Joyful Conduct

Joyful Conductor

You may have already seen this delightful YouTube video — a three-year old boy “conducting” a recording of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. He’s so alive and joyful. Fully present. His whole self connected to the music.

In addition to conducting, he’s also learning how to play the violin. On another of his YouTube appearances, a commenter asks, “Why the violin?” One of his parents replies: “Jonathan chose the violin after seeing his first orchestra on PBS at 19 months old. Never in a million years did I think our son would play the violin, nor that I would have to learn to read music and teach him.” Now how amazing is that. I certainly didn’t choose anything before I turned two and then stick with it.

What is also amazing is that Misha Rachlevsky, Music Director of Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, saw the above video and was astounded. During the next U.S. tour of the orchestra, he invited Jonathan, (then four years old) to conduct the orchestra as an encore to the Kremlin’s performance in Torrance, CA. Featured compositions: 1st movement of Beethoven’s c-minor string quartet, Op. 18, No. 4 and Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms.

If you’d like to see more of this young musician, visit the YouTube channel his parents have created.

While we’re being amazed, I’m told that a study by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company shows that orchestra conductors live 38 percent longer than the general population. The mainstream explanation has to do with blood circulation and raising the heart rate by moving the arms around. While I don’t disagree that all that happens and plays a role, I would also wager that these points are significant, too:

1. Joy — Moving to music that they love.

2. Connection and Communication — Conductors aren’t just moving to the music. They call it forth from the musicians and shape it. Their gestures communicate and they get immediate feedback that the musicians have receive the communication, understand it, and do their best to give what is asked. Talk about affirmation.

3. Spatial Awareness and Presence — The awareness of a conductor fills the hall. They are aware of the panorama of musicians in front of them. Because everything the musicians are doing is for the pleasure of the audience, conductors are also aware of the huge hall behind them. This is a big contrast with many of us whose awareness starts and ends with the electronic gadget in our hands or whatever our eyes happen to focus on.

If you can squeeze a little time from your schedule today, consider putting on some music that you love and allowing your whole self to respond. Go for a walk outside in a beautiful place and allow your awareness to extend in all directions. Or find something else that makes you feel joyful and expansive.

What about you?

Any activities that reliably help you feel joyful and expansive?

Any passions that you discovered early on? Have they lasted?