Shaper: Itay Talgam

Show aired on 13th June 2015

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Cantaloupe Island from Herbie Hancock; I like him, I like him a lot. Good morning, this is me, Elliot Moss on Jazz FM with Jazz Shapers; the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business, a Business Shaper. I have a cracker today of a Business Shaper, he is none other than Mr Itay Talgam; the Israeli conductor, been called the conductor of music now turned to the conductor of people, he is a business guru, he is fantastic, he knows so much I am sure we won’t be able to fit it all in in an hour but I will do my best. Lots coming up from Itay Talgam very shortly. In addition to hearing from him you will also be hearing from our programme partners at Mischon De Reya some words of advice for your business and as well as all of that of course, some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, including Avishai Cohen, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, James Brown and this, it’s new, from Dee Dee Bridgewater.

That was Whooping Blues from Dee Dee Bridgewater, new and yet sounds like a classic already. My Business Shaper today here on Jazz Shapers is Itay Talgam as I mentioned earlier. He was a conductor or he is a conductor but actually now he has taken all those incredible learnings from the world of music and he has been for many years applying them to the world of business. Itay thank you so much for joining me.

Itay Talgam
Well thank you for having me.

Elliott Moss
It’s a real pleasure. Tell me, the uninitiated, the stupid man sitting here looking at you, what it is that you actually do? What do you think… how do you describe what you do?

Itay Talgam
Well I see myself as bringing a kind of a distant mirror from my own perspective as an orchestral conductor and placing it in front of business people, or educators, or politicians or even God forbid, Army men who really want or need to look at themselves in a new way as leaders.

Elliot Moss
Now your background is as a musician, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, you have a Degree in philosophy I believe from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. You have worked with Leonard Bernstein, he was one of your teachers, you’ve been on Ted, you’ve been at Davos, I mean you’ve been asked to come back to lots of places to talk about business and about where music fits in. Why do they keep asking you to come back?

Itay Talgam
Oh maybe because I do not tell them anything. What I do instead is just help them observe something which they are happy to say find very interesting. So instead of coming and look this is my experience and since I am such a successful person you should learn from me, which of course you know, wouldn’t work at all, I invite them to watch together some great conductors on video and what comes out is fascinating because they obviously refer to what they see in their own business language and I have my own musical language and instead of saying you know, ‘come on this is irrelevant, let me tell you what it really is… the guys doing this and that’; we simply look at the gap between our two ways of seeing this reality and then we learn something together and this actually the only way to learn something, together.

Elliot Moss
And the different styles from Muti I think and Strauss and I mentioned a few, Kleiber, Bernstein, all these incredible composers, they have different styles, they have commanding styles, they have calm styles, dancing styles, the style of dialogue. These are the foundation I believe of your new book as well. You have a book called The Ignorant Maestro, published by Penguin, apparently very good. I haven’t read it yet but I am going to read it now that I have met you. But in there, is that… do you take strength every time you look at these people? Do you see something new?

Itay Talgam
The thing is again these people are not there to be imitated. They are there to you know, for me they are like the Gods of the Greek Pantheon. You know they are architypes of ways of actually making a difference in the world and there are so many ways to do it and you cannot say that one is necessarily better than the other but of course there is always a price to be paid for being whoever you are and there are different situations where you chose, if you could only, you know, have the whole spectrum of leadership behaviours, taking something from everybody, then you could choose. What I find is that most people, most people I see are very successful people but since they succeeded because they were tuscanini type of conductors, of lawyers, of you know, politicians, then they say ‘okay, good I’ll stick with that’ then when they are simply able to see themselves in another light, through another architype then I think wonderful things can happen to people who haven’t changed for long.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more insight from my extraordinary Business Shaper, Itay Talgam, conductor turned… well conductor for music to conductor of people. Time for some music, this is from aptly for our Israeli guest today, this is an Israeli artist, doublebase player, you may know him, Avishai Cohen with Lost Tribe.

The uplifting sound of Avishai Cohen with Lost Tribe. Itay Talgam is my Business Shaper, he is a conductor who also now and for many years has been helping business people see the light in terms of what different conducting styles can do in leadership terms. When you conducted, just tell me that feeling as you stand up in front of the audience and you are facing these wonderful group of people which you have helped bring together and you know behind you are people literally on the edges of their chairs waiting for something magical to happen. Tell me how that feels for you?

