Engagement, Interactivity, and All that Jazz

By Jeff Perry

There is a lot of discussion in corporate America today about Engagement. The studies show that the more engaged the workforce, the more productive the company. In some hospitals, research has shown that more engaged employees save lives because they wash their hands more frequently, spreading less disease. Certainly part of positive engagement is interactivity – with one’s team, with the mission of the organization, with the customer.

I had an experience performing music recently that provided a great lesson in engagement and interactivity. I was hired to perform at a grand opening for a luxury apartment complex near the U of M. I was accompanied by an upright bassist and we were essentially there to provide ambiance music (my euphemism for background music!). For the most part that’s what we did. However, there were a few points when, suddenly, we became the center of attention. While we were improvising, I would play and develop a motif or riff and the bassist would follow. We would develop the riff to a climax – all the while our eyes and ears were locked in. Our smiles would grow until we came to the conclusion of our build up. We would follow that up with laughs.

When we did this, I remember glancing over to the two bartenders. They were completely focused on us and smiling. There was a group of people from Asia who applauded and cheered. The wait staff gave us nods. We were no longer in the background.

What I took away from that night is that, I can play the most brilliant passages, and while they might impress other musicians, it was at the points my partner and I were most engaged, most interactive, that people became invested in what we were doing. I’m not going to stop trying for the brilliant passages, but I will now be much more focused on playing in a way that engages the listener due to the high interactivity among the players I’m performing with.

What does interactivity and engagement look like in your workplace?

Jeff Perry is a conservatory-trained guitarist and bandleader. He specializes in performing great songs spanning from the 1920s to today. You are as likely to hear him play the Beatles as Duke Ellington, Madonna as Cole Porter, Depche Mode as Miles Davis, or Bob Marley as Dave Brubeck. Learn more and hear samples at www.jeffperryjazz.com

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