Creative Events

How I Got 300 Strangers to Perform Beethoven on Bamboo

Coming together with inspiring speakers from around the globe in an incredible bamboo resort in the heart of the rice paddies of Ubud, Bali, was certainly one of the highlights of my year. I was so privileged to have been invited to speak at TedXUbud 2014. Working with the incredible team at TedXUbud, we came up with idea of getting the 300-strong audience to work together to perform Beethoven's Ode To Joy in it's complete entirety (yes, as per the full original arrangement deconstructed and decoded in a format that everyone could play). All of this to demonstrate the power of collaboration. We would do this with my music teambuilding experience and our latest eco-friendly perfectly-pitched bamboo musical instruments. The catch? I had to achieve this in fifteen minutes flat. No small feat. But we pulled it off and it was history-making. Check out the footage above. I think you will appreciate the final performance when you see everyone coming together and the look on the audience's face when they realise they produced the piece of music together in less than 15 minutes. That look was priceless. It's such a joy to be able to share the power and magic of creating music together with audiences. I've never conducted such a complex piece of music in such a short space of time with little rehearsal, so it really was incredible to see, hear and feel the energy of the audience bringing the event to life. So how did we do it? There were over twenty sections of the bamboo orchestra, and the room was intricately set up to ensure each group had the right parts of music to play. Each part on its own sounds beautiful, but it's not until you hear all twenty-two different tones together in unison, that you hear the final arrangement as composed by Beethoven. It was a team effort working with the incredible crew at TedXUbud to ensure the room was perfectly set up. What you see in the video is Bambajam™ - a perfectly-pitched, handcrafted & sustainably-produced bamboo musical instrument. I've spent the past three years designing and creating this beautiful instrument with artisans in Bali to put music back into the hands of everyone. Used in conjunction with my simplified music education program,  we can literally get anyone to perform music together. We're also working with an NGO in Bali to source sustainable bamboo and plant new bamboo plantings for each instrument created. You can learn more about Bambajam for Education and sign up for updates here. Music is such a positive force for collaboration that I believe it should be a part of everyone's life - young and old. From education to leadership development. It can shift our mindset, enhance our mood (or even get us down) and remind us that anything is possible when we share and work together. It's like a mirror for how we should function as a society, organisation or school - harmonious, authentic & creative. Music is powerful. If you are interested in attending TedXUbud 2015, be sure to… READ MORE


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About Duncan McKee

I'm a jazz pianist, television composer & educator. I share the stage with some of the worlds best musicians.

I compose soundtracks for television networks such as HBO and The Discovery Channel and I also write for my own trio The Duncan McKee Trio and multi-cultural group Tembusu.

I'm fascinated by music and its collaborative effect on people. When I'm not on stage playing music I'm very often on stage talking about it.



  • Nico Balschuweit, Manager Sales Learning and Development

    FedEx Express Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa

    "The session was excellent and will be remembered for a long time. You brought the energy of our team to a different level. We all enjoyed it. Well done and thank you again!!"

  • Simon Lau, Head of Leadership Development, Group Learning and Talent Development

    Standard Chartered Bank

    “I have worked with Duncan on numerous occasions to support large scale leadership development events. He brings a unique energy to the way he engages with the audience to provide a leadership and team experience out of the ordinary. His natural passion for music comes across clearly as he translates this into his work."

  • Rosina Wickart, Senior Director, Commercial Procurement EMEA

    Johnson & Johnson

    "We engaged Duncan and his stix programme to help build conversations within our group. We were looking for a unique way to improve the team’s performance and build on communication. The result was a fully-engaging and insightful meeting that shifted our perceptions of what was achievable. Duncan challenged our ideas of leadership and teamwork, and we could not have predicted such positive results."

  • Nick Hutton, CMO


    "stix was a revelation - everything that we hoped for happened … high energy, motivation, teambuilding, dynamism, no cultural boundary and fun - everyone enjoyed the STIX experience so much that it was voted the top session at the conference."

  • Stephanie Cross-Wilson, CEO


    "Thanks again for an outstanding performance yesterday.  It was just brilliant.  You are really lucky being able to have a career in something that you clearly love doing - and it shows in the quality of the work that you do."