4 Lessons from a Concert Pianist

This past weekend my dear friend and I went to our first Dallas Symphony Orchestra performance of the season. It was a spectacular evening – from the opening piece, Berlioz”s Roman Carnival to the final piece, Respighi’s The Pines of Rome. However, the most amazing experience was featured concert pianist Joaquin Achucarro‘s performance of Schumann’s Concerto in A Minor. This gifted musician stunned and thrilled the audience, like many have not experienced for many years – if ever.

I want to share four salient takeaways I observed which can be applied to any leader or individual wanting to achieve and contribute at their highest level:

1. The power comes from  unparalleled, indisputable love for what you do. The moment Joaquin came onto the stage, he and Jaap van Zweden, the conductor of the Dallas Symphony, exuded energy and deliberate intention. They creatively joined hands and were committed to giving the packed house everything they had for the mere 30+ minutes of performance. They did – and then some! Their passion for the music, as well as the message they shared through the music, was undeniable to anyone present. It came from a sacred place, from within each of them.

2. The power is shared through enthusiastic gratitude and generous praise. Upon completing the extraordinarily beautiful piece, Joaquin received two long standing ovations; upon which he nearly jumped up and down with enthusiasm. He hugged Jaap, which one seldom sees such unrestrained appreciation and affection on stage. He then beamed at the crowds and held his hands in the Namaste appreciative gesture over and over again. He recognized each and every section of musicians for their contribution.

3. There is no limit when one gives more than expected, with unbridled passion. After the second ovation, Joaquin then gave us the most precious gift. He performed Scriabin’s haunting nocturne for the left hand, Opus 9. The symphony hall was transformed; one could have heard a pin drop. It was unexpected, and delivered with such purity and passion – I, for one, was enveloped by emotion.

As individuals, whether we are corporate executives, teachers, non-profit administrators, or community volunteers, have the same opportunity to show up every day with a genuine love and passion for our unique areas of contribution. We have the chance to give generous praise to our fellow workers and express gratitude to our clients, customers, family members, and friends. It really is that simple. Joaquin, Jaap and the DSO touched every person present this weekend.

Interestingly, in researching Russian composer Scriabin’s life, I learned another intriguing back story, which leads me to my fourth takeaway. Though Scriabin was born into an aristocratic, military family with many privileges, his life was not with out hurdles. His mother died when he was only one year of age; he was small, weak and very shy. He had to persevere among peers such as Rachmaninoff. He was not a favored protege; his hands were extremely small for a pianist, and he in fact damaged his right hand through repetitive stretches on certain pieces. The Opus which Achucarro played was composed by Scriabin and performed entirely by the left hand.

4. Out of hardship and necessity came one of Scriabin’s most beautiful and memorable works. Scriabin tragically died at the young age of 43 due to septicemia, contracted as a result of an infected shaving cut on his lip. Yet, his legacy lives on and is a testament to what passion and perseverance, often in the face of adversity and hardship, can contribute to this world.

This (to me) is inspiring, contagious, and the gift that has kept on giving over 100 years later.