so I am not picking on the weakest horse in the race.In the next post I will make suggestions for improvement but now will review what often takes place.
In the best training, the instructor is skilled in presenting and training and early on, introduces foundational concepts, taking time to answer questions and to make sure that she is getting her points across. Soon, each student is filmed in a short introductory talk, just to get the feel of speaking before the group and also, to give the teacher a base-line as to the student’s skills and areas to improve. The instructor gives feedback for a few minutes and then it is on to the next student.
Following this segment, more content is delivered and then the second filming takes place. Often, the student has prepared a talk and quickly adapting what he has just learned, stands and delivers. This second presentation is almost always better than the first. Once again, a few minutes of feedback and the student sits – with a sigh of relief. He is given his film and soon he is back in the field.
Three days later, when preparing his upcoming presentation, he will seek to incorporate the most easily digested concepts he recently learned and if the air currents are favorable, he will give them a try. Most of the time, though, is spent re-purposing old slides. In a month, most if not all is forgotten as is the whereabouts of his filmed performances.
Remember, this is training done at a reasonably high level and by no means the average. Also, I am assuming that the student wanted to learn and was neither checked out, burnt out, cranky or upset at the world.
But I exaggerate: 10% of the students improve significantly and nobody gets worse than they were. I have been thinking about this for decades. Why aren’t the numbers reversed – why don’t 90% improve significantly? I think that it comes down to three fundamental points:
- Sales Reps undervalue the potential of their role in the sales process.
- They overvalue their skill level.
- The training is not sustained.
However, if Sales Professionals understood how important they are, understood that their importance lies not in setting appointments and giving a 12 minute “corporate” overview but in thinking through the customer’s problems and the solution to those problems in a unique way and then presenting the results of that work in a compelling, unforgettable manner, then the Sales Professional would take a cold clear look at their skills and not only insist on training, but insist on being the best in class and then the best in the field.
Don Draper always makes the pitch.
Tags: Andras Schiff, György Sebök, Jeremy Denk, Marcel Proust, William Leland
A “master class” is a setting where a great pianist or renowned teacher (sometimes they are both) coaches a young student while other students and interested parties, like us, look on. It can be excruciating for all involved, like a blood sport. But it can be an awesome learning experience as well. It is demanding.
These masters do not just sit there listening calmly, applaud and pass on a tip or two. Oh no, they continually interrupt! The great pianist András Schiff tells the story of a student about to play his first note and the master stops him. The student says, ‘but I haven’t started yet.’ The master rejoins, ‘No-but you were about to.’ The student’s foot was reaching for the pedal and the master saw that as a mistake.
The masters often demonstrate and the casual ease with which they play, rarely even glancing at the music, is striking. You get the sense that they truly know what to do and they help that by not excusing their own playing – ‘I’m rusty.’ By not apologizing they build confidence, so essential in a teacher-student relationship.
As I began watching these classes, I wondered how anybody could learn with these constant interruptions which can resemble a parent yelling advice from the stands as their child is in mid swing. That their peers are in the audience heightens the tension. But then I learned of the Hungarian pianist and teacher György Sebök in an article in The New Yorker by one of my favorite pianists, Jeremy Denk. In this wonderful and touching memoir of learning to play, Denk relates his experiences with two of his teachers, William Leland and Sebök (who taught for many years at Indiana University) and it is Sebök I found on YouTube holding a masterclass in 1987. The class is in six 10 minute segments and all are worth watching.
Sebök, in a manner that is both dreamy and detailed, gives the young pianist, in a perfect grandfatherly way, a philosophical framework for the Haydn piece she is playing but also technical advice. In the latter half of the first section of the video, Sebök asks her to play a short piece with both hands, as usual. Then, with just the right hand. Next he asks her to play it again with just the right and he plays the left hand part. Lastly, she plays it with both hands. You can hear the difference in her playing. Now that is teaching – and learning.
It is important to understand that the students are by no means beginners. They are tremendous pianists, sometimes future virtuosos. From what I have seen, they don’t become outwardly frustrated, though inside they may be counting the seconds for the next victim to take the stool. I imagine their best self being wide open to learning and that they take the discomfort as it comes, as a necessary passage to learning their art. I imagine them feeling quite lucky and if not immediately, soon after.
If, as I do, you find the master class fascinating, I recommend this one by Jeremy Dent, given at the Chamber Music Society in New York. In it he coaches two groups of musicians. It is two hours long but you can skip around. Denk, an American and Sebök the Hungarian are quite different but both share a winning generosity of spirit.
While the major point of this blog-series is the adaption of the master class method to business, I found that after watching a master class, my ability to listen to music expanded. For example, I heard gradations in sound, how a pianist first played a phrase this way and then another way. I heard the difference between teacher and student. I was, to adapt Proust’s advice, hearing with new ears.