Five golden rules for conductors

Jonathan Brett Information, Study, Tips 3 Comments

These are the “rules” I came up with when I set myself the challenge of distilling a few key guidelines for conductors and I thought they would make a good starting point for this blog, with which we hope to put out a mixture of fun and serious things – but mostly with underlying information about conducting.

The popular view of the conductor of our times seems to favour a high degree of (mostly unhelpful) physical activity combined with passionate feelings about music – which are expressed only verbally, and, irrespective of the location, ideally in a foreign accent.  When added to an intrinsic capacity for big hair and a dash of mystic promise, these qualities apparently comprise something referred to as “charisma” but, although the results may suffice to excite an audience pumped on media hype, they do not actually fool anyone who understands that the reality of effective conducting is somewhat different, least of all those who actually have to make the sounds.

Maximising the value of the skills and motivation of these people is crucial to achieving real success. Certainly charisma plays its part but it must surely arise from the kind of personality willing to first serve the music and then the musicians, plus the inner confidence generated by genuine expertise – rather than the kind of ego which is comfortable about putting the needs of both the music and the musicians subservient to inferior musical and technical understanding on the part of the conductor.

If we accept that then, if we aspire to get as close as possible to some imaginary ideal, I think some further points to consider are:

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© Jonathan Brett 2015

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Comments 3

  1. Better Music. I appreciate these Five Golden Rules very much. I would like to add though that for me, these are not simply a professional duty but they are actually about giving a better concert. I have been to too many concerts now where there was not a single musical moment, and for sure it was the fault of the conductor – so I definitely wish that more conductors were following these rules.

  2. More modern? A second comment: I do wonder if the game has gone up. With orchestras of extraordinary technical ability now, I wonder if in general, the conducting profession has failed to keep up with the times – the standard of orchestras now means that they don’t often need us in order to stay in time. Maybe some conductors think that all they need to do is beat a bit and give a few cues – so then they have time to jump around. When in fact, our thinking has to be a heck of a lot more advanced now in order to guide the work of such expert musicians.

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