United Conservatory of Music June 2019

JUNE 2019



FROM MUSICIAN TO LEADER What Music Taught Me About Leadership

When I first started playing the violin as a child, I never imagined that one day I would be leading a music school. I didn’t realize this was the road I was on, but looking back, I learned so many lessons about leadership because of music. Great leaders have to be excited about what they do. The reason I’m able to work such long hours at UCM, sometimes 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is because I’m excited to come to work. Even the daily grind, so to speak, doesn’t feel like drudgery. There’s passion in everything I say and do, which I believe is apparent to the staff, teachers, and students. Don’t get me wrong; just because you’re passionate doesn’t mean the work is easy or something you want to do all the time. Just like in music, no matter how much you love the instrument, sometimes you don’t want to practice. However, if you are learning a piece that strikes a chord with you, then that passion can get you through long hours of practice. That said, I know better than to overwork myself. I’ve always been more of a workaholic, even before I was faced with the responsibilities of leadership, but I make myself take breaks. When you’re learning music, you need to practice hard, but you also need to take a break so your body can relax and your mind can process the lesson. This is how you avoid getting burned out. I work hard at UCM, but I take as many small breaks as I can to avoid hitting that wall. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. UCM has seen a lot of great success in the last year, and I’m proud to have been part of guiding us in this direction. I wouldn’t be half the leader I am now were it not for the lessons I learned in music. I have worked with many bosses who were not good leaders because they couldn’t get what they needed out of the group they were supposed to be leading. As a leader, you’ll never be able to please everyone, but you should be able to get people on board with your vision. Great leaders are able to get other people excited about their goals. When you truly share a vision, great things come of it.

The best way to do this is by showing people the end goal. Don’t keep your dreams a secret. Share what you know your organization can achieve. Like how a musician needs to be able to make their

audience feel something when they play, people need to be able to feel your goals and really visualize them

to get on board. This is something I have been able to achieve with the staff and teachers at UCM and I can’t thank them enough. For me, helping people and

kids learn music is a worthy mission, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without my team feeling like it’s a worthy mission, too.

The most important thing I’ve learned about leadership is the value of a positive attitude. Every leader will make mistakes, I certainly have, but much like in music, the mistakes are less important than how you recover from them. I’ve never heard a perfect performance, but I’ve witnessed a lot of magic moments that only come when a musician makes a mistake and is able to recover in their unique way. This is the kind of magic a great leader needs to bring to the table. By channeling a musician’s mentality into my role as a leader, I’m able to help create an environment where our students, our staff, and our teachers are able to live up to their potential. That’s my real job as a leader.

—Christopher Scherer

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