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2/27/2007 4:19 PM

I missed the plane to Paris - by two minutes. The bloody thing was standing ten feet from the gate when I arrived panting, having run for what seemed a quarter of a mile from the other terminal. I, of course, argued vociferously with the attendant; I might even have allowed a few choice epithets to escape my lips, as I explained that "I absolutely HAD to be in Paris the next morning".

Of course, it did no good. You can't make a airplane come back from even ten feet. So now I had to reconcile myself to spending twenty four hours in Newark, New Jersey, since the next flight to Paris wasn't till the following night.

There must be parts of Newark, New Jersey that are full of delight and potential, but I was not likely to be open to its charms at that moment. For me, the thought that I was stuck in what is sometimes referred to as The Armpit of America was uppermost in my mind, especially in contrast to Paris! I allowed myself several more minutes of complaint and protest, directed at the poor attendant manning the late night desk in the United Airlines lounge, and then I remembered Roz's wonderful phrase: "Possibility is always only one sentence away". I wondered what sentence could take me out of my funk.

My father liked to tell the story of the three Jews standing together at a street corner in Jerusalem in biblical times. A fourth comes up and exclaims: "Have you heard the news? The Messiah has arrived!" The others ask: "From where, from where?" "From Nazareth". "From Nazareth?", they protest, "What good could possibly come from Nazareth?" Nazareth, a squalid slum at the time, apparently, occupied a position in Palestinian society similar to that of Newark today.

I politely refused the free room in in the hotel at the outskirts of the airport which United Airlines offered, and checked into the Hilton, which I was assured was the best hotel in the area. I remembered that one of my neighbors in Cambridge was the Dean of the Architecture School in Newark, so I called him to ask if he was free for lunch the next day. It took little time for him to call me back to say that he had rearranged his lunch plans and could meet me at the school at 12.30. The next morning I went to the gym and reactivated my long dormant exercise program. It was a particularly invigorating session that got me back on an important track in my life, the neglect of which had started to have bad consequences.

After my work-out, I made several calls, one of which turned to have surprising and delightful consequences. Earlier in the year I had accepted a boat as partial payment for a talk for Johnson Outdoors, because we thought it would make a nice addition for Roz's beautiful new home in Maine. Later I found out that it wasn't a seafaring vessel and forgot about it. However, whilst scrounging around for items for the Boston Philharmonic Benefit Auction, Roz and I remembered the boat and offered it to the Auction committee. On the night, only one person had shown interest in it and it had gone for a quarter of its value.

Since that time, I had occasionally thought how nice it would have been to have had such a boat to tool around the Charles River, but didn't do anything about it. Now, with a few hours on my hands in Newark, New Jersey, I called the man who bid on the boat and asked if he was willing to sell it back to me. As luck would have it, he was just about to send off a letter to another non-profit organization, offering the boat as a gift for THEIR Benefit Auction. He gladly deleted the letter and returned the boat to me for the paltry sum he had paid for it.

There is a story here for another day, but suffice it to say, that I have often thanked my lucky stars for the chance call that I made from the Hilton Hotel in Newark, which led to the boat being returned to me, a membership in the Watertown Yacht Club and many delightful hours this summer of relaxation and pleasurable conversation with friends, as we float noiselessly down the Charles River, sipping French wine and watching the sun sink down behind the trees.

Urs was in a meeting when I arrived for our lunch, so I sat in the corner of his office and observed. There were four people discussing the application for a million dollar grant from a corporation. I noticed that the gentleman responsible for pitching the grant was speaking in a downward spiral way. After a while, I intervened and suggested that a shift in expression was more likely to achieve the desired result. Urs said afterwards that he had tried to impact that way of speaking for the past fifteen years and seemed amused by and genuinely grateful for my intervention.

As we were leaving for lunch, we ran into another member of the administration of the school who had formerly been the Mayor of Danbury, Connecticut. He was keen to meet me, because of his deep love of music. We talked of a famous son of Danbury, Neil Rudenstine, former president of Harvard and my brother-in-law. We also talked about another famous Danburyan, the great and profoundly original composer Charles Ives. The former Mayor shared with me his frustration that he hadn't been able to realize his dream of organizing a Festival in Danbury to celebrate Ives, because of lack of funds. I immediately suggested that he contact my colleague at the New England Conservatory and dear friend, John Heiss, the worlds most passionate advocate for Ives's music and also the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, the leading interpreter of Ives' music. I felt sure that they would be able to help him bring his dream to reality. I also added that Neil might be willing to help as well and that I would be happy to make the connection. As we went off to lunch, he seemed positively buoyant, with renewed energy to tackle his beloved project of an Ives memorial event in Danbury. That reminds me, I must get in touch with him to see how the plans are coming!

