I heard an interview with Terry Gross ("Fresh Air") and Quincy Jones, that as a conductor and song leader, I think about a lot. In fact, I should look back and see if I've already written about it in this space! It wouldn't surprise me. (I'm pretty sure the link to Fresh Air is the interview I am thinking about.)
Ms. Gross asked Mr. Jones about his success producing recordings for so many artists in so many genres. His single-word reply: Tempo. It all boils down, he expanded, to getting the tempo right.
The counsel plagues me, frequently. It cautions me as I prepare for choir rehearsal. It colors the way I hear organists lead hymns. It makes me a little uptight as a song-leader. And when I get the tempo wrong - or am in a position to fix someone else's tempo, and don't - it haunts me, sometimes for days!
Quincy Jones, whose music and recordings have long been part of my life sound-track, is not the final word on this subject. But it is a wise word: most of getting our music right is getting the tempo right. Even when everything else is spot on, the wrong tempo will spoil it. But in reality, getting the tempo just right is often the key to getting everything else the way it should be.
Learn from the best, apply lessons wherever you can, shake off the mistakes, and press on. That's my motto today.