commissioner’s column: Kristen Linfante

As some of you may know, I am a classically trained professional musician. Many people have asked me what could have possibly drawn a musician into politics. For me, the answer is simple. Both jobs require strikingly similar skill sets—the ability to listen, collaborate and communicate with all kinds of people on any given day in order to achieve a common goal.

In the musical arena, the essence of music-making comes down to listening, collaborating and communicating. If those components don’t exist, the goal of presenting a wonderful, meaningful concert cannot be achieved. Of course, while preparing for concerts, LCC (listening, collaborating, and communicating) happens on many levels. It is done through spoken words in discussions about things like tempo, musical phrases, articulation of any given note or notes, and the list goes on. It also takes place through playing a musical phrase and responding musically to the way another person might play a similar phrase on his or her instrument. It is done through body language, as someone may use his or her body to cue precisely when a note should be executed in unison, and so on.

But let’s take this a step further. Not only must I listen, collaborate and communicate with my colleagues on stage, but I also must do the same with my audience while living in the moment of the concert itself. The dialogue doesn’t end with the musicians, but rather it is used to open up an even bigger dialogue with the audience members. This is why, in my opinion, in this age of technology, the internet, YouTube, etc., people still choose to attend concerts. They want to be included in the collaborative experience. They want to not only listen to the music, but also to be a part of it. When I am performing, I love to connect with my audience. After all, they are an essential part of any concert. I love to see with my own eyes how they respond to the music, which, in turn causes me to react and respond to them. The whole collective experience among musicians and audience becomes an amazing dialogue of human expression without a single word ever spoken. In my mind, the goal is achieved when musicians and audience members alike can walk away with a feeling that through this collaborative dialogue, their lives are somehow made better—that through collective participation in the process, a positive outcome was achieved, whether emotional or otherwise.

Are you beginning to see a bridge between musician and commissioner? Since being sworn into office in January, people have asked me if serving as commissioner is what I expected it to be. My answer? Absolutely. While the learning curve is great in terms of sheer data, ongoing community issues, history, legal protocol, etc, the process itself is exactly what I have been doing for the past 25 years as a musician —listening, collaborating, and communicating. While we five commissioners are not exactly a “string quintet,” we are still charged with the same job as a musical ensemble–to work diligently together in a collaborative manner to achieve a common goal. It has been a pleasure getting to know my colleagues on the commission. While we may not see every issue through the same eyes, we strive to have open and honest dialogue in order to reach consensus on our common goal of serving this great community to the best of our ability. Of course, the municipality’s top-notch staff plays a vital role in the “LCC” process as well. I liken them to superbly crafted musical instruments. They are the tools that make our jobs infinitely easier because they bring so much more depth to the dialogue— depth of knowledge, depth of experience, depth of understanding and expertise in their various roles. They are the Stradivarius violin that helps a musician play his/her best.

Of course, one final component remains. In a musical collaboration it is the audience, and in a municipal collaboration it is the community members. Listening can certainly come in many forms, from watching commission meetings on television, to reading Mt. Lebanon Magazine in print or online in order to keep up with municipal activities. But keep in mind, there are opportunities for you to become a part of the dialogue as well. The commission holds public meetings twice a month at the municipal building, on the second Tuesday and fourth Monday of every month—and unlike most concerts, admission is free! Additionally, you can contact us via phone or email to discuss your thoughts and ideas. We welcome and encourage residents to join us in the process of listening, collaborating, and communicating. You play a vital role in helping us to do our job as well as we can. Your input into the discussion brings the true voice of the community to center stage!