Talgam’s debut as an internationally recognized conductor occurred when Leonard Bernstein chose Talgam to perform in a special concert with the Orchestre de Paris. He was an instant success, and soon enough he went on to conduct major orchestras throughout Europe and Israel. Aside from his success as a conductor, Talgam considers himself a “conductor of the people” and seeks to help others by using aspects of music as a metaphor for collaboration, leadership, motivation, and harmony. Today, Itay Talgam continues to inspire thousands of individuals whether his dialogue is heard at leadership demonstrations to Fortune 500 companies, universities and nonprofits, or enjoyed online by millions of viewers.
Mood of Living Q&A
Mood of Living: What led you to your path in music and how did you make the transition to conducting?
Itay Talgam: I always loved classical music and jazz – it was my father’s small record collection that started this for me. I think you learn to love beauty just the way you learn to speak, imitating and copying your parents first.
I played the piano and when I was in high school, I added a bit of composition and conducting but very laidback and amateurish, I’m afraid. I didn’t have enough drive to concentrate on my one ‘thing’ or enough talent to manage it without that focus.
Itay has moved from being a conductor of orchestras to a conductor of people through motivational speaking.
MoL: How did your experience working with Leonard Bernstein impact your career?
IT: It had the biggest impact on my LIFE! I didn’t even think ‘career’ because I was so busy trying to come to terms with and understand real important things; things like love, self-expression, and the meaning of it all. Bernstein was all the answers put-together – in his personality and in his way of living. But of course he was much more than the answers to my questions. He was of a different magnitude. You wanted to copy him, realized you couldn’t and so had to find your own way. He defined being a great teacher, one that makes you want to find your own path, and who can help you without guiding you.
MoL: Tell us about the community orchestra you founded in Jerusalem. What did you hope to see done differently through your work?
IT: I didn’t come with a huge ambition for change but I just felt I was authentic, more than anyone else conducting music. I was like every young lover, who knows that no one can love the way she or he does. The interesting thing was, of course, how to ‘make love’ to a whole orchestra and audience along with the poor composer who also wishes to be heard in his own voice. That is what makes conducting such a unique, radical experience on one hand; and so much like any social or professional activity because it is fundamentally about collaboration. It’s all about creating relationships and being in dialogue.
MoL: How did your experience as a conductor highlight issues you wanted to address?
IT: There are musical issues, of course: how to create the right balance, or bring out a certain texture or line, or simply keep 100 musicians playing together in sync. For me, however, the issues of the well being of the people taking part, broadly speaking their happiness, were more interesting. It is not a simple thing, since you are there not as an entertainer but as a leader, with definite professional goals.
Itay’s house in 3000 year old Jaffa, the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv-Yafo, an ancient port city in Israel.
MoL: Tell us about the Maestro Leadership Program. What motivated you to pursue your passion of helping people through your motivational speaking to industries beyond music?
IT: The sad truth is the music industry itself is not a happy place – one should never generalize, of course, but working with many orchestras and ensembles in many countries has taught me the rarity of healthy, happy music workplaces. I learned a lot about how expectations from me as a leader were shaped by the existing culture of a specific organization.
I often failed to live up to these expectations: I was not clear enough, not a good disciplinarian, in short, didn’t tell people what to do. When it did work, I had a revelation of my own skills as a leader, or teacher, or guide, that I wanted to share. It so happens that organizations outside the musical world have a great thirst for self-improvement, culture wise, and for better understanding of leadership. I find many wonderful partners for conversation about these issues, on both an intimate and a larger scale.
Itay has collected eclectic treasures on his travels around the world.
MoL: What social impact do you hope to have on the world? What is the message you want to share?
IT: I want to share in other people’s ideas as much as I want to share my own. In fact, I find the creation of relationships based on trustworthy listening and deep mutual human interest, to be a necessary condition for any such meaningful dialogue. The constant creation of such relationships is the only way of teaching I know – just like watching my father opened up the love for music in me.
Itay finds peace of mind admiring the stunning sunset and rushing waves of the Mediterranean.
MoL: What advice can you give to others who hope to pursue their passions in their own life?
IT: There’s a chance you don’t really know what you are uniquely good at, because ‘it’ might not have a name yet, maybe it does not fall into a recognized ‘profession’ or occupation. Whatever you are busy with, listen for when that unique quality emerges. It might just bring you to the thing you should be sharing with the rest of us.