/BY BRAM BESSOFF/ //AJT CONTRIBUTOR// ￼Rabbi Berg
Over the past two weeks I have been around a lot of greatness. I love the Olympics – summer, winter it doesn’t matter, I have always been amazed at the sheer greatness I witness as the best in the world push themselves to the limit.
My stint started last Saturday night when some of the finest of New Orlean’s talent came to play Smith’s Olde Bar.
I was called-in last minute by their management to help spread the word. For New Orleans music lovers, a band consisting of The Neville Brother’s drummer “Mean” Willie Green, The Radiator’s bassist Reggie Scanlan, Lead guitarist of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band Jake Eckert, touring keyboardist of The Funky Meters CR Gruver, and Jeff Watkins who led James Brown’s band for 12 years would be considered by any live music lover’s account a super group. And when they took the stage everyone knew it.
Additionally, all week I’ve been watching the winter games, which started with the new slope style events, Plushenkos return and career end, Jamaican Bob Sledders finishing dead last and the all too exciting board & ski crosses with another week to go.
Finally, we completed the second half of the exchange between The Temple and Ebenezer Baptist Church by attending church services last Sunday down at the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site where both Rabbi Berg and Cantor Hartman achieved greatness.
So where does greatness come from? If you ask a live music producer they will tell you it comes from within and that everyone has what it takes to be great, no matter if its performing on- stage, competing for a medal or helping someone connect to their faith.
But to truly understand how to manifest greatness, you have to pull back the layers. And when you do, you’ll discover it is a formula anyone can use to achieve his or her goals.
My live music mentor, Tom Jackson taught me how to extract greatness from any artist. It begins of course, with confidence, and to become confident you must practice and train.
For a musician, it is countless hours in the bedroom, practicing scales and performing your moves in front of a mirror. For Olympians, it is non-stop training and execution. For clergy it is deep, intense study of text and public speaking.
In the search of mastery, each of these disciplines require you to mas ter the tools of your trade, whether it is an instrument, a snowboard or your voice. This is where the “10,000 Hour Rule” from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers: The Story of Success” comes into play.
Put this much time into anything and you will not only master the skill, but also you will have the confidence to show your goods to others and elicit a positive if not energetic response.
A not-so-evident layer to achieving greatness though is humility. True humility is something every great person needs. Before you can become great, you must accept the fact that you are put on this earth to achieve that one thing you so desire – whether it is to lead an audience in a musical or religious journey, to flawlessly execute a physically demanding feat or just be a great parent.
For the artist to truly connect with an audience and give them what they paid for in a concert ticket, merchandise, beer and other extracurricular activities, you as the band must know that you were paid to be on that stage to lead them into a musical experience and if they for any minute fall out of engagement, you have not done your job well enough.
The same holds true for the pastor, rabbi and cantor who should have their audience so wrapped up in the moment that no one looks to their watch, eyelids never get heavy or minds are not taken off prayer until the service is over and everyone asks what happened to the time.
It is about capturing, engaging and changing the lives of your audience.
Then there are the hidden layers. Greatness comes from attention to the details, the nuances, the willingness to take risks and total control of inner emotions.
Plushenko knew this best. Yes he is arrogant, but he is truly great. Feared and respected by his colleagues, Plushenko skates at an entirely different level. He fits all the characteristics of greatness. He was born to do it, he has trained his 10,000 plus hours, he knows he must give the audience perfection and then he executes with a style and swagger that separates him from the rest – his nuances are what take him over the top.
We all witnessed him take a risk when he performed a double quad, even in fear of his back surgery giving out in midair. Willie Green does this on the skins. Jeff Watkins knows every time he takes a sax solo it must be different from the last, but still he takes it to the front of the stage and plays his heart out for a section of the audience, giving the other section a different taste the next time.
CR Gruver knows he can’t play keys all night, so has developed a unique way to play tambourine, cowbell and other ways to get out from behind his keyboard. Dr. Warnock knows if he preaches all day long then people will stop listening, so he uses moments to talk as a person to his congregation and utilizes other parts of his clergy and choir like an artisan uses tools to create a piece of art.
On the other hand, Olympic skier Body Miller did not. An incredible talent who could not push out the emotional wear from the recent loss of his brother, stopped him from performing at this level and was the ultimate reason why he lost the gold.
His mind was elsewhere – with good reason – like many other Olympians who met similar fates, their heads were not in the game and the disappointment is almost sometimes too hard to watch.
Just take a look at U.S. women’s skeleton slider Katie Uhlaender’s exit interview about not taking the podium.
Not all will achieve greatness, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Rabbi Berg took a big risk when he spoke to a mixed congregation of hundreds on a topic not easily led into conversation about Isaac and our collective experiences of going “under the knife.”
He talked about those who have ever had surgery, must have felt like Isaac did while his father stood above him with knife in hand – it changes your life perspective. For all the hospital visits Rabbi Berg has made, no one has ever spoken of wishing they had spent more time in the office or made more money.
Most regret not enjoying life enough or spending more time with family. The simple pleasures of living, loving and peace are what come to mind – which in turn explains why Isaac made the choices later in life that stemmed from this most tragic moment.
Unfortunately most of us do not experience it young enough to make a difference in the rest of our lives.
Rabbi Berg had black audience members, white audience members, Jews and Catholics rearing after each revelation. He had the whole congregation standing on their feet at the end. If you ask him, he would say EBC is so gracious he could have read the phone book and received such a response.
But I was in the audience, and I felt the energy. He connected with everyone in the room, he had us captured and he changed the way we were all thinking – he achieved greatness. And taking it to the next level, Cantor Hartman led fantastic voices such as Eartha Sims and Clark King, both EBC choir members, into moving renditions of song and prayer.
If you want to hear a voice that captures the soul, check out Clark King at facebook.com/clarkkingmusic. If you want to catch the service, you can purchase it from the Horizons Gift Shop inside EBC at the MLK historic preservation.
The final layer to greatness is the least obvious, but most crucial. It is you. There are tons of lead guitarists, plenty of Rabbis, Cantors and preachers, and we all know how many Olympians there are as we watch the slow drudge of the opening ceremonies parade.
So the last and final ingredient to greatness is what makes you unique. This is charisma; I have spoken of it before in past columns and it does not necessarily need to be a born trait. Charisma comes out of the tools, preparation and mindset mentioned above.
When you have all of this and you immerse yourself into your craft, and the moment, what comes out when you speak and engage with others is seen as pure charisma. Austria’s Super-G gold medalist Anna Fenninger has charisma and she chose to use it to bring awareness to cheetahs. When she hit the SuperG she was just as beautiful and dangerous as a safari cat.
You could see all the elements of greatness at work as she tore down the slope, the same way you can see it when these aerialist skiers and snowboarders hit the slope style courses, aerial ramps and race to what looks like certain death down the mountain at excess speeds of 60 – 80 mph.
Dr. Warnock delivers it every time he says a word. The New Orleans Suspects achieve it with a single note – and when they play that note together, it is more awesome than any one musician can achieve on their own.
When you mix that with the energy in the room, no matter the venue, magic happens and moments become legends. That’s why I love the Olympics, that’s why I love going to concerts and that’s why I don’t fall asleep at a great religious service. We all have the means to be great. Go and become.
Bram Bessoff is a drummer and musician. When not onstage, Bram is a performance coach and music industry entrepreneur helping artists get the most out of their live shows and chart on Billboard. He sits on the board of directors as VP for The Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. Follow Bram’s experiences on, off and backstage @bram_rocks. Interact with him at #InItForTheMoment to share thoughts, comments and ideas about this column.