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Over the River and Through The Woods

When I was in second grade, my teacher died of cancer, but not before she taught the class to sing Over the River and Through the Woods, as one of her last acts before a long hospital stay that she would never escape. And there I was, at seven, and had already lost the two most important women in my life, both in their mid-20s. First my mother, suddenly on Christmas Eve when I was four, and now a favorite teacher. It’s been more than half a century, but I’ve never heard that song without thinking of my second-grade teacher, whose name is long lost to me, but not her influence.

Among her parting gifts has been a lifelong love of music. I cannot carry a tune or play a note of any instrument, despite Mrs. Knoll’s best efforts — my octogenarian grade-school piano teacher (I know, practicing might have helped). Despite these shortcomings, the sound of music has always filled me with awe. In every home I have ever had, the first order of business was setting up the stereo, something far easier today than a bygone era of room-sized speakers. Even as I write this, I am listening to Paul Cardell’s Gracie’s Theme. I challenge you not to be moved.

Music is a part of every culture on earth and has been since we stood upright. It has the power to move us so quickly to joy, tears, romance or recollection faster than just about anything. Who hasn’t heard a song and been instantly transported back in time? What is the Psycho shower scene without Bernard Herrmann’s haunting theme, “The Murder?” It has been 60 years, and we can still hear it pulsating.

This week I interviewed a true “Music Man,” Freddie Ravel, who played with Earth Wind & Fire, Madonna, Carlos Santana, Prince and so many others. The gift of music has been an inspiration for Freddie his entire life, but he also wondered, what if there is more? What if I can take this common interplanetary language (there are 27 songs on the Voyager “Golden Record” sent into space in 1977 to see if we have neighbors who are intelligent enough to have built a turntable) and use it in business to help us find our humanity, be more team-oriented, customer-focused and productive? And thus was born Life In Tune where Freddie keynotes

conferences for Microsoft, Walmart, Toyota, NASA and so many others. Madonna said Freddie is “brilliant” and IBM said he was “By far the best motivational performance we have seen.” All my life I have wanted to quote Madonna and IBM in the same sentence.

Freddie’s mission is to get teams and individuals “in tune” with their sustainable peak performance. Music applied to business. We speak at 150 words per minute, but we listen at 600 WPM. No wonder we don’t listen very well. If we are going to move forward with empathy and partnership it has to start with really listening.

Freddie speaks on the Rhythm of Success, The Music of Leadership, Teamwork and Getting in Tune with ESG. Truth be told, I’ve never been an audience member to one of his performances, though I have worked with him for a year now, watched many of his videos and, most importantly, never spent a moment with him when I didn’t feel better, happier and more abundant. Exactly the place we need to be to lead.

Enjoy the melody.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Richard Levick


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