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  • Joanna Stone

Shiny Eyes

The power of passion with Benjamin Zander and Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.




Two weeks ago I enjoyed a concert of classical music in Amsterdam's famous Concertgebouw. It was a very unusual event, in that the orchestra that came from Boston, was composed solely of young people, the youngest being 13, with the eldest being only 21. They looked so genuine, fresh, naïve even and yet, they played their parts with serious attention, experience and dedication beyond their young age. Their conductor was the famous Benjamin Zander, and I remembered what he had once said about success: "It's not about wealth and fame and power, it's about how many shiny eyes I have around me." And shiny eyes there were! The passion they played with directly penetrated the hearts (and ears, and eyes!) of each and everyone in the music hall. The joy of playing and the honour they felt towards the audience was contagiously inspiring.

Such performance deserved the warmest praise. So, as soon as the last note had departed the room, we all rose up immediately to a wild applause. The emotion that was evoked resulted in streams of tears on the cheeks of these young performers – at least a third of them cried in front of us and we cried with them. A truly powerful experience!

A thought was immediately born in my mind – when was the last time I plunged into my creative work with such passion, dedication and honesty? When did you? We're all busy with producing work for a purpose. The purpose of selling the idea, the purpose of selling ourselves, the purpose of getting something in return like money, rewards and recognition. Often, we forget to simply enjoy it and to passionately dive into the creative process.

Do you remember your first creative idea that you presented to your CD, with trembling hands, a blank mind from the sleepless night you have just endured and 10 cups of coffee? Do you remember that piece of music you played in front of a 'huge' crowd of 10 people? Do you remember the script you wrote for a short movie that was never produced, but still lies in your drawer, waiting for you to pick up that pure genius of innocent creation?

Maybe those 'naïve' works weren't perfect. Maybe since then you've gained more skills, more knowledge to produce work technically better. But how much more meaning it brought into your life in that moment compared to how and what you create today, even though, you might have even received some precious reward for it.

Passion is actually the most precious reward we can receive. It's an experience felt by both the 'performer' as well as the 'audience.' It's a fuel for pure engagement in the creative process. When it's lacking, we lose the drive to be creative. There is a way to feel that uncomplicated passion again, as if we were playing for the first time in Zander's orchestra. The way to do it is by daring to dream, by being honest with ourselves, and as often as possible, we should check those shiny eyes – first in the mirror and then in others.

Published originally on AMSTERDAM AD BLOG


© 2020 Joanna Stone