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Bright Eyes

I was sitting in the Denver airport last week during a long layover when I absent-mindedly picked up my cell phone and a youtube video popped up on the screen. The title caught my eye—The Transformative Power of Classical Music. Having played the flute for many, many years, I’ve always appreciated classical music.

Benjamin Zander, an accomplished musician and director of a symphony, with great humor and talent, demonstrated with an audience of 1600 people the power of classical music to affect their mood. Then, in an interesting twist, he turned the

conversation to the topic of leadership and the definition of “success.” He explained that the success of the conductor of an orchestra depends on his ability to empower his musicians to connect and release the talent that is deep within their soul. The conductor doesn’t make a sound. His job is to inspire his musicians to make beautiful sound while he remains silent.

Then he asked an obvious question--how do you know when you are successful? Is it money? Notoriety? Is it applause? “No,” he said, “it’s about how many ‘shining eyes’ you have around you.” He went on to explain that as a conductor of a symphony he knows when he is successful when he looks out at the eyes of the musicians gathered around him as they release the magic that lies within.

It occurred to me that conductors of symphonies and teachers have a lot in common. Our success depends on our ability to empower and inspire our students to access and release the talent within. And we know we are successful when we see the shining eyes of our students—curious about the world and engaged in learning. I’ve always said that the joy of teaching is the moment when we see bright eyes and shining faces looking back at us.

But then Mr. Zander makes another profound statement. “When we look around us and don’t see bright eyes, we need to ask ourselves, “‘What kind of person am I being?’” His question gave me pause. His question continues to echo in my mind every day. What kind of person am I being? What kind of person are you being? Do you see shining eyes looking back at you?

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