When we describe TI as Swimming That Changes Your Life, we mean change for the better. That’s not a marketing slogan, it’s a core principle. Paolo Carignani, who was born in Milan, lives in Zurich, and travels the world conducting leading opera companies, exemplifies what that means to us as well as anyone.
Most people come to TI initially because of utilitarian goals—to swim easier, farther or faster. They also recognize swimming is healthful exercise. When ordering a TI DVD or registering for a class, most will be happy to get a smoother stroke and strong heart. Few expect it to benefit mind and spirit. And fewer still anticipate it could even improve their work or professional lives. Paolo took up swimming to reduce stress. And look where it got him.
I met Paolo in Nov 2008 when he came to NY to conduct Aida at the Metropolitan Opera. We swam together near Lincoln Center, then Alice and I were his guests at the opera. It was my first time seeing an opera. The main thing that struck me was, during our swim, Paolo kept repeating “TI has such a gift to make people happy.” Then I learned just how important a happy conductor can be to an opera company!
Paolo began swimming while he was Music Director at the Frankfurt Opera one of the world’s most respected companies. He spent almost 10 years there. It was a time of fantastic professional growth for Paolo as he memorized every note of 80 to 90 operas and gained global stature.
Paolo described a typical day this way: “I studied one opera all day, then conducted another that evening.” Watching Aida gave me an appreciation of the physical and psychic demands of opera conducting. With intermission breaks, the performance lasted nearly four hour a period during which Paolo had to maintain fierce concentration and constant motion . . . while giving the impression of graceful flow.
There appeared to be about 60 musicians in the pit, a similar number of principal singers and chorus members on stage, and at times that many or more extras (plus elephants and other livestock!) representing both a victorious and a defeated army. Every note played or sung, every gesture and movement, came in response to Paolo’s cues.
Because his relentless schedule had left him suffering in body and mind, Paolo began swimming for stress relief. A fellow swimmer noticed him at the pool daily and urged him to learn TI. Paolo started with book and video, then attended a workshop in Zurich.
After leaving Frankfurt, Paolo was in demand to lead top companies in major cities around the world. As he traveled he sought out TI coaching–Barcelona, Tokyo, New York. When we met in Nov 2008, Paolo had developed a truly graceful stroke. That day he said “I always swim before a performance. After practicing TI I feel much more energized in body and mind, I feel happier, and I even feel more fluent in my conducting gestures.” Naturally I was thrilled. I asked if that affected the performance. Paolo replied: “The company can sense the conductor’s energy and spirit and they reflect it back in their performance.”
I reflected on this and realized that an audience of thousands witnesses a more joyful and uplifting production . . . all because one man swims for an hour before starting his ‘work day.’
Enjoy Paolo’s video. I got great pleasure from shooting it.
Postscript: Paolo, who celebrated his 50th birthday days before we met in November, confided that his goal is to cut back on his conducting schedule by the time he turns 55—to allow time to become a TI Coach!