Rising Star Murray Hidary: “How we can use music to awaken to who we truly are, or forgot we were.”

Alexandra Spirer
Dec 30, 2019 · 10 min read

While I identified with being a tech entrepreneur, I have never felt the level of fulfillment that I do now through MindTravel, that is, moving people to purpose through music. I’ve shared this live experience with over 100,000 people coast to coast and around the world and I feel like we’re just getting started. I’ve seen people of every socio-economic status, race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender and sexual orientation awaken. Awaken to who they truly are or who they forgot they were.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Murray Hidary, founder of MindTravel. Murray Hidary is a multi-disciplinary artist and tech pioneer. His purpose-driven approach is at the heart of his business success, acclaim as a visual artist and global recognition as a musician. Ever pushing boundaries and guided by a strong desire to help people find their purpose, Murray is now focused on touring his immersive musical experience MindTravel across the globe. Over the past five years, Murray has created over 500 MindTravel experiences for over 100,000 people in cities from Los Angeles to London, Paris to Pittsburgh, Berlin to Boulder; in venues such as Lincoln Center, The Theater at the Ace Hotel, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Grace Cathedral, and The National Arts Club. Murray created the first MindTravel experience in 2013. He invited a group to his living room for a live performance of his provocative, improvisational, real-time compositions at the piano and then asked them what they thought of the experience. Moved by their emotional response and the power of music to take the group on a deep inner journey, he moved forward to bring it to the world. Growing up playing music since he was five years old, Murray knew he wanted to be a composer by the time he was in high school. He also began a deep inner journey of discovery as a teenager that led him to study eastern philosophy, Zen Buddhism and other wisdom traditions. His composing became deeply influenced by these teachings and he began to fuse the two into a personal reflective practice at the piano. This practice inspired him to discover great insights and provided healing through profound personal loss, grief and life’s tribulations. It became a voice he used to connect to his higher sense of purpose. A musical language and journey continued to emerge and evolve. He called it MindTravel. MindTravel brings together Murray’s passions for contemporary classical music, visual art, theoretical physics and wisdom traditions. They are the four pillars of an integrated experience that seeks to explore an understanding of the universe at both the visible and hidden levels. Learn more about Murray Hidary at www.murrayhidary.com.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a small child, I loved building things. As a child at heart I still do. Legos and Tinker Toy creations soon gave way to tech companies and music. But from the beginning, there’s has been a common driver — the urge to do something new. Never replicating what was on the ‘cover of the box’ but building what was in my imagination. Bringing my ideas into the real world.

I studied classical composition at NYU and when I graduated i wondered how I was going to make money in my chosen field. I didn’t want to write jingles for TV commercials or anything like that and, luckily, there was a different shiny object that grabbed my attention. It was called the Internet. Yes, just imagine a time when 99.9% of the world didn’t know what that word meant. The possibilities seemed endless and creatively, I was hooked. At 22, I started my first company with my brother and after much learning, stumbling and persevering along the way, we took our company public in a record setting IPO in1998.

I continued building tech companies throughout my 20’s and 30’s. I maintained my music at the same time, playing a piano in my office or at home at the end of every intense and long start-up day. This reduced my stress and anxiety and balanced me. Some years later I would also use music to deal with the pain and grief of the death of my little sister who was killed suddenly in an accident at 23 years old. Music allowed me to feel the pain out of me. To feel through the grief. After seeing the power of the music i was creating, i decided to share it with the world and finally, truly go back to my music. MindTravel was born.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At MindTravel, we wake up everyday thinking about how we can make magic for people. How we can bring more wonder into people’s lives. On a recent MindTravel SilentHIke in Los Angeles, we led 150 people up a mountain trail. Everyone walking in silence taking in nature, the music and each other. When they got to the peak we had a grand piano set up and a live performance awaiting. Earlier in the day, my team and I had hauled the piano to the top of the mountain through a backroad. It was beyond exhausting but worth every ounce of sweat. The expression of pure wonder on all the participants faces was truly priceless.

On another occasion, I was planning a trip to Tel Aviv to join Deepak Chopra for an event. In addition to a 4,000 person live event with a MindTravel live piano performance, Deepak had a special group of VIPs traveling with him. We decided to create a special MIndTravel music experience in an ancient 2,500 year old cave under the old city of Jerusalem where King Solomon had quarried stones for the first temple. We lit the huge cave with candles and took people on a transcendent musical journey. Magic.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was beginning MindTravel, I thought it was important to build the list of venues i performed at as quickly as I could. I booked a gig at The House of Blues in LA. I didn’t realize how many different rooms they had and so not giving enough thought and attention to the marketing side of things — to actually get people to show up — the room was empty when my time slot came up. I mean literally no one. Just me and the audio engineer. The engineer asked me what I wanted to do. Instead of packing up I turned to him and said, “I’m going to give you the best concert you’ve ever heard.” I proceeded to play my heart out for an hour and at the end he gave me a big hug and thanked me, telling me how much he needed that. I realized that I play for the love of playing and not for any size audience or external measure. You never know who needs to hear it at just the right time in the right place for them. Even when it’s just one person.

