Nierenberg 69 with his orchestra. Nierenberg sees a
connection between orchestrating music and orchestrating business.
Roger Nierenberg 69 teaches leadership skills from the conductor's
Maestro Roger Nierenberg69, music director of the Stamford
Symphony Orchestra, and conductor laureate of the Jacksonville Symphony
Orchestra, is at home in concert halls around the world. But unlike
most orchestra conductors, he wields his baton in the marketplace
as well. Nierenberg founded the Music Paradigm, which he describes
as "an innovative, interactive learning experience for organizations."
He imparts management savvy to business leaders by exploring the
similarities between business organizations and symphony orchestras.
He invented the Music Paradigm "as a means of expanding the
audience for my orchestra, both in Florida and Connecticut. I hoped
to attract greater interest and support in the community for symphonic
music, and that remains one of my most important purposes.
"After having created it, in 1994-95, I found, somewhat to
my astonishment, that it was a very potent business tool. It grew
slowly, by tiny increments. I, and others, began to discover the
power of music as metaphor."
Nierenbergs burgeoning client list now includes the Bank of
America, Clairol, Mattel, the Boston Consulting Group, the New York
Times, the BBC, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lockheed Martin, Merck &
Co., Sears, Deutsche Bank, and Starbucks.
Heres how it works. A group of managers is invited to a meeting.
When they walk in they find, not rows of chairs facing a screen
or board and a lecturer prepared to talk at them for an hour, but
a full symphony orchestra, in formal attire. The orchestra on deck
will be a local ensemble, whether the event be in Phoenix or Barcelona.
The participants do not sit as an audience, but are invited to sit
among the musicians. Maestro Nierenberg, in white tie and tails,
takes the podium.
After a short concert segment, he points out the similarities between
an orchestra and any other organization: Both have divisions and
teams. Then he leads the participants through various exercises,
designed to model teamwork and leadership.
"I ask the participants to watch any particular musician, and
tell us what they see. They will say something, like Her fingers
move so fast! This leads to a discussion of technique. Its
not pleasant to work to improve technique, but it is very pleasant
to play in tune without errors. You put up with the hard work because
you get results."
If an organization is having problems with its divisions holding
to the same standards, he may illustrate that issue by "asking
the wind section to tune down a quarter tone. It takes about 30
seconds to a minute for the wind section to accommodate to its new
pitch standard, and then they play well together. However, when
I ask the whole orchestra to play together, it sounds horrible."
Nierenberg points out, "We have a room full of professional
people here, each one doing an outstanding job; yet the result is
a disaster. The reason is, they are holding to different standards."
Nierenberg typically beckons several participants to the podium
so that they can experience the orchestra not only from the perspective
of an individual musician, but also from the perspective of the
"There is access to more information [on the podium]. When
the orchestra plays, you hear the total effect," says Nierenberg.
He reminds his participants that, "Each of you occupies a podium.
You realize that the information accessible to us here may not be
accessible to people out there."
The podium, he says, "is all about leadership and its responsibility."
He likes to demonstrate the effect of different styles of leadership.
He may conduct very loosely, leaving the orchestra unsure of what
to do. He may then control the orchestra strictly; participants
can hear that the music is now technically perfect, but sounds mechanical.
The conductor, Nierenberg points out, "doesnt hold in
his hand the instruments that make the sound, but creates a space
in which that sound can exist. You have a vision, and the organization
takes it up and makes it happen."
Although businesses and orchestras are not exactly alike, Nierenberg
believes that the Music Paradigm "provides an opportunity for
an organization to look at itself in the mirror in a completely
nonthreatening way. It invites people to question their assumptions
about organizational issues in an atmosphere that is nonconfrontational."
Nierenberg, who began playing the trumpet at age nine, started composing
a year later. After concentrating in composition in Princeton's
music department, he earned a diploma in conducting from the Mannes
College of Music, and a masters degree in conducting from
the Juilliard School. Stamford Symphony director since 1981, he
also directed the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra from 1984-98;
from 1974-84 he led New Jerseys Pro Arte Chorale.
He has appeared as guest conductor with many of the nations
major orchestras, including the Detroit, St. Louis, and San Diego
symphonies, as well as at the American Opera Center, the Dallas
Opera, and the Mostly Mozart Festival in Lincoln Center. Further
afield, he has conducted the London Philharmonic, the Czech Radio
Orchestra at the Prague Spring Festival, the Shanghai Radio Orchestra,
and the National Orchestra of Mexico. The Music Paradigm was the
subject of a broadcast on "The Money Programme," the BBCs
financial and current affairs television program.
To Maestro Nierenberg, the satisfactions of The Music Paradigm (what
at first seemed to him "an improbable idea") are several:
"Working with many different orchestras (50, so far); introducing
great music to people who hadnt ever really felt it, and seeing
them deeply affected; and feeling that I am doing some good for
musicians by helping orchestras build new links to their communities."
By Caroline Moseley
Caroline Moseley is a frequent contributor to PAW.