From Orchestral Director to Board of Directors; Entrepreneurial Insights From My Time as a Classical Musician
Hector Castillo, Founder & CEO, Noysi
“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy, but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” - Plato.
Music permeates my earliest memories and has always been the unique lense through which I view the world. From the age of four I began my academic music study, and at 20 I travelled to Austria to embark on my professional musical career. I dedicated years of study to the double bass, violone, and Orchestral Direction, played and collaborated with renowned European orchestras, and composed De Otros Paisajes Sonoros, which premiered at the Plaza Mayor de Madrid.
Twenty-five years passed in a blink of an eye working as a professional musician. But although music has always been an integral part of me, it has never been the only piece. Feeling ready for a new mission I decided to became an entrepreneur. In the last two years I have channeled my efforts into expanding a communication tool from Spain, into the LATAM and US markets. Though entrepreneurial business and music may seem worlds apart, the patterns and perspectives my years as a dedicated musician taught me have been invaluable to me in my role as an entrepreneurial leader. From orchestral directors to boards of directors, my life philosophies have helped me maintain balance while accomplishing big things.
Good directors don’t constantly direct the whole orchestra
To direct an orchestra, the conductor must have the ability to synchronise a hundred people within the same space and time, with millimetric precision. If a director tried to accomplish this by micromanaging every musician at once, the whole production would fall apart.
Instead, what the best directors know is when to let the orchestra play, and when they should provide guidance. Sometimes a director needs only to communicate with the concertino to make the others follow, or at times, only a small section needs directed through a specific passage.
As a business leader, you have to choose your team carefully and ensure you have qualified people with the right energy to cohesively work together. If you trust their judgment you can delegate tasks adopt a more hands off approach. The result is when employees feel you don’t trust their judgment, and micromanage, personal experience and studies have shown that employee engagement decreases. And engaged teams have been shown to have 18% higher productivity and 12% greater profitability than their disengaged counterparts.
If you are sure you have a good team but things still aren’t “sounding” right, ask yourself if perhaps you have not been providing clear instructions. Reset yourself, and try again.
Without silence there is no music
Most classical masterpieces are composed of varied temporal passages, alternating fast, slow and “dancey” tempos. The rhythmic succession of sounds and silence allows for intricate build ups, valleys and climaxes. For there to be music, the silence between the notes is just as necessary as the notes themselves.
In the fast paced world of startups and entrepreneurs, it often feels like the only tempo guiding everyone’s day is “Presto” -- very fast, 168–200 bpm. Living constantly surrounded by noise and urgent tasks robs us of our necessary moments of silence, which in turn diminishes our creativity, hinders personal growth, and makes us less productive. I have learned to make time for moments of “silence” for not only myself, but my team as well.
A composer cannot create beautiful compositions with the radio blasting in the background. The communication platform Slack embraces the idea with their company motto “Work hard, and go home”. To avoid burning out and give yourself the opportunity to create again, I would suggest trying to disconnect 3 hours a day from your inbox, office and phone. Allow yourself to tap into your creative silent spaces and start producing again.
There's always people behind the scenes of even the greatest solo artists
Society understandably tends to focus on the lucky few under the spotlight. When watching a solo artist perform its easy to forget all the effort of the people that support the production. In orchestras, the audience's attention often flits from whichever instrument was most prominent a moment ago, to whichever is now. I have always been a champion of enjoying a composition in its entirety.
In the entrepreneurial world, there is always a new genius CEO, startup, or disruptive technology hitting the news. It is easy to forget how these rising stars get in the headlines, but I always find myself thinking about the team behind the scenes. Everyone knows the name Mark Zuckerberg, but often forget the 17,048 other employees of facebook working diligently behind the scenes. It takes a lot of dedicated people working together to accomplish something great, which is why I have always chosen team members very carefully. I have found that the best members on my team are always experienced, passionate, and have adventurous spirits. Trust your intuition and the recommendations of trusted people, and your melody will be more in tune.
I am grateful for the way my musical past grounded me and colored my way of looking at the world. I find comfort in the patterns and a great sense of strength when facing the obstacles and pitfalls of the entrepreneurial world. Our life paths can take many turns but in the end, make us who we are, and for me, that makes me an entrepreneur whose thoughts are written in music.
About the Author
Hector Castillo is the founder and CEO of Noysi, a SaaS aimed at companies that offers chat, video conferencing, cloud storage and task management in one single tool.