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Condi Rice on her friendship with Apple’s HR chief

John Kerry Unveils Portrait Of Condoleezza Rice At State DepartmentJohn Kerry Unveils Portrait Of Condoleezza Rice At State Department
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be the keynote speaker.T.J. Kirkpatrick—Getty Images

Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, is staying mum on whether or not she’d seriously consider taking on the top job at the troubled National Football League. (Calls for current commissioner Roger Goodell to step down have mounted following a string of domestic abuse cases— and Rice once said she wanted to head the NFL.) But in a recent interview with Fortune, she had plenty to say about Denise Young Smith, her long-time friend and the Apple exec recently profiled in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women issue.

Rice and Young Smith, head of HR at the iPhone maker, have thrived in different industries—politics and business, respectively. But over the years, the two have connected on several fronts, including their love of music. They originally met through their mutual hairstylist and went on to form a close friendship. They’ve even performed together on a number of occasions—Rice is a pianist and Young Smith is a soprano vocalist.

“When you’re doing collaborative music, the relationship that forms is a very bonding kind of experience,” says Rice, currently a professor at Stanford University.

You also get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. At one show, Rice and Young Smith performed the 1945 showtune You’ll Never Walk Alone, which has a notoriously challenging—and optional—high note at the end. Rice says she wasn’t sure whether or not Young Smith would opt for hitting the last note, but that she just went for it during the performance.

“Sure enough she did it, and she hit it beautifully,” says Rice.

When asked how she would describe Young Smith as a performer and a leader, Rice said: “She’s a very passionate person. She’s focused on anything and everything that she does, whether it’s preparing for a performance or the way she’s taken on her new responsibilities [at Apple]. She’s creative and that comes through in her music and in running those amazing retail stores, so it clearly came through in her profession as well. She’s not afraid to take risk. When you are going up the corporate ladder or the government ladder you have to take some risk. She could have remained in a position she knows and was wildly successful in, but she didn’t.”

Both Rice and Young Smith know about climbing the ladder. But they have managed to keep up with their other passion: music (and, in Rice’s case, football as well). According to the former Secretary of State, they both enjoy performing a combination of classical music, showtunes and spiritual pieces. “I hope we’ll do many more [performances] together,” says Rice. A growing number of people are also hopeful—that Rice will take on the NFL commissioner post and find a way to fix the beleaguered league. To that, Rice had just this to say: “I enjoy being a fan.”

“From the MPW Co-chairs” is a daily series where the editors who oversee the Fortune Most Powerful Women brand share their insights about women leaders.