Scrapyard Improvisation Challenge

How do you take a bunch of business people who have already done a full days work, enthuse them and, in just two hours, get them to write and perform some original songs followed by engaging them in a live open mic jam session? Well, some of that is “our little secret” at The Academy of Rock. But this post let’s you take a peek inside our approach to team development with music, which was judged as outstanding by one of our clients just recently.

The other week, I took the superb band Masterclass to London for an evening of music composition and fun with a market analysis agency whose HR Director prefers to give their staff ‘memorable experiences’ rather than training to engage, retain and motivate them. Alongside a diet of giving them a chance to actually play with the band, we also provided a ‘Scrapyard Challenge’, whereby we provided participants with a range of naive instruments that I got from a car scrapyard. This helps people escape from notions of what a musical instrument is and who is qualified to play one ….

Some of the scrapyard items we used

From the scrapyard to the stage

In the event, the scrapyard was barely needed. Instead we found an enormously talented bunch of people at the company.  A superb female bass player, several female drummers and singers.  Oh yes, and a few guys that got into the groove! So, how did we do this in such a short time from a standing start is perhaps a good question. Here’s our operating principles for doing amazing things in a short time:

Principles for Spontaneous Combustion

Install positive hallucinations – I learned many years ago through teaching MBA’s for the Open University that the first lesson one needs to teach people is to install the idea that success is possible. Many of my OU students would arrive having failed at school and it was necessary to ‘overwrite’ those assumptions before we could get on with the work.

Lead people to the water, but don’t make them drink - A lot of people think I make people do this or force people to participate. In fact I’ve seen people try to emulate what we do and fail miserably. No-one is made to do anything they don’t want to at our events, which is one of the secrets. This sounds like a really simple idea but it works, suitably led and facilitated and with suitable safeguards installed at the outset.

Choice, Choice, Choice - We always bring much more equipment than is really needed. But this provides choice for people and allows them to engage at a level of their own choosing.

Work inside the client / customer’s wish list – During the ‘aftershow jam session’ we took requests from the floor and then worked the songs up with the people. This is only possible if you have an enormous repertoire and was the main reason I chose Masterclass for this event. Involvement and participation breeds engagement. In the event, we ended up playing a whole hour longer than our agreed time with the company, after which time they still wanted more.

Girls Are Loud - Musical Talent emerges

Girls Are Loud – Musical Talent emerges if you let it happen …

The Masterclass boys

The Masterclass boys

A master of improvisation - We can also bring celebrities to events if required

A master of improvisation – We can also bring celebrities to events if required

We’ve done similar things for a wide range of companies and organisations. To arrange your next staff engagement or conference event with a big difference, please get in touch. Watch out for an exclusive interview with a master of improvisation and creativity – Mr George Clinton, pictured above – coming soon.

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk 07725 927585

Hard Rock Heaven

Wednesday 29th October is a red letter day in my calendar as I have the great honour of playing a song at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Atomic Rooster, Dee Snider and Ian Gillan. I’d be delighted to see some of you along at the gig and tickets are still available via Hard Rock at The Borderline.

Bernie funded the project through a crowdfunding approach and the project also donates money to a Teenage Cancer Trust. It just now needs to reach Bernie’s own personal target of 666% – the number of the beast! There are still just 6 days, 6 hours and 6 minutes to support the project. Bernie is offering a host of exclusive items in return for your support:

  • Guitar masterclasses in person or via SKYPE
  • An acoustic gig in your own house
  • VIP meet and greet at any one of his UK tour dates
  • Signed copies of the new album plus boxed set of catch up albums
  • The Fender Stratocaster that Ozzy Osbourne gave him

… and a number of other stunning offers.  Please check out the project via Monster of Rock - Bernie Tormé.

