Grammy nominated Benjamin Zander gave visual representations of “The Art of Possibility” on stage at Midland College in early February.
Zander, who is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, came to MC with the Cassatt Quartet and provided an evening of insight and entertainment.
Zander was interactive with the audience; before he started, he insisted that the first row of seats in the auditorium were filled. Zander requested that people sitting in the back row moved closer.
“People sit in the back because they’re afraid and want to hide,” Zander said.
Zander’s lecture, titled “The Art of Possibility” is based on the collaborative book written by him and Rosamund Stone Zander. At the beginning of the lecture Zander had set up two easels on the stage; each of the easels had a large pad of paper on them. On one he drew his representation of “the downward spiral,” and on the other he drew a visual representation of “possibility” or positive outlook.
According to Zander, there is never just one way to go about something— there are always multiple options. Zander refers to the exploration of these options as “The Art of Possibility.”
Throughout the evening, Zander joked around and interacted with the audience. At one point of the show he asked if anyone had a birthday coming up; a man whose birthday was the following day raised his hand and Zander brought him to the front. Zander then instructed the audience to sing him Happy Birthday. The auditorium was filled with the sound of one of the most well-known songs in the world.
“That was great but we could do it even better,” Zander said. He then instructed the audience to put emphasis on different words and add in various hand movements while singing. “Now, after tonight, you’ll never be able to sing Happy Birthday the same,” Zander joked. “You’ll think back to this night and make a decision about how you will sing.”
Zander then took the stage and sat down at the piano. He demonstrated the way that a child learning to play the piano plays throughout the years. He started off enthusiastically, putting an emphasis on every other note, then played less and less enthusiastically until the child quit piano lessons at age eleven.
This demonstration was to give the audience a humorous example of the various ways that a single song could be played on the piano. He then played a few other pieces and put impulses on various keys while playing to elaborate on the various ways a single song can be played.
According to Zander, “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.” Zander asked the audience to imagine if Martin Luther King had said “I have a dream. Of course, I’m not sure they’ll be up to it.”
The Cassatt Quartet took the stage and performed towards the end of the evening. First the quartet performed a piece on their own and then Zander joined to instruct them on how they could play their piece differently.
Zander then gave them insight on what notes to put emphasis on and when to stand while playing. And although the quartet was playing the same song as before, the various emphasis’ that they put into made it sound completely different than when they played it the first time.
The last story Zander told was one he heard from a woman who survived the Holocaust.
He said the woman and her brother were separated from their parents at a very young age when they were sent to Auschwitz.
Zander recalled the girl’s words: “‘We were in the train going to Auschwitz, and I looked down and saw my brother’s shoes were missing.’ And I said, ‘Why are you so stupid, can’t you keep your things together for goodness’ sake?’”
Zander said that this was the last thing she ever said to her brother. According to Zander, the woman told him, “I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.”
Zander ended with saying that it would be difficult for us to live that way “but it is a possibility.”