Itay Talgam
Well Elliot you do have a very beautiful romantic view of concert life. Usually what you have is a group of over worked musicians who actually play this very same symphony for a million times before and they don’t really want to do it again. I don’t want to speak about the audience but obviously you know, not everybody is there for the love of music as it is, it is a very social event, so the thing is really to create some kind of gap between the, the… what people already know in a way again to bring about fresh exploration, the feeling of this is happening in the moment although it is a Beethoven symphony that was played for 200 years and a million times with greater conductors than yourself. So that means really to put your ego aside and to see how best you can actually help other people bring new thoughts into the business of playing a symphony and this is why I call my book the Ignorant Maestro because if you come knowing everything, people immediately will say ‘okay you’re a good conductor maybe but we had Bernstein here, we had you know Kleiber here, we have Karan here, who are you?’ and you know, even if only for that you should be wiser than just to say ‘listen to me’. But really the only way to get the full cooperation of people is to give them ownership to work together towards their own emancipation as artists and of course it has to happen in a way that not only every individual ego will be there but they all in some way harmonise together. So you ask me how I feel? I mostly feel you know, that this is a huge thing and if I get, you know my greatest teacher, Ronald Bernstein actually said, ‘if for 2% of the time when he, the great Bernstein is on the podium and he feels that everybody is in it with him, the audience and the orchestra then he feels very lucky’. 2% of the time.

Elliot Moss
Now take that into business for a moment and we will explore more of this later. So I am the business leader. I’ve got this team of 40 people, 100 people, 2,000 people and you are telling me that however good I might be, put my ego aside. I am going to have real true engagement in the moment for 2%. Is that your starting point for people in business? You can bring these people together but think about that. Think about those moments of magic are very very rare. Is this really the question inside about bringing out from the mundane and the process because you say, well it is not as romantic as you portrayed? Is that the question for business and people in business?

Itay Talgam
I sincerely believe it, I sincerely believe that in business, just like in music you can have those golden moments and of course if you think it is going to happen all the time you are going to be frustrated and you know, lose your self-confidence which is not good. That is why I found what Lenny said, you know, about this 2% very helpful. Otherwise I would feel like a complete idiot every time I stood there and it didn’t happen. I know how rare it is but when this happens it gives everybody, you know, that takes part mental, spiritual fuel for years to come.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more insight from my wonderful Business Shaper today, Itay Talgam. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that, some words of wisdom, I hope they are wise, I hope you hit your 2%, for you personally from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya for your individual business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning I have the privilege of talking to someone special from the world of business, a Business Shaper. If you have missed any of the previous hundred and seventy I believe we are up to, or even more then you can go into iTunes and find many of them in there. If you are travelling on British Airways, that’s your destination then go into the Speech Radio Station, you will find us over there and obviously CityAM is another place where you can seek out these wonderful people. My Business Shaper today is Itay Talgam, he is Israeli, he is a conductor, he has become a bit of thing, a bit of a name in the world of business leadership. You may have caught him on Ted. You may also have heard of his new book called the Ignorant Maestro. All about the different ways that you can learn how to work in business in a more effective way, how to think about your leadership styles through the lens of music. Very happy you are here and we were talking about the 2% just before the travel. The other 98% is reality. How do you help a business leader cope with the other 98%?

Itay Talgam
Well luckily also the 2% is a reality. They are just different sides of reality and I think if you use your other 90 something percent to build towards the culmination, you know, the coming together of all the effort then you will enjoy the process too. The process consists to my humble opinion of actually first of all bringing yourself to a point where you can disassociate yourself from your own knowledge. So create a space for other people to come up with new thoughts and then the need as a leader to put forward some kind of platform which is on one hand strong enough to make people want to go on it, you know, and explore the different ideas within the organisation and on the other hand its flexible enough to be actually changed by people. So you come as a conductor with your interpretation and you must have an interpretation and then the sound of the orchestra comes in and something changes and you say this is still my interpretation but now you know, we are in the Middle East and the light is so different and the light of you know London and you just have to take it into… now if the platform is good enough then it will keep changing and evolving and the way to do it which is the third element of my thought about good leadership is being able to exercise what I call key listening instead of key… key note listening I am sorry instead of key note speaking. Key note speaking is what we all do. You know, we tell people what to do. Key note listening is being able again to listen to people in a way that will make them speak differently, you know, as if you know you want to be very intimate with somebody so you, somehow you produce something new from you know, you didn’t know you had it in yourself but this is the kind of listening I want to be able to help leaders create within themselves.

Elliot Moss
I am sure you are listening very closely because Itay Talgam, my Business Shaper is full of fantastic insight. Time for some more music, this is another choice of Itay and it is Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Moanin’.

That was Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with the fantastic Moanin’, as I mentioned one of the song choices of Itay Talgam my Business Shaper. Why did you chose that particular piece?

Itay Talgam
Oh it is a piece of personal history. My father, Moshi, Moshi Talgam was born to an Arabic speaking Jewish family. They were from Aleppo from Syria and yet his greatest love was Art Blakey and because I was playing Bach suites and Gregorian chant and Arwick music and I thought you know, how can somebody actually have one personality build out of so many you know, eclectic things coming together and then I started thinking about you know, this idea of creating something unified based on those many gaps between different cultures, between different disciplines. So you know, usually I meet with business people and they say ‘oh my organisation is only you know, thinking as one unit and we are going to conquer the world together’ and ignoring every little gap and I say ‘no look for the gaps because in the final count the gaps are what helps you to build not only a more diverse and healthy but a stronger unity’.

