Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music

A TED Talk Project

This is one of those notebook/compost heap writings. You’re more than welcome to continue reading, but it’s good to know what you’re reading before you read it.

I’m working on a little project that I created for myself in an effort to develop my ability to write more persuasively and with stronger emotion and better arguments. For this project, I watch and analyze TED Talks and focus on trying to answer one main question: What makes some speeches and/or speakers more powerful, effective, and inspiring than others?

  • Is his message clear? What is the message he is trying to get across? I think his message is in defensive of Classical Music. He’s trying to remove illegitimate negative basis towards classical music.
  • He’s voice is a conversational voice rather than a reading voice.
  • He’s natural, fun, animated, and funny and witty.
  • He’s not to concerned about the “right” way to do present his TED talk. He jumps off the stage to talk to the audience and walks around. He’s fun to watch and listen to.
  • No-body is tone deaf…he uses good examples the convincing examples to defend his point about tone deaf.
  • “So I’m not going to go on until every single person in this room, downstairs and in Aspen, and everybody else looking, will come to love and understand classical music. Now, you notice that there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that this is going to work, if you look at my face, right? It’s one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever he’s dreaming. Imagine if Martin Luther King had said, “I have a dream. Of course, I’m not sure they’ll be up to it.
  • I think one thing that makes people powerful in their presentation is their ability to self-validate.
  • His body language adds to his presentation. Presentation influences effectiveness.
  • Powerful story about a youth who was touched by classical music.
  • “How would you walk? How would you talk? How would you be? If you thought, “Everybody loves classical music — they just haven’t found out about it yet.” See, these are totally different worlds.”
  • “Now, I had an amazing experience. I was 45 years old, I’d been conducting for 20 years, and I suddenly had a realization. The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. My picture appears on the front of the CD. But the conductor doesn’t make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful. And that changed everything for me. It was totally life-changing… I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people.”
  • “it’s appropriate for us to ask the question, who are we being as we go back out into the world? And you know, I have a definition of success. For me, it’s very simple. It’s not about wealth and fame and power. It’s about how many shining eyes I have around me.” 
  • It’s funny, his TED talk is about classical music, but the words that spoke to me weren’t about classical music. The messages that I loved that were embedded in his talk I quoted in this document.
  • Also, I love that at the very end, while the audience is on their feet clapping, he steps off the stage and kisses his wife who is sitting on the front row (I’m assuming it’s his wife) and then gets back on stage and acknowledges the rest of the audience.

I think one of the things that makes this so powerful is his ability to just be himself. I know that sounds a bit cliche, but it takes a strong sense of self to just be yourself and not try to change who you are to please the crowd. Being able to self validate sets someone free in a situation like this. When you are overly concerned and forced on what others think about you and when you are dependent on the crowds approval to feel good about who you are, you’ll come across unauthentic. In this TED Talk, Benjamin Zander is authentic and that makes him a powerful speaker. If someone else was to mimic his exact behaviors it would not work (unless, of course, it was Tom Hanks acting as Benjamin Zander in a film).

This is one of my favorite TED Talks, which is why I choose it to analyze. But I don’t think his message is really clear. The title of the TED Talk suggests that this is about breaking down the illegitimate negative biases towards classical music. However, the parts that I loved the most weren’t his arguments about classical music, it was about leadership and becoming a good human being. Power in sharing your idea, is maintaining integrity for the idea you are trying to communicate or the point you are trying to prove

April 1, 2020

Time Watching/Writing: 1 hour

Total Time Writing on this Blog: 201 hours and 30 minutes