666 - the number of the beast ... still available to buy

666 – the number of the beast … still available to buy

 

Performing with someone of this magnitude throws up a number of issues regarding how you learn to work with a team when there is no opportunity for practice. This presents a huge potential risk for Bernie as it is his reputation on the line. But he need not worry ….  here is my list of transferable tips for high performance, be it hard rock heaven or hard work hell:

Tips for Spontaneous Combustion

Do the hard graft - Learn your piece inside out, forwards, backwards and then forget that you learned it – I’ve been allowed to suggest the tune we’ll play – Probably Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix or something similar.  I chose this as I know Bernie loves Hendrix and it is sufficiently fluid to allow us to stretch out a little on the song. Check it out:

Understand the rules of engagement - In this case that means understanding how musical leadership passes around the band if we are to jam a little and keep things together.  I’ll have just a little time to study this at the sound check or maybe at Bernie’s garden party, to find out if it is the drummer who signals the end or Bernie himself and other matters of a practical nature.

Bernie - Peter Fire

Hire Bernie to come to your company and give a talk / play some music – we promise not to spontaneously combust anything unless you have asked in advance for it ….

Read the signs and signals - I’ve seen Bernie play before and worked with him at Corporate Functions, so we already have some understanding of our body language when communicating with the rest of the  band, re turn taking, stops, starts, finishes and so on. It’s very important to be emotionally intelligent when working with people in this way, not just living inside your own head but reading people around you. Music is such a good training ground for this – much better than management courses etc. as there is no rehearsal on stage.

Push the stop button - If you lose your way, just stop playing or turn the volume off. There are 3 other people playing who actually know what they are doing and the safety strap is to let them do just that if needed.

So, I’d love to see you at the gig on October 29th.  I have one spare ticket available in exchange for some assistance with getting to the gig from Kent and possibly a bit of filming on the night – contact me for details.

Tickets selling out fast - click the picture to buy yours now

Tickets selling out fast – click the picture to buy yours now whilst you can

To finish, here’s an example of jamming we did with cult punk rocker and two hit wonder John Otway at a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) event at Brands Hatch – in this case, the band learned all his songs and then John joined us on the day itself.  We played half of one song and half or another and then John decided that we knew what we were doing …

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Hospice appeal 2014

Today marks the release of my tribute to Prince for Demelza House Hospice.  Please download the track from Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon etc. Set in a Funk groove “What U C Is What U Get” tells a fictional story of a strange relationship between Prince and someone from another galaxy … Warning – the song contains an explicit lyric – I have produced a ‘bleeped’ version for more sensitive ears!  It has been well received by the Prince fanbase with a full feature in The bizzniz. I’m pretty sure some will love it and others will hate it due to the various nods and winks towards the master himself. We shall see.

.. it's all right, it's for a worthy cause ...

.. it’s all right, it’s for a worthy cause … Click to donate

 

Below are the various links to purchase. The Bandcamp option is especially interesting, as it includes our exclusive “BUY IT DEARER” option – No Amazon or iTunes fees and we’re donating a full £2.49 per copy to the Hospice, so if you are feeling generous, click on the picture to buy now.

BUY IT DEARER ON BANDCAMP and give more to the Hospice - no Amazon or iTunes fees

CLICK logo to BUY IT DEARER on BANDCAMP and give more to the Hospice – no Amazon or iTunes fees !!

Click to buy on Amazon

Click logo to buy on Amazon

Click icon to buy on Google Play Music

Click icon to buy on Google Play Music

Click on the icon to buy on iTunes

As I mentioned, I also produced a ‘bleeped version’ of the song for those who prefer not to hear the expletive in the chorus!!  So, you can BUY IT CLEAN OR DIRTY ! :-)  Can I count on your support?  Please share this blog and the links to the various places to buy.  It’s for a very good cause and we may just have a hit on our hands.  Do something remarkable for a great cause which gets no support from Government.

Censored version - Click to buy

Censored version – Click logo to buy bleeped version on Bandcamp

Artwork by Simon Heath - Twitter @SimonHeath1

Artwork by Simon Heath – Twitter @SimonHeath1

To help you decide which versions to buy, here’s the lyrics from the song and an audio sample of the track from our first Radio play on the the Thirst 4 Funk show:

UPDATE – One person donated £25 to the Hospice via the Bandcamp option – thank you so much.  As I write this update, the song has hit #3000 on Amazon – will it reach #1?  Yes, with your help via purchases, shares, reviews and so on.  Everything helps!!

