Who could have guessed that our next meeting would occur 20 years later at NEC through the Abreu Fellows program? He is as generous and approachable as that time in China, and the moment was just as memorable. Fittingly, he spoke about the importance of making moments memorable: both as teachers and performers. The two are inextricably linked because building trust is at their core.
He drew a triangle on the board labeling each vertex with the words Content, Communication and Reception. When these three things are aligned, he explained, “You get magic.” They are all interconnected, like a circuit. If the three are not in balance, the electricity won’t flow. But when all three come together, a new spark or “recreation of a moment” occurs. His message to us: make everything you do memorable to help your students become curious, passionate, have disciplined imagination and empathy – the purpose of music.
I had a chance to see this concept played out in Ben Zander's Music Interpretation class this week, when a NEC cellist performed a Bach prelude for the class. This talented young musician played beautifully, and I couldn't imagine how her performance could be improved upon. But Ben, who invites his students to work in the realm of possibility, wanted to help balance her mastery of Content with the other key points in Yo-Yo Ma's triangle: Communication and Reception. "Examine the architecture of the music so that you can better communicate the music to your audience. Be open to telling the story of the music; not your story, but the music's story." He asked her to play the music's story to a guest from Pepperdine University who is enrolled in a doctoral program in Education and Psychology. Attending one of Ben Zander's classes is part of their leadership course curriculum.
What transpired was the "spark" or "recreation of a moment" that Yo-Yo Ma had been talking about earlier in the week. Everyone in the class, especially our Pepperdine visitor, heard and felt what Ben later described as "the beauty we achieve when we give up ourselves." Thank you, Yo-Yo Ma and Ben Zander! You are indeed makers of memorable moments.