Thursday, December 3

Tradition is Really History's Last Great Idea

On Leadership

Life requires that you search, seek and attend in order to be learn-ed (say it like Homer Simpson).  When I realized that Susie Orbach was in London, ticket purchase quickly ensued.  Having read her book "Fat is a Feminist Issue" 15 years ago (so many articles, do a personal search for reviews), knowing the brilliance that is her mind, she delighfully stirring up the body image pot, and living her ideas outloud, without exception my attendance was required at this event.

On the evening of November 30, I arrived early (shocking) and with great joy.  I realized upon my arrival that this was to be a casual disucssion with Orbach and Marin Alsop.  Who is she you and I might ask?  The first woman to be appointed as the principal conductor to a major United Kingdom orchestra (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, 2002), then in turn, the first to a United States orchestra (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, 2007).  The cheers in my soul errupted but due to social constraints of being with strangers in public, they did not explode out of my mouth. 

Add to this Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty a Human Rights organization, as moderator and oh what an evening I was about to have!  I was relishing in having one amazing person on stage and here were three!

Digression: For those individuals who have never heard an academic feminist speak you are missing a piece of your intellectual soul.  I have been attending such lectures since 1991 and the way in which these women weave their words into ideas, that meander and plant seeds in the listeners mind, produce such incredible perspectives on existence.  Enthraling.  Go!  You must!

This night I was blessed with three and what was 1.5 hours, felt like 20 minutes.  Not enough time, words or questions.  I, as the rest of the audience, would have sat in gracious awe for another 2 hours.

I shall share with you the notes I scribed as they discussed Leardership, which you can read as a package deal with individual thoughts:

  • Alsop - 'Do not be afraid of losing what you have but stand up and address the issues.'
  • Alsop - 'I am appalled that 2007 is another first for women.  In the 21st century we are still doing firsts?!  That is tragic.'
  • Orbach - 'What is the difference between the divine parts of leadership and the bog, everyday standards of leadership?'
  • Orbach - How do you do excellence?  As a woman, how do you take up your space, and do what you need to do without alienating and being alone?
  • Alsop - 'Now that we have one [female conductor], are we going to stop?  Are we as a population going to say, 'now there is one, and that is enough.' '
  • We all have limited time.  If so, do we spend it influencing, leading, matching, and mentoring?
  • Also - 'Try not to be discouraged.  [Leadership is] emotionally draining work.'
  • Orbach - 'Young women who are in positions of power do not believe that they have earned the right to be there.  I counsel many of them and they just don't feel that the public space they take up, is deservedly their own.' (paraphrased)
  • Orbach - 'In the 1960's we wanted to change the terms of engagement, and to open the influence and possibilities.  We were a collective, struggling together.  Now the struggle has been privatized again.  We have returned to individuals struggling alone.'
  • Orbach - Men have always had the emotional support of a woman - mother, wife - and they are then able to go and take over public spaces.  How is this experience different for women?
  • Alsop - 'As a women who has achieved a first, it has been interesting for me to watch what kind of women have been allowed to pass through the system.  And it is very controlled .'
  • Chakrabarti - an audience member mentioned the Guerrilla Girls in New York, and Chakrabarti briefly told the audience who they were.
  • Alsop mentioned that Anna Quindlen was one of her heroes and a friend.
  • Alsop - 'You should never take people's advice.'
  • Alsop - 'Tradition is really history's last great idea.'
  • Alsop on her vision for her orchestra - 'As a leader I share my vision and it is not democratic.  It is my vision and you agree or go.'
  • Orbach - 'The president of Harvard, Drew Faust, was asked how she leads, and she said that she has to repeat the same message over, over and over.'
I announced a mentorship program for the orchestra and I told every musicuan that I expected 100% participation.  If you look at a list of people who are satisfied with their jobs, happy at the top, not happy at the bottom, musicians in orchestras are second from the bottom.  So this added responsibility with no monetary compensation was not taken well.  For an entire year I, and others, listened to every objection, complaint, concern and worry.  Then, one year from my original annoucement, we began the program having altered it according to the musicians needs.  We now regularly sit with a child beside us during rehersals as we mentor them.  It is now one of the highlights of every orchestra members' job. - Alsop
The evening reminded me that I adore academic people.  I have missed the academic community and want to continue being, spending time, and enjoying the great minds of academic and non-academic people all around me.

Additional Websites for your enjoyment:

The Bernstein Project

Naxos Music
Alsop was one of the first conductors to begin working with Naxos.

Too Fat for Fashion
Sometimes you don't have to start a blog when life pisses you off, because someone already did it for you.  :)

Thin and the Third World
Imagine living in poverty and believing one type of beauty is only acceptable form, and it is the unattainable Western form.

Body Typed: A Movie in Physical Perfection

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