4. Professionalism and Leadership

Your reputation will precede you. This is absolutely true when it comes to conducting. You will get job offers and opportunities based on your reputation and your standing as a conductor. Sure, a lot of that will have to do with your excellence in all the important musical and artistic qualifications mentioned in previous points, but you will not be judged solely on these points. You also need to be a professional. This is expected of you. On a higher level, what we are talking about here is not only your reputation but who you are and what values you will stand for. As a conductor, you should accept and embrace the role of leader. Therefore, it stands to reason that you should consider what it means to be a leader and a professional.

  • Your leadership will be noticed – on and off the podium. Being a conductor means being a leader, and what you say, what you do, what you stand for will be noticed – both on and off the podium. What are your values as a person? As a conductor? As a leader? As a pedagogue? As an artist? How do you want others to perceive you? How do you project your values to the world around you?

  • Be professional. Always. Even if you are the only professional in the room, stick to your professional standards. Here are some examples of being a professional:

    You cannot be late. You need to be well-prepared and organised. Always treat people – including all musicians – with the respect they deserve. This does not at all mean that you can not be demanding. But it means that when you do insist, do it politely. Be appreciative of the music, the composer, the audience, sponsors and other stakeholders, the ensemble, the administration, and anyone who helped any particular project come to fruition. If you have important critical feedback, offer it to whom it concerns, not to everyone. In general, it is a very good idea to speak well of colleagues, whether it be musicians or fellow conductors.

  • You may need to become involved – beyond the podium. Depending on your job situation, you may have to involve yourself in the organisation. If you’re a music director or chief conductor, you’ll be expected to contribute, beyond the podium. And if you are an ensemble director in a school or if you conduct the local orchestra, band, or choir you should expect to be involved in the operation of the organisation. Usually, there are other personnel than the conductor who will be chiefly responsible for the administration. The key to success is good communication with your administration and importantly, a clear definition of what your responsibilities would be. From your employer’s point of view, having an involved conductor is a great asset. This does require some effort and investment in time and energy on your part.

  • Be an advocate of music and of the arts. Some say that the conductor is the composer’s advocate, and this is true, especially in the sense that one of our important duties is to realise the score and to relay the composer’s intentions. In a broader perspective, one is also music’s advocate. As conductors, we are in the business of creating music, and we do have a duty to champion both quality music-making and expanding music’s contribution and place in society. As leaders and representatives of this art form, we should be able to articulate why music is important and how society can and should support music and arts.
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