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Classical Notes

Ode to Gioia

Posted at 11:23 AM on December 12, 2006 by Don Lee

The Senate yesterday approved a second four-year term for Dana Gioia as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gioia is best known as a poet (so it's no surprise that he got behind Shakespeare, writing and reading initiatives during his first term). He was also a businessman, employed for several years as a VP at General Foods.

How did he manage to jump from the solitary practice of writing to the collaboration required in corporate life? Gioia credits his music training. He planned to be a composer before deciding that writing would be his career. Before joining the NEA, he wrote about classical music for San Francisco magazine.

As he told Symphony magazine in a 2003 interview,

The most important thing I learned in business was how much more you can accomplish, and how rewarding it is, when you create a situation in which everybody can succeed together. These are not skills that one is taught in the literary world. Musicians understand them, though. Musicians are raised in collaborative situations, and my training in music eventually made this a very natural thing.