Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra . . . and a Profound Lesson


Sometimes I just get lucky. And so I was able, due to a consulting schedule change, to pass through Boston last weekend and accept an invitation to the Boston Philharmonic Annual Fundraising Gala. This is no ordinary city orchestra. The BPO was founded in 1979 by Maestro Benjamin Zander, whose passion for bringing music to the masses inspires the 12 annual classical concerts given each year, as well as their numerous CDs and recordings of great classical music.

Ben Zander has a unique approach to explaining classical music, and his intense passion for the art form attracts hundreds of attendees for each talk. As a result, our audience describes the Boston Philharmonic as “passionate,” “inspiring,” “unique,” and–perhaps our favorite descriptor–“un-stuffy.”

Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra 2The BPO fundraising event this year was held at a downtown Boston hotel and featured the newly formed Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, which in its first year has given two sold-out concerts in Boston Symphony Hall and in the summer will be touring in Holland.  For those aged 13-21 fortunate enough to get in, it is an opportunity to learn about music, leadership and life.

Since my host for the evening was the Chairman of the BPO Board of Directors, we arrived early, while the orchestra was still rehearsing.  I always enjoy watching rehearsals. To me that’s the real life of an orchestra, where the back and forth teaching and learning takes place.

On the program for the evening, besides the BPYO giving a concert of music by Revel and two violin solos (Pablo Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy” and “Meditation” from the opera Thais by French composer Jules Massenet), was a fabulous Las Vegas singer in the style of Sinatra, Steve Lippia.

As I was watching Steve Lippia rehearse with the kids from the BPYO, who acted as his backup orchestra for the evening, a very profound event took place, which is worth mentioning as it made a big impression on me.

At the end of one of the songs during the rehearsal, Steve Lippia stopped and turned to the orchestra.  He looked from one end of the stage to the other, trying to make eye contact with nearly everyone, and gave them a very heart-felt compliment that went something like this. “You kids are fantastic to work with.  I am so impressed.  You are professional, follow my lead, and have the musical instincts on when to soften the sound.  I am very impressed!”

You can imagine the feelings of pride swell up in not only the young people in the orchestra, but also in Maestro Zander, since they were all hand-picked by him from auditions.

Then Steve Lippia spoke again, and here for me is the profound part.

“However, as I look at this wonderful orchestra, I see that none of you are smiling.  This Lippiais Sinatra music! This music is to make people feel good, to touch them and lift them up. To make them feel like they could dance all evening. And none of you are smiling. If you take music too serious you will lose the connection between music and life and it will be just notes.  Let me urge you to have fun tonight, in fact you have my permission to enjoy the evening!”

I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family – and I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.   ~Frank Sinatra

I hope these young and talented musicians understood what he was saying, because I certainly did.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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3 Responses to Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra . . . and a Profound Lesson

  1. Frank Tempesta says:


    This is great. I passed it along to Ben and to all Board members.



  2. mimijk says:

    Take your work seriously, take yourself lightly


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