This is how we conduct business

First, take a breath. Then, wave your arms about in a way that makes it look like you know what you’re doing.

Carel joined a group of six other business leaders at the Linder Auditorium recently to conduct the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra. The rookie conductors were brought together for the event called “Conduct an Orchestra” by Business Arts South Africa (BASA) under the watchful eye of legendary South African musical director and conductor Richard Cock.

“It was incredible to explore the parallels between running a business and conducting an orchestra,” said Carel. “What resonated most with me was when Richard said, ‘The musicians know what they’re doing. What they need from their conductor is guidance, inspiration and spirit.’

“It’s the same in business. As a leader your job is not to do the work but to motivate people to do what they do best. Invariably they do it better than you ever could!”

Carel was (naturally) the first conductor to stand behind the podium on the day. He conducted the orchestra in a lively rendition of Queen’s We Will Rock You wearing a suitably over-the-top red band coat.

“It’s daunting to get up in front of a group of experts who expect you lead them in a discipline that you’re completely unfamiliar with – especially if you’re first,” he said. “It passed by in a flash, and I was surprised when we got the end of the piece without incident!”

The main point is to come across as if you know exactly what you’re doing.

Composer Peter Louis van Dijk, who was part of the Conduct an Orchestra audience, put it succinctly: “Bullshit baffles brains,” he said. “Always be confident when you start. The orchestra will know if you’re competent by bar four.”

“Confidence was my weakest point,” said Carel. “One of the clarinettists said she felt nervous because I seemed nervous. It was a good lesson.”

The other conductors were:

  • Rudolf Gouws, retired chief economist of Rand Merchant Bank (for whom he currently consults and serves on the board), honorary professor of economics at Stellenbosch University and chairman of the advisory committee for the Woordfees arts festival*. Rudolf chose Mozart’s Turkish Rondo (Rondo Alla Turca).
  • Gail Walters, head of group corporate affairs and social capital at Hollard and member of the BASA board. Gail took up the violin four months before the Conduct an Orchestra event. She is learning on an instrument that’s been in her family for more than 100 years. Gail conducted Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla.
  • Michelle Constant and Lonwabo Mavuso of BASA leading the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra

    Michelle Constant and Lonwabo Mavuso of BASA leading the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra

    Michelle Constant, CEO of BASA, who conducted In the Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suites by Edvard Grieg like an absolute boss. Michelle was assisted at the podium by the very capable (and musically literate) Lonwabo Mavuso, BASA’s marketing and operations manager.

  • Paul Vonk, head of Mayfair Seeds in sub-Saharan Africa, conducted another lively classical favourite, Summer (Part III) from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
  • Greg Maloka is the managing director of KayaFM, a close media partner of our client Purple Group. Greg chose to conduct a kwaito number, Shibobo by TKZee, which he believes marked a shift in the cultural needle of South African urban music.

“The Conduct an Orchestra programme marks a significant coming-together between business and the arts,” said Michelle. “There are so many ways these two exciting sectors can learn from each other through partnership and conversation. Today’s teachings on leadership are a good example of this.”

If you’re interested in booking a Conduct an Orchestra session, contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction.

* This year’s Woordfees runs from 4 to 13 March.

Also read Business leaders ignite Linder Auditorium at unique BASA event

conducting 2

Carel in full swing