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Timothy Connor speaks on the occasion of Sir Clive’s address to ACCJ members.

Timothy Connor speaks on the occasion of Sir Clive’s address to ACCJ members.

“Like so many things in life, Carnegie Hall happened almost by chance. Andrew Carnegie’s wife asked him to build her a concert hall for her chorus group and, being Andrew Carnegie, he said yes.

“He did everything wrong. Instead of going to a world famous architect, he asked the treasurer of his wife’s chorus, who happened to be an architect, to go to Europe and learn about all the famous concert halls.

“The architect/treasurer came back, and what he built had nothing to do with any of them, yet he built the greatest concert hall in the world. You cannot do this by chance; he must have had an extraordinary instinct.

“This echoes one of my own beliefs,” said famed British cellist and arts administrator Sir Clive Gillinson. “You not only want brilliant people; you also want people with great instinct.”

Sir Clive originally planned to become a mathematician, but luckily discovered—while a college student—that math was not for him, so he moved to music. His parents “encouraged” him to play the piano, which he did for three years, but “I had no talent.”

When his mother allowed him, at 10 years of age, to change to the cello, he suddenly found that he had talent. And soon he was on his way to a career as a top musician with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO).

A number of years later, when the LSO was in difficult financial straits and could not hire a Managing Director, he was asked to take on the role temporarily. That period lasted 21 years, and included a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his outstanding contributions to music.

Since 2005, as executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, one of the world’s most popular venues for classical and pop music, Sir Clive has presided over many innovative and stimulating musical programs.

In 2011, for instance, Carnegie Hall mounted an ambitious Japan Festival, a New York City-wide musical extravaganza that included signature performances by renowned Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa, as well as a plethora of other musicians and entertainers. The event was widely praised for its innovation and artistic contribution to music.

Subsequently, Sir Clive has been regularly asked when Carnegie Hall might do another Japan festival. “But we can’t. As the world’s leading musical institution, Carnegie Hall can never repeat any of its programs,” he said.

Established by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1891, Carnegie Hall has to be a leader and is always looking for ways to do things better tomorrow, to be compelling. This mantra of constant striving to be better was echoed in an anecdote by Sir Clive.

Speaking to a packed house comprising members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), who gathered at the Tokyo American Club in late July, Sir Clive said: “Mstislav Rostropovich was often asked in his room after a concert, ‘What is your favorite piece of music?’ “He would say, ‘Whatever I am performing now. If it wasn’t, I shouldn’t be performing it.’”

“Rostropovich never considered any performance his best. He was always looking to the next day to find ways to do things better than today. He was always striving to improve everything he did.” Sir Clive reiterated that, if you don’t feel that everything you do is the absolutely most important, don’t do it.

Carnegie Hall is an institution whose core beliefs also include the dictum “great music should be available to all people.” The institution is committed to music sharing, education, and giving back to the community. While most people associate the institution with concerts and concert halls, it is much, much more.

As a short video shown to ACCJ members at the event demonstrated, Carnegie Hall started a program for children called “Link Up”—a curriculum for them to experience music through participatory learning, with several large orchestras around the United States. The curriculum is now distributed free to 70 orchestras around the US—who could never have afforded it otherwise—and reaches more than 500,000 young people.

“But not only kids, we also work with adults and even in prisons—Carnegie believes that every single person has the right to have music in their lives. In one prison, an inmate told me: ‘This is not a project; this is the most important thing that has ever happened in my life’. ”

Carnegie Hall believes in lifelong learning, exploration, and creativity. Another short video—called “Conduct Me”—showed a small mini-orchestra set up in a public park in New York City, with a conductor’s podium open to anyone who wanted to come up and try to “direct” the group. Carnegie Hall is clearly committed to innovation and sharing of all kinds of music with all kinds of people.

Echoing a core value of “sharing music with all” at Carnegie Hall is a lesser-known story about two great musicians. “Seiji Ozawa and Mstislav Rostropovich were ‘little brother’ and ‘big brother’ to each other.

They once traveled to Japan and, instead of performing in concert halls, they spent two weeks traveling around Japan in a truck with a small orchestra and played only in small villages that previously had never had a concert. Both of these world famous musicians later said it was one of the most extraordinary musical experiences of their lives.”

“[Famed composer and author] Leonard Bernstein and I created the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo. When the time approached to open the festival, Leonard was very sick and his doctors advised him to avoid traveling. True to his character, Bernstein refused and made the trip to Sapporo.

“He absolutely insisted on seeing it through and conducting the opening of the festival as planned. He could barely walk and was in great pain, but when he got up on stage, no one could ever guess he was sick—it was Leonard Bernstein at his very best. “Afterwards, he collapsed in exhaustion, but he made the performances the very best he could, and it was profoundly inspiring.”

In closing, Sir Clive said, “All great artists share a trait of humility and an overwhelming desire to continually improve themselves.” It was clear to me, as to others in attendance, I’m sure, that we were seeing in Sir Clive the very personification of that belief.

Sir Clive almost never talked about himself during the entire time, always other great artists and how Carnegie Hall is always striving to bring the transformational power of music to all people—the sign of a truly great artist.