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 00.39.36

Amazon chart score – Buy it now

Practice Makes Perfect

La Bohème

La Boheme

I attended a performance of La Bohème at London’s Albert Hall earlier this year.  Aside from the usual operatic story of romance, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll disease and death, I was struck by the preparation as the orchestra painstakingly practised their art before the performance began, although they had doubtless invested more than 10 000 hours of practice before this concert in mastering their instruments. Here’s a very short snippet of the warm up and what appears to be a cacophony:

Transferable Lessons:

  1. Professionals practice, amateurs try to wing it.  Even on pieces that they are familiar with, professionals warm themselves up. This is exactly the same when giving a keynote address or presentation in my experience.  Preparation is everything!
  2. Before a concert performance, individuals practice their own pieces in the main. This requires them to effectively shutdown their hearing and concentrate on their own performance. Once the performance starts, they need to hear their own performance and the rest of the orchestra. Listening to your own performance solo and to your performance in the context of those around you are distinctly different skill sets in my experience and are the hallmark of masters of their craft.
  3. The performers must also be untroubled by the audience talking etc.  So this is a selective type of hearing and deafness, what I call “listening through” rather than “listening to“.

These are the abilities of an emotionally intelligent person.  Someone who is a master of their own skill and who has the ability to tune in (or out) of what is going on around them.  Here’s our interpretation of a model that sums up the work of Daniel Goleman et al. on the topic.  Great leaders and great musicians share the skill of emotional intelligence.  What I call being a master of both inner and outer space.  For more on this take a peek at the book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll“.

We’ll be practising these skills at a corporate improvisation session in London this week with “Masterclass“.  get in touch if you would like to witness one of these in action.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 17.51.52

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Causing a Commotion … for Charity

Big thanks to Dr Andrew Sentance for inviting me to step in as a guest with his classic rock band “Revelation” at a Charity event in Essex the other week. I donned my spray tan, had a tattoo and a few piercings done and headed off to the party, which, to my surprise was nothing like “The Only Way Is Essex”. In fact we helped to raise £2000 for St Lukes’ Hospice which was an incredible amount for an evening like this.  Pre-order your copy of the song I wrote for Prince in support of a Children’s Hospice at Amazon.

Revelation, not Revolution

Revelation, not Revolution

Here’s a short video of the evening including the moment when the audience took over the instruments and the stage on “Smoke on the Water”:

We were unable to practice before the event but Andrew’s band Revelation are very flexible and we quickly established some ways of sending each other messages to help us gel as a band. Andrew commented himself on this point:

“The business lesson here is that when the team is well-aligned and each individual knows what they are doing, an awful lot can be achieved without too much team preparation and rehearsal. Spontaneity and good performance can coexist when people are focused on the same end goal and are capable and proficient in their own sphere. If the team turn up all individually unprepared and with very different objectives, it is a recipe for disaster in music and business!”

The band’s diet of music would perhaps not be my first choice of material as they do hits ranging from The Shadows, Chuck Berry through to Dire Straits and The Doobie Brothers. They are great songs but I have simply been overexposed to the standards like “Sultans of Swing”, “Apache”, “Alright Now” and “Long Train Running” at open mic jam sessions!!!  That may tell you more about me than the brilliance of these songs. However, I had a revelation at the charity gig as this gave me something new perform around and the experience was all the more enjoyable for that, even if I had to play some of the solos backwards ….

I have gotten so bored with 'Open Mic Jam Session standards' like "Sultans of Swing" that I need to play them backwards these days to maintain focus.

