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The Ideal Conductor

Victor Cheng
Personal Qualities:
The ideal conductor should be
Humble - Understanding the limits of one's own intelligence and abilities
Friendly - a personable conductor is one people will want to play for
Respectful - to treat each musician with dignity
Collaborative - soloists, orchestral / choral musicians
Perfectionist - knowing every detail of the score intimately, to know your
technique perfectly
Musically intelligent - aware of every music detail including - history,
harmonic structure, themes etc
Studious - to know the score and instruments, and history in great detail
Imaginative - conceive of the piece in your mind beyond blots of ink
Decisive - able to make a decision that not everyone will be happy with
Courageous - to hold onto your decisions, and champion ideas which may not
be popular
Proud (without being cocky, or egotistical), Inherently musical,
Intellectual, Curious, Charismatic, Inspiring, Succinct, Honest,
Supportive, Understanding, Determined, Flexible, Prepared,
Empathetic, Expressive, Sincere, Quick thinking, Inspiring

Personal Skills

Critical self-awareness
Able to admit their own mistakes
The capacity to transmit emotional energy or aura to all those involved
in performances (performers and audience)
Working alone and with large groups of people excellently
Being able to connect others through their leadership
Establish and maintain professional relationships
To leave ego at the door, and serve the music
able to answer to a board of directors

Provide direction without being tyrannical

Able to problem solve on the spot
Able to perform under time constraints and pressure

Leadership Skills

Authoritative, opposed to dictatorship

Be able to command respect, through respect
Musical leadership, must be respected as a musician
Conceive, and stick to a musical or artistic idea
Show humility in mistakes
Sincerity as a leader
Unfaltering faith in the ensemble
To act as a mentor / teacher / conduit for music, not a decider
Empathetic, do not embarrass your players
Communicate with great efficiency
Act with justification, do not be concrete in your decisions but also do
not be swayed without reason

Technical Skills

Be able to read all forms of notation as needed

To know names of instruments, dynamics, articulation markings in
various languages
functional piano skills - for score analysis
Performance level proficiency on at least 1 instrument
A trained musical ear, will be able to pick out wrong notes in dissonant
clusters, to hear all moving parts at once
To know the limitations, and extended techniques of each instrument
ideally, how to rehearse instruments to achieve desired effect
Knowledge of string bowings
Understanding of voices, and subtleties of conducting choirs
(consonants, glottal attacks etc)
Ability to analyze all music, in a meaningful and applicable way
Ability to stay informed on performance practices of various periods of
Ability to perform comprehensive research on pieces conducted, to
form a complete picture of the piece

To have absolutely rhythmic precision (and how to also let go of

To accurately cue sections of the orchestra when needed
To be able to balance the orchestra, so that they perform at their best
Ability to discern musical lines, and their levels of emphasis
Ability to bring out the varying levels of dynamics in a piece
To know the progression of music throughout time, as it relates to how
a piece should be performed, realized, and styled
comprehension of the harmonic series, and the varying ways humans
have systematically organized sound
Have an idea of where music is going at the current day
Knows the main repertoire of the Western canon
Able to find suitable pieces to program together
Commitment to performing the best music from current day, to the
very past (don't be a sensationalist)
Ability to advance the idea of orchestral music in public perception
through innovative programming
Aware of trends in contemporary performance

Baton / Conducting

Absolute knowledge of the basic foundations of conducting

Precise gestures that will help the ensemble
providing the bare minimum gesture, for the ideal level of sound
communicate musical ideas through physical gesturing
indicate cut offs, entries, dynamics, phrasing, articulation, and
emphasis through gesture

Educational Skills (amateur groups / school system)

Firm pedagogical understanding of all instruments, including voice

Pedagogical understanding of how to teach music
ability to simplify, fragment, and adopt musical material into warm ups
/ exercise
pedagogical understanding of the theories of musical education
ability to apply these to your rehearsal space / classroom
Creating lesson or rehearsal plans with the intent to improve
musicianship over a period of time longer than 1 week
Ability to choose repertoire which pushes your musicians just beyond
what they're capable of

Able to get to know a group of musicians, and determine best ways of

addressing their musical needs (professional or amateur)
Able to prepare a rehearsal plan, and deal with problems that occur
during rehearsal

Business Skills

Networking with your colleagues, fellow musicians, administrators,

Networking with donors / beneficiaries
If starting own ensemble understanding arts business models
Advertising, social media / print
Grant writing skills
initiative to seek out performance opportunities
combining business management + musical excellence
Recruiting singers or instrumentalists
Signing rental agreements for concert + rehearsal venues
building a board of directors
ability to fundraise, and host events
Public speaking