My lunch with Urs was, as always, a total delight. He is one of the most engaged people I know and it was wonderful to have a chance to see him in his work environment. Here I was wandering around the halls of the School of Architecture with my dear friend the Dean, hearing about several of his imaginative projects and seeing the brilliant, effortless way he interacted with everyone. It was to inspire me later to put him forward as a candidate for President of the New England Conservatory, but that is another story!

Back to the Hilton after lunch; a lazy and delightful swim in the pool and a conversation with a young couple who were teaching their two-year-old twin boys to swim. There ensued a fascinating discussion, in the water, about talent - twins are always interesting subjects for such enquiries - and an opportunity for me to get them excited about bringing up their children listening to classical music, about which they knew nothing. I of course ran upstairs to get them one of my Beethoven CD's and made them promise to start regular listening, which they seemed thoroughly delighted to try.

Nothing stands out particularly in my memory of what happened next, until I got to the airport, except that I bought a sweat shirt at the hotel store with the words Newark, New Jersey, blazoned over the front.

In the United Airlines lounge, I struck up a conversation with a delightful couple, on their way home from Israel with their 16 year old daughter, who was sitting reading on the other side of the room. Somehow the conversation turned to the project their daughter was engaged in doing around music and pulse. Lily was called over to meet the conductor, but her body language suggested that she was less than enthusiastic to meet yet another of her all-too-gregarious parents' new friends. However, after a while she became quite animated in her description of her study of the way our pulse is affected by listening to different kinds of music. Lily had not till then included classical music in her project, but, as one might expect, after our 45 minute conversation, she decided to add Beethoven (I happily had one last copy of the Beethoven 5th and 7th with me) to the list of musical samples.


yesterday was the science fair and it went great.

The judges loved my project and i was invited to the nowrthwest science expo. Thank you for all the help!

I love your cd and I just got your book, I can't wait to read it!

Lily and I are now in fairly regular communication about her various projects.

One of her letters had a fair number of typos in it, so I took the liberty of commenting gently on the matter:

Might I make a tiny suggestion? Before you send off a letter, always check to see if there are any typo's or misspellings. In the old days, people wrote letters by hand, with a quill, and then would put an elaborate seal on the envelope. Nowadays we toss off e-mails, instant messages and text messages and it seems so much more impersonal. So, a good rule is to just give a quick look over before you hit the send button and the person you are writing to will feel so special.

End of sermon.

I do hope you do the project for the science fair. Get going! I promise you can do the science fair AND earn money for South Africa. It's amazing what we can do if we put our full energy into it. It's a cynch.

Send my best to your wonderful parents.

Warm wishes

Ben Zander

Well, she did do the project for the Science Fair and her recent letters have all been beautifully written.

Dear Ben,

I am planning on doing a project for the science fair involving music and related to the one I did before, but using plants. I read an article, while working on the first project about how if you have Mozart in the background while they are growing they will grow faster but also die younger. I want to study this more in depth using all different genres of music and not just Mozart. I have recently started gardening and I think the process of growing plants is very interesting and complicated and I want to explore how music effects that.

I am going to get started on Thursday when my school gets out for the summer.


I was fascinated by the idea that plants subjected to Mozart grow faster AND DIE YOUNGER! That sounds pretty fanciful and very romantic.

Love to know if there is any hard evidence. I am afraid that the theory behind The Mozart Effect - i.e. that children exposed to Mozart are more intelligent, has no basis in fact.

I think it is all wonderful, wishful thinking. I happen to think Mozart's music is justification for itself!

I love the way your mind is working - music, science, gardening, all points to a very rich and fruitful life

warmest best wishes and, as usual, give my best to your parents

Hello Ben,

Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, I have been very busy applying for jobs. I hope to have a job by the end of the week, but it has been hard to find one so far because i am under 18.

Tomorrow i plan on buying the plants i am going to use for my experiment and label them all, and decide what music i will play for them.

Do you have any suggestions of what music they should listen to?

I will give you updates on the experiment as much as i can.

Then this:


On Jul 8, 2006, at 9:45 PM, lily hockley wrote:

I have been working on the experiment, it took longer then i thought it would to get to a nursery and buy plants that were the same size and species. I gave all of the plants names and then assigned them to a certain musician, they will be listening to 20 minutes a day of that musician. One is going to be listening to Johnny Cash, another will be listening to Nat King Cole, one will be listening to Led Zeppelin and the one that is named Ben, after you will be listening to Beethoven.

From: "bzander "

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