I have gotten so bored with ‘Open Mic Jam Session standards’ like “Sultans of Swing” that I need to play them backwards these days to maintain focus and engagement …. :-)

Another of my musical collaborations with Andrew is the RockintheCity band which also includes the drummer from Revelation Pete Stephens. We plan to do some Charity events in the City of London.  Andrew and I have been invited to appear on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Business Breakfast programme to talk about the RockintheCity concept.  Further to this we and are looking for event sponsors for the Charity events.  Our next warm up gig is a private party in August.  Take a look at Andrew’s Blog for some more details of our exploits.

Rock In the City - Lock up your cheque books!!

Rock In the City – Lock up your cheque books!! – Logo design by Simon Heath @simonheath1 on Twitter

Finally, here’s the impromptu encore from the evening, filmed by the drummer’s daughter and the title that inspired this post:

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Paul Mc Cartney

FT Beatles salmon SMALL

Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Asset Management Company …

What can one say about the innovation and creativity skills of a man who composed songs ranging from Eleanor Rigby, The Long and Winding Road, Blackbird to The Frog Song? Let’s start at the beginning:

Beginnings

Paul Mc Cartney was born on 18th June 1942 to parents who were around 40 years old when he arrived. Much of his early life was spent playing on bomb sites on the outskirts of Speke in Liverpool. His father was a jazz musician, playing the trumpet and a self taught pianist. He used to tell Paul “Learn to play the piano – you will get invited to parties”

LIverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney's birth

Liverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney’s birth

One of the most important elements of the bond between Lennon and Mc Cartney was the fact that both of them had lost their mothers early on in their lives. A partnership needs a bond and early childhood experiences are frequently very powerful in this respect. Other examples include Simon and Garfunkel and Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, who were childhood classmates. All proof positive that you really just need “A little help from your friends” …

Help - The Beatles as represented by Corporate Artist Simon Heath - Twitter @simonheath1

Help!! – The Beatles as represented by Consulting Artist and friend Simon Heath – Twitter @simonheath1

Creative Tension

It is reckoned that Lennon and Mc Cartney were quite different personalities. See an assessment of the Fab Four’s Myers Briggs types. There is of course some disagreement as to where each of them sit as (a) your type varies over time and (b) it’s rather difficult to assess John and George these days … :-( Some argue that John Lennon was an ENTP, which is my own type – a rare breed. In any case, it’s interesting to note that all of The Beatles occupied essentially minority types, especially George Harrison who conceived of the idea to produce large scale concerts to highlight world poverty issues long before Bob Geldof got on the case with Live Aid etc.

The case for diversity

The case for diversity

Mc Cartney and Innovation

Paul Mc Cartney is perhaps a lower risk taker than John Lennon, what psychologist Professor Michael Kirton would call an adaptor, as compared with those people he classed as innovators. Adaptors tend to work within the system, producing ideas that are more within accepted wisdom and so on whereas innovators tend to challenge existing norms, producing more radical ideas, some of which are impractical. Contrast “Yesterday”, written by Mc Cartney with “I am the Walrus”, written predominantly by Lennon. In business, adaptors often have greater success than innovators, as they tend to produce ideas that are less challenging and which are recognised by consumers in the marketplace as being a logical build on existing ideas. Often we need both innovators and adaptors to produce sustainable innovations: The innovators to produce the hard-to-copy ideas and; the adaptors to help bring the ideas into a practical market focus. Here’s a graphic comparison of the two types, with Mc Cartney perhaps being the more adaptive individual and Lennon the more innovative one. This probably explains the intense different loyalties between fans of Lennon or Mc Cartney.

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Whereas Paul Mc Cartney has traversed musical genres, these have tended to be within existing musical paradigms, for example in his writing of Standing Stones, an album of original classics. He has also tended to be a great arranger of other people’s music. For example Mc Cartney wrote the distinctive mellotron introduction “Strawberry Fields Forever” for John Lennon. His latest album, entitled “New”, provides us with a set of Beatles’ inspired songs. After all, he has nothing to prove. This does not mean that he did not produce anything outside the paradigm. For example it was Mc Cartney that instigated the use of tape loops on “Revolver”. Here is the title track from the album – some shades of Sargent Pepper in this I feel …

Mc Cartney and Creativity

Paul Mc Cartney says that he still seeks advice from John Lennon when songwriting, imagining what John would advise him to do. This skill is what psychologists call projection and fantasy and is embodied in creativity techniques such as ‘Superheroes’, ‘The Disney Creativity Strategy’, ‘Six Thinking Hats’, ‘Wishing’ and so on. Here’s a graphical view of some creativity tools which one of our clients devised at the end of a masterclass event we designed for them, with a representation of the Superheroes approach in the centre. Can you guess what the others are?

