Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Musicians Make the Best Politicians

Zoltan Kodaly, the Hungarian composer, musician, and educator -- one of my greatest heroes -- taught that the characteristics of a good musician are these:

1. A well-trained ear
2. A well-trained intelligence
3. A well-trained heart
4. A well-trained hand.

I believe these are also the characteristics of a good politician. My reasoning:

1. A well-trained ear. Representing the people requires the ability to listen, truly listen, to constituents with concerns. A representative must be able to listen to both sides of a given issue and to keep an open mind while he listens. Representatives must also be able to listen to the pulse of the public and discern the values of the community. Truly, a politician must have a well-trained ear.

2. A well-trained intelligence. I hardly need elaborate on this one. All the gifts of education -- the ability to communicate, to reason, to do math, and the capacity to learn -- these must be the politician's gifts.

3. A well-trained heart. A politician must be grounded by solid ethical values which can only originate in the heart. A politician must also be fired by passion for the issues or he will not survive the rigors of office. Are we talking about a local politician? Then she must care, and care deeply, that her community is healthy and that her neighbors are well served.

4. A well-trained hand. Where the musician must be practiced in technique, the politician must be grounded in hands-on experience. Experience with a daunting labyrinth of local, state and federal law is essential to the politician who wishes to apply these laws for the benefit of his community. Experience with people, systems, and organizations is a must. Experience can come in many forms -- through volunteerism, relevant experience in industry, or through prior office -- and is the best indicator of future performance.

A pianist in private life, I have often observed another comparison to be made to politics. The musical accompanist must be at once follower and leader. The pianist follows the soloist, but also gives strong support. The organist follows the conductor, but leads the congregation. The same circular reasoning also holds true for the representative. Following the will of the people, he leads them where they want to go. As the bumper sticker says, "If the people will lead, then the leaders will follow."

One final comparison. I believe that what Kodaly said about art is equally true about government -- that it is "one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of humanity." Empowering you to be part of your government and involving you in your community is what this blog and I are all about.

Thus I find myself, as both a musician and a politician, asking you to measure me by Kodaly's standard, and see if you can't trust me with your vote next Tuesday.

If you can't trust me with your vote next Tuesday, then I hope you'll be willing to trust me with your piano students next January. I'll have a lot of spare time on my hands.


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