Face the Music’s vocation is going into organizations and giving people the opportunity to speak the truth, via music, about what’s happening in their worklife and around their organization. In the process of doing that over the last five years, we have come to learn quite a bit about not only what kinds of things are happening in the organizations that we work with, but also how that affects the people in these organizations and how they feel about it. We’ve heard about layoffs, mergers, economic woes, success stories, meetings, customers, vendors, leaders, visions, co-workers, and on and on. A large dose of the pleasure and pain of contemporary work life. We’d like to share some of the experiences that we’ve had.
Aventis Pharmaceuticals, now part of Sanofi-Aventis after the recent merger, did six different events with FTM, and the theme of mergers has been a consistent one. The participants had all been part of numerous mergers as the pharmaceutical industry has consolidated over the past 10-15 years. Our first event with Aventis was at the Global Management forum in 2000, right after the HMR/Rhone-Poulenc merger that created Aventis. There were songs about merger challenges galore. The havoc and challenges of changing everything (it seems) while still having to carry on the business and all the while not knowing if you have a job, if you’ll like the job you might get, losing friends and colleagues, uncertainty, etc. In a song by one of the groups, “The Never-Ending Merger Blues,” it was summed up with the lines: “Getting ready for a merger is like getting ready to be hit by a truck.”
After the General Mills/Pillsbury merger (Betty & the Doughboy, as it was called at the FTM event), a Face The Music session featured a manager in the new organization dressed up as Elvis (wig, sunglasses and a tablecloth cape) doing a parody of Elvis’ “In the Ghetto” called “In the New-co” (as in “new company”) which expressed the anxiety of uncertainty, mourning of loss of power, and just plain silly situations that come up in these tumultuous transitions. “On a cold and frosty Minneapolis morn’, another really, really bad idea was born: It’s the New-co.” After the last chord of the program was hit, the event organizer ran to the stage and said, “Awesome, awesome, awesome. This is just what these people needed right now.”
In 2001, a leadership workshop for Lucent took on a different flavor when on the morning of the program, large layoffs were announced. Many of the participants came not sure of their status, or what news they would hear tomorrow. The group “The Seditious Swamp Executives” wrote:
Ol’ Henry told the street, 10,000 gotta go,
How do I tell my best friend? Oh, lord, I just don’t know;
Can’t get up in the morning, I got those downsizing’blues. Later in the song the friend got a job at a startup company, so it turned out allright…
Anne Kurzenburger, the Lucent leadership development manager who organized the program, said, “The intervention was ideal for us given the current volatility in the market and tough times here at Lucent. We were able to share some cathartic moments, as well as release the creative genius in all of us! It was a pleasure to watch my participants let go, have fun, and learn that creativity and innovation are essential to our business turn-around. You and the band were pivotal in making that happen.”
The blues has proved to be a great way for people to celebrate when they’re flying high, and to step back, get some perspective, and laugh at themselves when it feels like a struggle.
In our last newsletter, we mentioned that we had just returned from the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico where we had done a Face The Music program with 60 or so of their worldwide HR people. They were quite a lively group, jumping right into writing and performing BMS blues with energy and vigor! The night ended with an impromptu dance party as the participants requested song after song from the band.
Could the government be getting the bug? Colin Powell performs a parody of YMCA at the conclusion of Asia’s largest security meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“FTM offered a unique and fun way to effectively create a team environment and address change management issues through a blues format.”
Janice Smith, Leadership Development Consultant, Ernst & Young
“Participants bonded, walls came down, creativity flourished and, collectively, we took the next step to go beyond the business blues.”
Peter Jung, Sr. Vice President,sales, Moen Incorporated
“The music was uplifting and provided a forum to recognize both joint successes and common experiences. It was an energizing, fun, and highly experiential session that easily brought together people from many different backgrounds, cultures, and even languages.”
Barbara Keen, Ph.D., Director, Organization Development, Bristol-Myers Squibb
“Face the Music is more than an event. It’s a charismatic moment in which everyone speaks the same language. The session was incredible. Everyone went home bug-eyed.”
Tony Coticelli, VP, Automated Data Processing
“I didn’t think it could be done. You turned a room full of analytic executives into raving blues singers for a night. Finally, a conference activity that wasn’t the same old thing!”
Ralf Christian, GE, Barcelona, Spain
“Face the Music was a huge hit. It provided an extraordinary opportunity for our group to bond, let down defenses, take some much-needed risks and begin to deal with some tough issues. The humor and energy of the evening was just what the doctor ordered. Well done!”
Lue Calandra, Manager, Leadership Development, Con Edison
Barbara Keen, the event organizer, said, “We were gathered for an important 3-day business update and wanted to capitalize on a rare opportunity to bring together our employees from all over the world. Their musical teambuilding provided us with an excellent way to make connections and build bridges among our diverse team. The music was uplifting and provided a forum to recognize both joint successes and common experiences. It was an energizing, fun, and highly experiential session that easily brought together people from many different backgrounds, cultures, and even languages. The session was so well received that people are still talking about it.”
And just to let you know, we are actively looking for warm weather site events, like Puerto Rico, for this coming winter. We’d love a break from the New York State cold!
Meet the Band
Living Outside Of The Box: Dean Sharp
If you happened to wander into last year’s Face The Music session for Moen Inc.’s Sales and Marketing Conference, you may have noticed one small oddity about the band. Its drummer, instead of playing a drum trap set, was
playing a set of kitchen sinks!
But if you know FTM’s Sultan of Syncopation, Dean Sharp (AKA “LoFi Cy”) you would also know that he lives by the dictum “rules are made to be broken” or, to put it in his own words, “parameters are meant to be stretched.”
Perhaps it was because Dean’s mother was a dancer (both classical and East Indian) while she was pregnant with him or it may have been simply because “my dad (a trumpeter) decided that I was a drummer and got me my first drum kit when I was five or six,” but Dean took to drumming quite naturally. On his eleventh birthday, that first kit was replaced by a set his father acquired from his big band’s drummer, the legendary Elvin Jones.
Jones turned out to be one of Dean’s major influences and teachers, along with fellow jazz legends, Tony Williams, Bob Moses and Barry Altschul. Since then, Dean has carved out a name of his own, creating the polyrhythmic flow for such disparate pop entities as Billy Ocean, Jane Siberry and Moby, not to mention film composer Carter Burwell and sound master and living legend David Torn.
For Sharp, being an integral part of the FTM Band is a natural extension of his own passion for communication and “getting out of the box.” A member of his local church’s “teen ministry,”Dean brings his ability to instill confidence and trust in others to FTM.
“Face The Music is educational, a giggle, provocative, fulfilling, and, best of all, unpredictable. My main job with FTM is, refreshingly, not just to be a drummer, but to be a coach and a listener. It’s, well, all about…stretching.”
Face The Music live on WAMC, Northeast Public Radio Friday, October 22, 2004
FTM band members, Paul Kwiecinski, Ken McGloin and Amy Fradon, will make a live appearance on Northeast Public Radio’s WAMC on Friday, October 22nd. They will be guests on The Roundtable with Susan Arbetter at 9:35am discussing the corporate blues work that Face The Music has been originating since 1999. The Roundtable is heard Monday-Friday from 9:00am to noon in a 7 state listening area (NY, MA, VT, NH, CT, NJ, PA) on WAMC, 90.3FM.
What event, initiative or challenge do you have coming up that Face The Music can add value to?