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients - in graphical form

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients – in graphical form

He also exhibits playfulness in his approach to creativity. For example, Mc Cartney woke up with “Yesterday” in his head.  For several weeks the lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs”. I certainly identify with the idea of putting down a prototype in order to develop an idea into an innovation, both in my life as a musician and as a Research and Development Scientist. Sometimes, putting down any idea produces the creative tension needed to develop a better idea.

There’s more on The Beatles and Creativity in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business“. We are currently considering some corporate events with the cast of “Let It Be”, as it turns out that I’ve performed with “Paul Mc Cartney” at open mic jam sessions in my home town a few times over the years. Contact us for more details or to arrange a unique business masterclass or conference.

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Beatles 2

Still Life with Apple, Mac ca and The Beatles

14714 – A tribute 2 Prince

14 July 2014 sees the launch of a song I wrote in honour of Prince a little while ago, featuring the beautiful singing voice of Sharon Mari, a young music student who has just finished her music degree and who is looking to make a career in music. Proceeds from the song are going to Demelza House Children’s Hospice, a charity which I’ve done a number of things for over the years and who receive no support from Government.  Pre-order the song on Amazon via the link below:

Click to buy on Amazon

Click to pre-order on Amazon

What U C is What U Get

Here’s the “recipe” we followed, although this is a product of 20 : 20 hindsight rather than a pre-meditated plan:
STEP 1 Take a synthesis of Funk, Rock ‘n’ Roll in the same way that Prince has been a ground breaking innovator and synthesiser of musical genres
STEP 2 Added a slightly tongue in cheek storyline about a strange and scandalous relationship involving Prince – but just who is in charge? Tip a wink to Prince by using some of his song titles as part of the storyline
STEP 3 Add the beautiful singing voice of Miss Sharon Mari, a music graduate with a great future
STEP 4 Add some great players and drop in a few referential nods to some classic Prince musical ornaments
STEP 5 Record it all in your basement as if your life depended on it … and there you have it …
Demelza Hospice - a worthy cause that rocks

Demelza Hospice – a worthy cause that rocks

We are making a charitable donation from all downloads from the song towards Demelza Children’s Hospice, an organisation which helps terminally ill children live their remaining months in comfort and dignity. Please download the single, share the cause and N JOY the music. A child’s life really does depend on it.  You can buy the song on 14 July 2014 at iTunes, Google Play, CD Baby, Amazon etc.  Just type in the title and / or Academy of Funk ‘n’ Roll.  In fact I’d be most grateful if you all bought the song on 14 July as we stand a fair chance of creating a hit record from this phenomenon. Warning, the song has an explicit chorus line!  Here’s the first verse:

The First Verse of What U C

The First Verse of What U C Is What U Get

Please share this blog or re-blog it as the piece is for a great cause. Last year we released a song about the economy called “Fiscal Cliff” which did pretty well, so I’m wondering if we can take things on from there?  I hope Prince will N JOY it.  I did manage to get a note about the piece to Hannah Ford, drummer with 3rdEyeGirl the other week in Camden, so we shall see …

Hannah Ford - One of the best drummers I've seen in recent times

Hannah Ford – One of the best drummers I’ve seen in recent times

To finish, here’s a piece from the master himself on the equally ambiguous subject of breakfast:

Artwork by Simon Heath - Corporate artist extraordinaire - Twitter @SimonHeath1

Artwork by Simon Heath – Corporate artist extraordinaire – Twitter @SimonHeath1

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585