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Is Music the Key to Success?

Why is it that so many successful people connect serious music training with their professional achievements? Joanne Lipman, co-author of the new book "Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations" recently explored that question for an article in The New York Times, "Is Music the Key to Success?".

 In her article, Ms. Lipman noted that,

"Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement."

and asked,

"But what is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?"

Ms. Lipman asked an impressive list of musician / achievers for their thoughts, including:
Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft – violin and guitar
Woody Allen, filmmaker – clarinet
Alan Greenspan
, former chairman of the Federal Reserve – clarinet and saxophone
Steve Hayden, Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy Worldwide – cello
Bruce Kovner
, founder and chairman of Caxton Associates – piano
Condoleezza Rice, 66th United States Secretary of State – piano 
Chuck Todd, NBC chief White House correspondent – french horn
James D. Wolfensohn, former World Bank president – cello
Paula Zahn, television broadcaster – cello

The veteran advertising executive Steve Hayden credits his background as a cellist for his most famous work, the Apple "1984" commercial depicting rebellion against a dictator. "I was thinking of Stravinsky when I came up with that idea," he says. He adds that his cello performance background helps him work collaboratively: "Ensemble playing trains you, quite literally, to play well with others, to know when to solo and when to follow."

Chuck Todd says,

"I've always believed the reason I've gotten ahead is by outworking other people, playing that solo one more time, working on that one little section one more time, working on something over and over again, or double-checking or triple-checking."

He added,

"There's nothing like music to teach you that eventually if you work hard enough, it does get better. You see the results."

Mr. Wolfensohn shared what he perceives to be one of musics benefits,

"You aren't trying to win any races or be the leader of this or the leader of that. You're enjoying it because of the satisfaction and joy you get out of music, which is totally unrelated to your professional status."

Ms. Lipman concludes the article by asking readers to,

"Consider the qualities these high achievers say music has sharpened: collaboration, creativity, discipline and the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas. All are qualities notably absent from public life. Music may not make you a genius, or rich, or even a better person. But it helps train you to think differently, to process different points of view – and most important, to take pleasure in listening."