Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sinatra, Tchaikovsky, Springsteen, Bob Marley and my Seder

When I interview people for a job, one question that I've used for quite a few years is: What type of music do you like? I'm not interested in genres, but in songwriters and performers. I've always been inclined to hire people who like Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Notorius B.I.G., Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, The Roches, and for my classical music, Tchaikovsky.

Why do I use this question in an interview? Because it's a great way to get to know a person. For me, I used to think that the commonality among those favorites was their passion. If you like music that is passionate, then you are likely to be passionate about your work; or at least that's my assumption.

In discussing this with some colleagues, I realized that there is more to these artists than their passion, however. They are also some of the best storytellers around:

  • You can just see the policeman stopping Jay-Z, when you hear him tell the story in 99 Problems

  • The Roches' Face Down at Folk City puts you front and center watching someone perform at the old folk music club in NY

  • Even if you've never seen the Nutcracker Suite, a listen to the music gives you insight into the story and let's you visualize it.

  • Steely Dan's My Old School gives you a picture of the former student who is now with the "working girls at the county jail."

  • Who doesn't recognize the characters that we're introduced to at the bar in Piano Man?

In each case, the performer and/or songwriter puts you up close to an unfolding story in a passionate way, and actually gives you such a clear picture that you are there.

Sound familiar? At this time of year, it should. This is exactly what is asked of us at the Passover Seder: Engage people in your storytelling and in your story-singing in such a way that we all see ourselves in the story ("as if he personally came out of Egypt").

Let's all learn from those people whose storytelling skills we respect: musicians, songwriters, artists, and storytellers. On the Seder night ahead, let's use the passion and our best ways of communicating to see the story, experience our presence in the story and to envision how the story continues from generation to generation.