Ben Zander’s TED Talk

My husband loves to listen to TED talks while he’s puttering in the kitchen, and he recently sent me a link to Ben Zander’s TED talk from 2008, about the transformative power of classical music. (Ben Zander has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic since 1979, and is a noted public speaker on leadership issues.)

Using a Chopin Etude to illustrate his points, Zander explains several musical concepts in a charming and amusing fashion to an audience of 1600 people, and then plays the entire Etude, requesting that everyone think about a departed loved one. The effect is quite amazing.

To quote from Zander’s talk, “there are some people who think that classical music is dying. And there are some of us who think you ain’t seen nothing yet.” 

Think of it. 1,600 people, busy people, involved in all sorts of different things, listening, understanding and being moved by a piece by Chopin. Now, that is something. Am I sure that every single person followed that, understood it, was moved by it? Of course, I can’t be sure.

But I’ll tell you what happened to me in Ireland during the Troubles, 10 years ago, and I was working with some Catholic and Protestant kids on conflict resolution. And I did this with them — a risky thing to do, because they were street kids. And one of them came to me the next morning and he said, “You know, I’ve never listened to classical music in my life, but when you played that shopping piece …”

He said, “My brother was shot last year and I didn’t cry for him. But last night, when you played that piece, he was the one I was thinking about. And I felt the tears streaming down my face. And it felt really good to cry for my brother.” So I made up my mind at that moment that classical music is for everybody.Everybody.

I highly recommend that you take 20 minutes and enjoy this delightful talk — it will make you smile, reaffirm what you know about the power of classical music, and it will raise your hopes about the future of classical music.

— Ann Drinan

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