General Session: Music on the menu

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Maestro Benjamin ZanderSeveral years ago, Maestro Benjamin Zander made an amazing discovery: he realized that, as the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, he never makes a sound. He determined that he gets his power and his passion from his ability to make other people powerful.

Maestro Zander told of his discovery in a candid and passionate performance of his presentation, "The Orchestra: A Model for Leadership," at the 138th AVMA Annual Convention's General Session on July 14, at Boston's FleetCenter.

"When I discovered that, everything changed," Maestro Zander said. "I discovered that my job is to awaken the possibility in my orchestra members, and if, in interaction with me, the eyes of the musicians were shining, I was doing my job."

Although Maestro Zander's profession may seem a long way from veterinary medicine, his presentation left audience members with shining eyes and energized souls. He explained that no matter where you are in life, as a leader, you are a conduit to help each person reach his or her maximum potential. "My job involves reminding my orchestra members why they went into music in the first place." This thought can be applied to any leader's position.

Granted, this takes hard work, and it takes confidence. Less-than-favorable leadership is based on resignation, competition, and anger. It is measured by the grades you get and the money you make. Because of that, you may often hear a voice telling you that you can't do any better.

"You must get a hold of that voice inside you," Maestro Zander said. "One of the characteristics of a leader is that he or she not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he or she is leading to realize whatever their dreams are. Imagine if Martin Luther King had said, 'I have a dream, but I'm not sure you're up for it.'"

"Radiating possibility" was his mantra that evening.

In the world of radiating possibility, according to the maestro, anything is possible. "The secret of life is that it's all invented: the negativity, the numbers, the hierarchy, the grades. So, why not invent something that completely lights up your life? If there is worry, you will never take the risks that you need to become great at whatever it is that you do."

Maestro Zander felt honored to speak to the members of the veterinary profession. "Through the years, my family grew up with dozens of pets," he said. "Veterinarians were like members of the priesthood. I am in awe of what you do."

But his presentation would not have been complete without a little music. He displayed his skill as a pianist in a moving Chopin piece. He encouraged the audience to sing happy birthday to AVMA Auxiliary administrator Patricia Rambert, and finally brought the house to their feet to sing, in German, the chorale to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, "Ode to Joy."

Following the presentation, a preview of next year's AVMA convention, complete with the sounds of Nashville, filled the FleetCenter.

After dining in the concourse, the Marlins took over. The four brothers performed popular tunes ranging from big band to bluegrass to classic rock 'n' roll, and left attendees dancing to the jitterbug and polka.

The evening's events were co-sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. and Bayer Corp.