While on assignment for PayPal a few years ago, I sat dead center as Ben Zander, the founder and director of the famed Boston Philharmonic, told stories of his life as a conductor and regaled the intimate audience with extemporaneous pieces of classical music on his Steinway. It was a master class in leadership, energy and music.

“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful.”

Benjamin Zander, founder and musical director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

Jump cut to last week where I spent a late evening collaborating with one of Zander’s conductorial friends, Dr. Joseph Ohrt, and one of Ohrt’s prodigies, composer John Calderaio (who, come to find out, is friends with my daughter at Temple’s prestigious Boyer School of Music). We spent the better part of an hour creating portraits for Calderaio’s music publishing debut. 

Over the years, Dr. Ohrt’s choirs at Central Bucks High School-West in Doylestown, Pa., have performed for a who’s who of world leaders, including Presidents DeKlerk and Mandela of South Africa, President Havel of the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Peres of Israel and three times for President Clinton. And like his students, Dr. Ohrt has performed on some of the world’s biggest stages, including singing backup in the choir for Barbra Streisand’s final concerts at Madison Square Garden.