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Personality+: Ben Stiegler, Man of Note

Hardly one to toot his own horn, Ben Stiegler has dragged his a French model made in 1931 out of the closet to reprise his childhood pastime as the brass in not one, but two bands.

Stiegler, who is CEO of SynerTel, a San Francisco-based IT solutions provider, is jazzed about his unexpected comeback. But he owes a least partial credit to his neighbor Martha Brown, who upon hearing that the school band had filled its quota of bassoons Bens instrument of choice said: Try the French horn. They always seem to need horn players.

I played every day from fifth grade through high school, and most of my first two years at Carleton College, Stiegler said. His high school gigs included concert orchestra, concert band, woodwind quintets, opera pit orchestra, and very briefly, the football marching band.

After college, the opportunities to play dried up and thats when the horn went into the closet. A few times I thought about donating it to some deserving youth, but didnt quite feel ready to give it up, he admitted. And, indeed, he was not.

About six years ago, a new rabbi came to Bens Oakland synagogue and started what he called a Rock & Roll Shabbat Band. I watched as slowly it grew to include a violin, clarinet, trombone, and flute player. It looked like too much fun to miss. I pulled together my courage and asked if I could join, he said.

At the same time, a friend in Berkeley organized Netivot Shalom Jazz/Klezmer Ensemble, a group playing big band jazz and klezmer (dance tunes and instrumental display pieces for weddings and other celebrations), which Ben was invited to join. This group plays a few concerts and festivals each year. Ive learned to take risks and improvise as the solo spotlight is passed around the band. Its a great experience in risk-taking, Ben said. Its like walking a tightrope in the dark without a net you just leap and trust that youll come out somewhere interesting!

Stiegler, in the purple shirt, playing with the Netivot Shalom Jazz/Klezmer Ensemble.

And that somewhere often is a needed departure from running his business, which offers managed IT services and converged communications solutions. [It] completely takes me away from e-mail, sales, proposals, trouble tickets and business planning!

Thoughts on telecom: While cloud-based and hosted VoIP are big buzzwords today, the reality is that theres a lot more which has to go right and stay right for those technologies to deliver business quality performance.

Words to live by: 99% = Not Done. My mentor Mike Durance had a 40-foot banner with those words put up at Toshiba US headquarters when he took over. I liked it so much I made a slightly shorter one for our office.

First job: I started an electronics repair service in my bedroom when I was in third or fourth grade. All the neighbors knew that if a radio or phonograph stopped working, they could bring it over and Id do my best to fix it.

Favorite musicians:  I enjoy a lot of musicians who should be more widely appreciated, but dont have big publicity machines.  Three on top of my list are Bill Harley,  Willy Claflin  and Joshua Nelson.“   

Do you know someone who has Personality+? Were looking for interesting characters in telecom to take the spotlight! Please send nominations to Khali Henderson at

khenderson@vpico.com

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