“I believe that every human being endowed with intelligence, memory, and strength of character bears within him a little of the supernatural as well. The highest purpose of the conductor is to release this superhuman potential in every one of his musicians.” - Charles Munch
If we imagine every instrument in an orchestra as embodying the qualities of its musician, the conductor becomes the one who leads and harmonizes each instrument to create melodic music. All music sounds different, but no matter what type of music it is, it has musicians creating the music and fans listening to the music. If change is the only constant in time, math and music are two of the universal languages that are consistent throughout time and around the world.
From Wikipedia, a conductor’s primary duty is to “unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble”. To simplify, a conductor must understand everyone of his or her member’s ability to balance out (unify) a whole line. Thus, managing a business is like playing Tetris while conducting an orchestra.
An orchestra is a group of different instruments where similar sounding ones are combined as part of a whole. There are five types, which include woodwinds (flutes, clarinets), brass (trumpets, trombones), percussion (drums, cymbals), keyboards (piano, organ) and strings (violins, harps). The differences in these instruments allow an orchestra to create a harmonious sound that becomes pleasant to listen to.
However, reaching the harmonious state is the most difficult part of the process. Why? Because the ones playing the instruments are people with different personalities and come from various backgrounds. A conductor must understand the quirks of each player and know each person’s strengths and weaknesses.
How Is Conducting Similar To Leadership?
In line with Leadership Lessons From An Orchestra Conductor, a conductor, like a business owner, “understands his people, allows them to develop, treats them with respect and yet gently nudges them towards the goal of making beautiful music”.
Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Some people are good at more than one thing while some are good at only one thing. Some people love connecting big picture ideas while some love diving down to the details. And yet there are some who balances out both depending on the current situation.
In that sense, a conductor is the person that is in the center of both spectrums. If a conductor’s purpose is to unify the performers, shouldn't he or she be able to adapt to each person and mold every team member to improve? From that article, the following is a list of Top Ten Qualities of a Great Conductor:
- Have a clear vision of your goals by creating a plan (musical score) on how to achieve that vision.
- Practice, practice, take a break, and practice some more. During a performance, conductors and their members seem to understand one another without uttering a word because they get used to each other’s style during the rehearsal.
- Awesome conductors get the best performance from each musician when they feel important, accepted and secure. If a conductor is like a leader, what is a leader without followers? Who will the conductor conduct without its musicians?
- Great conductors or leaders show passion for their chosen career which is revealed in their performance.
- Every action a conductor does is done for a reason. Thus, make sure to read ahead and purposely know the consequences of each action.
- A conductor shares the center stage with the musicians because similar to (3), there would be no need for a conductor without the orchestra.
- Great conductors know when to lead and when to delegate. No one can do everything because no one is perfect.
- They focus on the task ahead and manage the orchestra instead of worrying about the past or what’s behind them.
- A conductor is in the center and visible to every team member to ensure that the orchestra is organized and focused. Similar to playing Tetris, the conductor makes sure that each shape or person is placed on the right path and fits well with the rest of the team.
- Since the conductor is usually the balance point, the musicians tend to be much more skilled since they focus on only one instrument. However, to fully guide each member, the conductor must know some details or have had experience playing each instrument or tool.
Doesn’t it seem like a conductor is able to read each member’s mind and know what each person thinks? How is it possible for a conductor to control an entire orchestra by simply moving a baton in the air? From the viewer’s perspective, it’s magic. But if you think deeper, isn’t it because of the connection that formed during all those rehearsals and live performances?