The conductor of a world-renowned orchestra announced her intention to retire at the end of the year; the search for a new conductor began in earnest with the outgoing conductor herself taking part in the interviews and selection.
Many observers and commentators considered the orchestra’s assistant conductor to be a shoo-in. She had worked under the supervision of the conductor for the last ten years and had arranged many of the pieces the orchestra had performed over the last seven. Her years attending prestigious universities studying music theory, the resulting degrees, and her years conducting smaller orchestras further made her the obvious choice.
Nevertheless, no replacement was announced for several months. Finally, the public relations firm representing the orchestra released the news that a new conductor had accepted the position, and the chosen individual issued a statement expressing gratitude and excitement. The members of the orchestra attended a dinner event to give the incoming conductor a chance to introduce himself to them and answer questions.
The assistant conductor silently fumed the entire time. At her next opportunity, she burst into the retiring conductor’s office. “I don’t believe this!” she cried, her face red. “How could you choose him over me? What does he have that I don’t have? I went to school for a decade! I’ve given another decade of my life to this orchestra! I’ll bet he’s never so much as attended one of our performances!”
The conductor remained calm and leaned back in her desk chair. “You have served with us long and well. I understand that you feel you’ve been overlooked or in some way shortchanged. During the interview process, and as I explored the new conductor’s career, it became clear to me that music is part of him to the point that it’s inseparable, and he is the conductor the orchestra needs right now. You believed you deserved this position merely by ‘doing the time.’ It’s a matter of qualifying for the position—not merely earning it.”
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