Monthly Archives: November 2009

Posthumous Collaboration

How does a composer complete his final symphony 113 years after his death? He leaves behind sketches of what he planned to do and someone else painstakingly does their best to fill in the missing pieces.

A few weeks ago, Musica Nova (, an orchestra that I play bass with and that specializes in programming new and neglected classical music, performed the regional premiere of Anton Bruckner’s 9th symphony with the 4th movement completed by William Carragan.

Carragan and our conductor Warren Cohen also shared ideas about the interpretation of music: tempi, expression, “Did Bruckner really mean to have those notes in the trumpet?” etc. Both men commented about how great it was to work together, saying “we were able to solve the problems because we were totally open to working with each other” and “[he was] wonderfully open minded to some of my quirky ideas.”

It’s not often that classical music conductors get to collaborate with living composers, let alone modern day composers collaborating with a long-gone master. It was very exciting at the first rehearsal to look to my left and see an amazing line up of nine French Horns with about half of them doubling on the infrequently seen Wagner Tubas (a sort of bass French Horn). The reviews were great and you can read more about it on the Musica Nova blog

How would you feel about having one of your major works completed by someone else a hundred + years later? Would you be glad that they cared enough to spend the time and creative energy? Affronted? Appalled at the choices? Delighted with the result?

A Collaborative Thanksgiving

My favorite way to entertain is a collaborative dinner, also known as a pot luck. Not only does it lessen my work load and responsibility, it provides a unique and varied culinary experience.

I even had a pot luck wedding reception. The second time around for both of us, we had no need for the presents required by the newly launched. In fact, we were busy trying to figure out how to handle having at least two of everything!

Everyone got into the spirit. It may help that my collaborative meals have an option for the non-cooks -– a favorite store-bought beverage, snack, bread or dessert is just fine. Sharing favorites is more important than culinary skill.

Check out this menu for a collaborative Thanksgiving dinner planned by seven of Boston’s finest chefs who are friends:

Walnuts coated in sugar syrup and deep-fried
Pumpkin soup with pears and curry served with lentil-flour crisps
Smoked eel on gingerbread canapes
Raw oysters with mango sauce
Lobster with a warm creamy nutmeg vinaigrette and chestnut puree
Cod with traditional spinach-and-bacon stuffing
Venison rubbed with juniper berries, thyme garlic and peppercorns
Turkey stuffed with anadama bread and mission figs

For complete details and recipes go to

What better time to try the collaborative approach than during the holidays? Why be stressed? Let us know about your meal of many contributions. What worked well? What would you do differently next time?

Are Round Tables More Collaborative?

Yes! say my neighborhood walking and breakfast buddies. We spent 2.5 delightful hours after an hour walk, talking and sharing ideas on all manner of subjects. Great way to start the day … oops… it’s half over!

Update on Consultant’s Retreat

Community and Collaboration — these are a few of my favorite things. On Tuesday I got great big doses of both by attending the HNK Consultants’ Community retreat.

HNK, which stands for Health in a New Key, is a group of consultants who work with non-profit organizations. It is sponsored by the St. Luke’s Health Initiative and facilitated by Bonnie Wright. The point of the group is to come together and share ideas, tools and best practices.

We started the day with a World Cafe ( to consider the question “In your experience in building healthy and resilient organizations and communities, what are the essential elements that lead to success?” This was followed by other useful questions that evolved from the first conversations.

My favorite part of the day was a series of speed presentations — only five minutes per speaker!  It’s not easy to convey useful information in an engaging way in such a short time and all of the presenters did a fine job. The presenters and topics were:
  • Elaine Fogel: Your Consultant Brand – Developing Your Brand Personality
  • Karen Ramsey: Identifying Key Leadership Competencies in the Nonprofit Sector
  • Leslie Knowlton: Character
  • Andrea Allen: Community Impact Through Mapping
  • Reuben Sanchez: “That reminds me of a story…”
  • Carolyn A. Holmes: Engaging Leadership Volunteers in Building Organizational Capacity
  • Diana V. Hoyt: The Effective Fundraising Project and Its Impact on Creating Fundraising Strategies
  • Dolores Retana: Cultural Sensitivity in Board Development
  • Steve Weitzenkorn: The Value and Power of Trust. . . and How to Build It
Jack Smith, of, gave a great presentation for us on how to use social media for our businesses. There is a blog post link on his site that covers many of the same details. Jack told us about an interesting website that licenses short instructional videos (

And we ended the day using Open Space technologies ( to choose questions or topics that we wanted to discuss more. It’s a great way to turn information and good ideas into action.

The annual retreat is planned by a highly collaborative sub-group of HNK members and they did an excellent job. Thanks!

Strengths-based Collaboration Approaches

Have you experienced Open Space and World Cafe techniques? They are designed to quickly foster meaningful discussion and collaboration among large groups. These powerful methods are frequently used to focus on what is working well (strengths) and how to build on that base.

I’m off to a full-day workshop today. It is put on by and for consultants who work with non-profits. Check back for an update later!

Fierce Determination

One of the reasons why I’m so intrigued with the power of collaboration is because I keep having to rediscover how valuable it is.  I just finished designing a workshop on coaching skills and although I was offered some encouragement and ideas from a friend or two, most of the creative work was done by myself sitting here in my home office. It’s true that these last couple of weeks have been unusally hectic for me with some family issues layered on top of an already full life.  However, I bet that makes me just like you —  except I’m the one pondering collaboration and working on a book about it!  How could this happen?  Well…..I know the answer.  It’s where my fierce determination meets up with my saying “Yes” to a few too many things.  On overload, I buckle down to survive what is expected and I tell myself  the lone-ranger routine is the only way I can get through.  It’s as if  I say to myself, “No more input, interactions or distractions now.  Just focus”!  This hyperdrive jettisons me right past any opportunity to connect with anyone else.

Fierce Determination

Fierce Determination

Many years ago my friend, Patti Kaufman, gifted me with one of her paintings called Fierce Determination. With her art, she honored my courage and fortitude in dealing with some of my life’s disappointments.  Yet, it is these same qualities that have also been at work creating some isolation for me in recent weeks.  So, I’m digging out some tips for collaboration to avoid stranding myself again this week.  What do you do when find yourself in a rut of working alone?