Video: How TI Changed Paolo Carignani’s Life — and Work
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on January 30th, 2012

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!


9 Responses to “Video: How TI Changed Paolo Carignani’s Life — and Work”

  1. Deb Brudvig says:

    OH I wish more conductors would swim! Instrumentalists are very aware of the happiness or unhappiness of those in front with the stick. Plus the best conductors I’ve seen have a strong mind/body connection. If that is not there they cannot communicate and the players all need chiropractors later. Many conductors work on spirit and mind–and that’s great. But if you add the joy, awareness and appreciation of being in a body–instead of resenting it, fearing it or being trapped by it–great communication is available and great energy is released. I have actually chosen to stop working for some conductors. I don’t wish to suffer with them. Some people tell me to just take the check. I used to. But why? Of course one can be the missionary of “another way of being”– but some people are not open to it. So I try to be in the places that are the best for me. The pool, swimming, coaching–TI!–art–teaching cello and playing places where there are challenges but also real joy. Bravo Maestro! May more people follow your lead–in the pool or with the baton. 🙂

  2. kueli says:

    Hi, Terry!
    I am afraid you forgot to link Paolo’s video…

  3. Thanks for the alert Frank. I finally fixed that. I’d put in the youtube embed code twice, but it disappeared twice.

  4. Bita says:

    Very nice!

  5. Doug Alt says:

    That day (swim, interview, concert) was obviously a “high” for both Paolo AND you! Kudos to both!
    I am also a professional musician, albeit on a MUCH lower level than someone like Paolo, playing piano and singing locally in the New Jersey area. For my normal TI swimming practice sessions, I tend to get to the pool during the evening hours. However, the day of a singing performance, I have found that swimming BEFORE the event leaves me, and especially my vocal apparatus, in a very smooth, relaxed mode.
    Today’s swim was more rewarding than usual in that I have recently been able to comfortably do 16-17 SPL, but today I managed a few 15 SPL’s (25 Yard pool, and I use very little push-off). The best part was that the 15’s were achieved with the same tempo, but with LESS EFFORT than the 16’s and 17’s!
    Two hours later, as I was performing in a solo concert, I was so relaxed, smooth and happy that, just as Paolo described, I could see the difference in how my performance was impacting the listening audience.
    Also, my wife has commented several times on how she sees my entire personality as being more mellow, yet visibly VITAL due to being “immersed” in this kaizen approach to swimming. The “kaizen” part is spilling over to my singing as well – at age 69 my voice is IMPROVING! I am reaching new high and low notes, and am doing it in a much more relaxed and better-sounding way.
    Who’d have thought that a book I purchased two years ago on how to swim could have such an impact on “Show Biz”?
    Thanks for everything you’re doing.

  6. Simon Bailey says:

    As the colleague who introduced PC to TI in the first place I am very glad it´s been so good for him.
    Unfortunately in Germany the video is unviewable, because of the music content.
    Bravo Paolo, avanti cosi – und nicht schleppen!

  7. andy says:

    Great Inspiring interview, since you use the beethoven music I will quote Billy Joel ‘Tomorrow is a long time away, this night could last forever’

  8. […] to coach visitors from other countries who come to Tokyo. [One of Kyoko's transformed students is opera conductor Paolo Carignani.] This helps me learn about many […]

  9. Euphemia says:

    I’m a violinist and these days so very happy to work with Paolo Carignani in Verdi’s MacBeth. I knew there was something special about this conductor. He is so relaxed and friendly and in the mean time so inspiring! Here I discovered how he manages to do it. I worked with many conductors and I have to say it’s very rare to meet a conductor like this. Thank you so much!

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