Elliot Moss
And this bringing together, this identification of gaps, almost the tension between the gaps that creates that is the place for creativity. It sounds like you filled them yourself with a lot of personal, you bring a lot of your personal life and your personality into the cerebral part of what you have learnt. Do you encourage leaders to do the same?

Itay Talgam
You know I follow the example of Leonard Bernstein. He had no boundaries between his personal life, political views, you know and working with other musicians. It was, I call it the whole you know human approach. If you look at people like Muti, great conductor but he really sees his collaborators as instruments to his own cause. You look at people like Kleiber. The most fantastic ever maybe but he is only looking for professional collaboration and fantastic results. With Len it was you know, you have to bring everything that you have, you have to bring your loves, your experience of suffering, your joys and of course also your expertise in playing the violin and what you know about malar and everything and only when you have all of that and you put your idea of how to play this malar piece then Bernstein says ‘okay, now you are my partner and I can you know enter the dialogue with you’. But you have to take responsibility for your side of the dialogue and the wider you know, the scope of you know, human experience that you bring in the better the connection.

Elliot Moss
We will have our final chat with Itay today plus play a track from James Brown. That’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was The Boss from the boss, James Brown. My boss today is Itay Talgam, he if you haven’t been listening and you should have been and you should go into playback if you have missed it, he is the Israeli conductor turned into someone who business people and politicians and very many successful people round the world listen to for inspiration is a big word but I am going to say it because it is inspiration because he gets people to think and to think hard about what it means to be a leader. We have been hearing about all sorts of things around leadership. The landscape has changed dramatically for people in business mainly brought on by kind of 24/7 technology, by connectivity with people saying ‘I am not going to buy you, I don’t like you, what about this, why don’t you change that’. Massively hard for both political and business leaders. Your approach still applies? Still as important now or even more important because of all these changes?

Itay Talgam
Well I am quite happy to say that no matter who I meet in terms of you know, where they come from, senior or less senior or in business or industry or education or… people need the same things basically. There might be different denials, degrees, denial, degrees of you know, but I believe that even on the phone, even emailing with somebody you can come across as a listener or simply ones who wants to get away with the maximum and I think the basic principles of you know, human behaviour that creates the best opportunity for everybody to thrive exists in technology as it is you know, in old style life.

Elliot Moss
And music itself in your life, still important. Do you need to play, do you need to conduct, is it a fix or is it more you are now an observer? How does that play in your world?

Itay Talgam
I have to say music for me was always a kind of a tool to connect to people. Now that I connect to people through verbal dialogues, you know, lecturing, teaching, observing together. I still like very much to be able to move my hand and get a wonderful roar from an orchestra, it really is a beautiful moment but I learnt how to translate other you know, moments that may seem more mundane into the same kind of spiritual beauty.

Elliot Moss
Itay you have been a fantastic guest. Just before I let you go. What’s your song choice and why, what’s your second song choice I should say and why have you chosen this one?

Itay Talgam
We went for the Modern Jazz Quartet. Well, again it’s a bit of nostalgic you know, kind of my very young years, my father was playing this on his record player but I also I think the special sound of this vibraphone, you know, a special other worldliness of the sound is something that drew me again to this connection of different, different worlds coming together even before I knew the world music.

Elliot Moss
Well here it is and thank you so much again, you have been a fantastic guest. Modern Jazz Quartet and this is Bluesology.

That was Bluesology from the Modern Jazz Quartet, one of the song choices of my Business Shaper today, Itay Talgam. What a remarkable man, charismatic, talked about being a leader and a listener. Boy was he both of those things. If you loved what he said and I hope you did, then do check out his new book, it’s called the Ignorant Maestro and it’s from Penguin and I think its available right now. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday, 9.00am for another edition of Jazz Shapers. Stay with us right here now though because coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

A protégé and disciple of the great Leonard Bernstein, Itay Talgam has conducted many prominent orchestras and ensembles worldwide, including the Orchestre de Paris, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Leipzig Opera House. He also teaches leadership to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and universities, and at conferences around the world, including TED, Google’s Zeitgeist, and the World Economic Forum at Davos. His book The Ignorant Maestro is published by Penguin.

Follow Itay on Twitter @itaytalgam

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“…these people are not there to be imitated. For me, they are like the Gods of the Greek Pantheon – they are archetypes of ways of actually making a difference in the world.”

“The only way to get the full cooperation of people is to give them ownership to work together towards their own emancipation as artists.”

“I sincerely believe that in business, just like in music, you can have those golden moments and if you think it is going to happen all the time, you are going to be frustrated.”

“I still like very much to be able to move my hand and get a wonderful roar from an orchestra.”

“…dissociate yourself from your own knowledge…. create a space for other people to come up with new thoughts.”

“You have to bring everything that you have – you have to bring your loves, your experience of suffering, your joys and of course, also your expertise.”

“No matter who I meet in terms of where they come from, senior or less senior, or in business, or industry, or education or…people need the same things basically.”

“You have to take responsibility for your side of the dialogue, and the wider the scope of human experience that you bring, the better the connection.”

“Music for me was always a kind of tool to connect people.”