I grew up, here in New Zealand as the son of parents who were officers in The Salvation Army. Part of what The Salvation Army was well known for was their brass bands. They were often seen out on the streets, they even travelled around neighbourhoods on the back of trucks, playing carols at Christmas time. Many a member of a Salvation Armey band, took their role very seriously with many hours of private practice and practice as the band.

As a youngster, I enjoyed playing in the band. Not only did I like the music and the challenge that came with it, but was that sense of camaraderie that is often spoken about by sports teams. The members of the band covered a wide range of ages, from young children to elderly retired folk. We all seemed to get along well.

One person sticks out in my mind. There was a bandmaster by the name of Michael Craven. In the band I was playing in at the time, he was formerly the bandmaster but now played the cornet. He was an excellent musician. From time to time he would conduct the band. I observed that as he conducted, the band sounded a lot better. Just his quiet presence seemed to lift the group to a completely different level.

Michael was wise, very humble a quiet sort of a person. He wasn’t one to boast about his talents even though he probably had reason to do so. He had standards that didn’t need to be spoken about, but people knew of them without needing to ask. People had the utmost respect for him, a level of respect that he never had to command.

The thing that always interested me was how he was able to get the best out of people. When standing in front of a brass band with 25 – 30 people, he was able to get every individual to play better than they would for any other conductor. It wasn’t about the way he waved his arms around that made the difference. It all came down to a style of leadership that meant that he connected with people both as a leader and also a peer.