Brandeis International Business School

011: The Music Paradigm

A story of serendipity and passion

For many years, Roger Nierenberg served as Music Director of the Stanford Symphony in Connecticut, The Jacksonville Symphony in Florida, and as a guest conductor for many symphonies around the world. But today, Roger runs an innovative program that uses his insights from symphonic music to help companies and organizations manage organizational change, called The Music Paradigm.

From the Dorm Room

Roger graduated from Princeton University, where he received High Honors in Composition, and holds Graduate Degrees in Conducting from the Mannes College of Music and the Juilliard School.

Roger went to Princeton University to study Music Composition because that was what he had wanted to do since he was 12. However, he also played in orchestras, and he really adored conducting.

But throughout school, he was informed by every teacher that he ever had that music was a very difficult career, “and I thought that if I was going to embark on a difficult career, it ought to be something that I really loved.” And, at the end of the day, he just loved conducting more than he did composing, so he made the decision to pursue it as a career.

To the Boardroom

There's conducting the art, and then there's the conducting the career – and Roger knew very little about the career aspect of it. Unlike some of his colleagues, who grew up in musical families, there was nobody in his family who knew anything about the music career. So, he was really “flabbergasted, and confused, and at a loss” about what to do after graduation, and it actually took him years to get on his feet and find his first conducting job.

Creating The Music Paradigm, then, happened quite serendipitously.

Roger really didn't have any desire to help business organizations. However, he was very interested in the world of classical music, specifically orchestras, and he observed that society was drifting away from the values on which the art form is based. People had shorter attention spans, and there was more competition for entertainment time. Some of these changes in society were making it ever increasingly difficult for symphony orchestras to survive, and that was a problem that Roger was interested in solving.

So, he considered if there was a way to not only attract the attention of people who didn't really have an interest in classical music, but give them a really artistic, powerful experience of what listening to music would be like.

In the pursuit of that goal, he stumbled onto The Music Paradigm.

When Roger works with an organization, he creates a customized presentation centered on whatever it is they want to accomplish, usually in relation to the organization’s aspirations or challenges.

At the meeting, he appears with a live symphony orchestra, which is the local orchestra wherever the meeting happens to be, after rehearsing for just one hour. The room is set up in such a way that the audience – which can be anywhere from 50 up to 1000 participants – is sprinkled inside the orchestra. So, the audience is looking at the process from the players' point of view.

Then, Roger designs role-playing exercises that spontaneously cause the issues that are alive inside the business organization to spring to life in the symphony orchestra. So listening to the orchestra play becomes an experience like looking in the mirror for the participants, and they see their own behaviors and their potentials with greater clarity than they do in real life. Because life unfolds at a certain speed, and it's slow, which can make it hard to connect the dots because there’s too much distance between an action and what it causes to happen. But in music, things happen much faster; and, therefore, you can immediately see the relationship between a behavior and the result that it brings about.

It’s important to point out, again, that Roger didn’t intend to create The Music Paradigm, just like he didn’t plan to be a conductor.

When you're in school, Roger says, the path that you're on is mostly delineated, and it has likely been delineated from the first day you went to school as a child. But the world that you enter into when you leave school doesn't have a clear path.

“What you need to do is to marry your own personal destiny, the things that you really love, the things that you believe in, the things and ways that you want to spend your time. You have to marry that with the world and the things that it needs.”

By doing that, you won’t just find a path – you’ll create one that impacts the world.


Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Listen on Stitcher


Follow @FromTheDormRoom
on Twitter  

Share Your Thoughts

Connect With Us