If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self what would you tell him and why?

I would tell my younger self to not take everything so seriously and not be so hard on myself. As I’ve lived, I’ve come to understand the game of it all. The idea that we can create the rules of our own game of life and not the other way around. That shift on how we frame life opens up such freedom.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

When I made the choice to shift back to my music and away from the tech world, I felt that if I was going to perform publicly, I wanted to really do it on a world class level. I had to immerse myself, fully. I thought about other world class performers like Roger Federer and all professional athletes. They’re the best in the world and have full time coaches. What do they need full time coaches for if they’re the best in the world? Well, they’re the best in the world because they have great coaches. Coaches who push their limits and offer an objective perspective to help them constantly evolve and grow. I thought, “Why shouldn’t a professional musician have a full time coach as well!” We’re essentially musical athletes after all.

I reached out to my original teacher, Paolo Tatafiore, with whom I had studied piano years earlier. He had since moved from New York where we had worked together to Munich. I went to visit him for a few days while I was on a trip to Europe. It felt great to play together again. He was also at a place of transition in his life. I asked him if he would move to Los Angeles and become my full time piano coach. After some soul searching, he sold all his furniture and moved into my Los Angeles guest bedroom with a suitcase of clothes and 12 boxes of musical scores. We trained every day for hours. His mastery has pushed me to a level I never thought I’d reach and has allowed me to express myself at the piano emotionally and spiritually on a whole new plane.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

While all of the MindTravel experiences including the the Live-to-Headphone concerts, the SilentHikes and the Underwater floating meditations, all bring healing and expansion to participants, we’ve also set up the MindTravel Foundation to bring the experience to underserved communities including senior homes, veterans and at-risk youth. Bringing heartwarming moments through music to those in heartbreaking situations opens up so much love and possibility.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Elevate others around you. As a leader it’s so easy to see the shortcomings of people on your team. To see what’s always wrong instead of seeing the path to elevate people to their own greatness. Very few will have the dedication to excellence that you will have being the founder or leader but when I’m able to reframe this as “how can I bring out the best in this person” instead of “this person is doing a terrible job” the results are always better. Having someone realize that they are really doing the job not for their boss or the company but for their own self expression and personal integrity more easily brings out their superpower. A win for everybody.
  2. Deal with employee issues swiftly. When you’re so busy, it’s easy to push off responding and finalizing employee issues such as contracts and salary negotiations. By dealing with such matters quickly you show respect, care and develop deeper trust with the employee. By not dealing with them in a timely manner, you can create anxiety and foster negative feelings when that wasn’t the intention at all, causing unnecessary damage to the relationship going forward.
  3. Don’t take on large amounts of debt even if it’s cheap. In the late 90’s we took on $80 million dollars in debt which allowed us to avoid dilution or issuing new shares. But you never know what the future will bring. During the tech downturn, even though we had a solid company, our stock got hit hard and we weren’t able to raise the money later on to pay back the loan so we ended up issuing many more shares than we ever intended. Be conservative when it comes to debt. The upside usually isn’t worth the downside risk.
  4. Use stock options in a more concentrated way for key people. You only have so many shares to give so use them wisely to retain the right people. Sprinkling them across the entire staff doesn’t give enough incentive for the employee to stay because of them or provide a significant enough financial upside. I’m proud of how many millionaires we created in the company when we went public. People that joined us in the beginning who took lower salaries and believed in the vision.
  5. Organize your files as you go. With so much information coming in, it’s easy to have your inbox turned into your default file storage. By “cleaning the kitchen as you go” you can avoid the stress of not being able to find a document in a timely manner when you really need it. And a clear desktop is a clear mind. Make it a regular practice.

What’s your favorite quote and why? How has it inspired you in business today?

“Music is the space between the notes.” This idea, attributed to composers including Mozart and Debussy, always spoke to me. It’s a wonderful metaphorical teaching from music that in each moment of life we have a choice. The choice to pause, if even for a brief moment. To give what happened in any given situation perspective and instead of reacting from a conditioned impulse, freely respond with grace and love. Whether in a business meeting, conversation with family or any life interaction, it can make all the difference.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

While I identified with being a tech entrepreneur, I have never felt the level of fulfillment that I do now through MindTravel, that is, moving people to purpose through music. I’ve shared this live experience with over 100,000 people coast to coast and around the world and I feel like we’re just getting started. I’ve seen people of every socio-economic status, race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender and sexual orientation awaken. Awaken to who they truly are or who they forgot they were.

If you could meet anyone either living or no longer with us for breakfast or lunch who would it be and why?

I would choose my sister, Mariel, who died too young at 23 years old in a sudden and tragic accident. I’d want the opportunity to tell her just one more time how much I love her.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @murrayhidary

Instagram @mindtravelmusic

Facebook www.facebook.com/mindtravelmusic/

Twitter @murrayhidary

Alexandra Spirer

Written by

I am an entrepreneur, publicist, journalist and event producer based in Sunny Florida. My passion is writing & giving back to others.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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