Conductors: CEOs in a Tux

Conductors: CEOs in a Tux

By: Bibi Pelić

Music conductors. We see them standing in front of a orchestra and cannot but wonder,  what are they doing? What is their purpose and do they really have a significant role in a concert performance?

The conductor is a popular figure in the music world and achieves great fame without playing an instrument. His true power is in his ability to make other people powerful. He must be effective in enabling musicians to play their best.

Musicians in the orchestra are professionals, playing and performing since early childhood. Usually they are strong individuals, confident in their skills and knowledge and have high aspectations regarding the music conductor. This leadership aspect is similar in any business.

What is the Musical Definition of Conducting?

The conductor has to persuade others to accept his view of the music and help him shape it into a unified and convincing whole. If we make a list of the general skills and requirements a music conductor must have, it will look something like this:

• Full command of resources / excellent musical knowledge

• Confidence in the art of gesture

• A good physique, a good temperament, and a strong sense of discipline

• Everything occurs in his head before it happens, and he “hears” it

• Highly developed eye contact, facial expressions, and posture

• Motivational and leadership skills

• Ability to explain complicated ideas to people from different nationalities

• Ability to convince musicians that he knows better than all of them together

• Freshness - improvisation skills

How many of these same skills and requirements should a business leader possess? 

A joint music leader’s and business leader’s list would look something like this:

1. Vision

Vision is in the conductors' mind, he/she “sees and hears it”, as if painting the picture before anybody sees it. The conductor leads the orchestra gradually to this vision. Conductors generally do not speak about vision, they project it to the orchestra through their movements, gestures, eye and voice communication. 

2. Set the Tone – Give the A!

At the beginning of a concert the conductor raises his baton and asks the oboe to give the A. All musicians takeover the oboe's A.  This ritual of giving the A sets the tone for the orchestra. It provides unity, purpose, a common goal to all musicians.   

3. Power of Communication

The power of communication through eye contact, the height and use of the baton, and gestures of encouragement are the motions most important for the conductor. The conductor is a leader who knows every instrument and considers every musician a member of his family. His encouragement, support, and advice are immediately provided during rehearsal and while the orchestra is playing. Full communication is in a constant motion. Orchestra musicians communicate with the conductor on a constant basis, never breaking the communication channel. The conductor looks to rather guide musicians than command them. He guides them through success and possible failure by encouraging and silently working through challenges. In businesses or companies, how is the immediate performance improvement achieved? Can business leaders apply the extraordinary communication skills top conductors possess?  

4. Trust

Trust is key to the relationship between conductor and musician. As a musician I know that I must trust my music partners. Trust is developed from the very first rehearsal, sharing knowledge, experiences 

5. Passion

The conductor is the link of the orchestra that does not play an instrument. His role is to lead and enable others to be the stars. A good conductor possesses the flexibility and self-confidence to give musicians freedom to explore their music ideas and implement them within the conductor's vision. Conductors lead with passion, passing their passion on to the whole orchestra. This is key to a successful performance. His passion encourages musicians to become better musicians. 

In businesses or companies, does management support employees develop and imporve themselves? How important is this to the business world?

“The most important ability is being able to handle people, and knowing how to influence musicians by word, gesture, looks,” said German conductor Bruno Walter. “Human qualities have much to say. If the man is warmhearted, sincere, the musicians, and even the more experienced ones, will listen to him. The demands are manifold, and you have to be versatile.”

Good advice, whether you’re conducting an orchestra or running a business.

 
February, 2011
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