What is a Conductor?


"A person who, principally by means of gestures of the hands and arms, leads the performance of a musical ensemble." This is how the Harvard dictionary of music defines a conductor. However, there is much more that goes into being a conductor. To name a few, a conductor must also be a motivator, interpreter, role model, organizer, and disciplinarian.
One of the many roles a conductor plays is that of motivator. This is a very important skill for a conductor to possess. They must be able to make their ensemble want to become better, to make them stretch their limits. They must inspire their musicians to want to run to the practice rooms after rehearsals.
Next, a conductor is an interpreter. They take the music that is written on the page and bring it to life. They are the ones who decide whether or not Bach wanted a forte to be as loud as a train or as loud as the hum of a refrigerator. They set the scale for dynamics, articulation and quality of sound. They are responsible for knowing the differences of elements of music between the Baroque and Romantic periods of music. The conductor is in a sense a mediator between composer and performer.
A conductor is also a role model. In a group of older musicians this is true to an extent, but in younger groups it is a very important element. If a group has a conductor in front of them whom they don't approve of, they will be less likely to take all they gesture to the group less seriously. They need to be able to trust the conductor and a good part of that comes from the conductor's personality not only in rehearsals, but also out. If the conductor is winning awards and bettering themselves out side of rehearsal, they are more credible to their ensemble. However, if the conductor has had a bad reputation conducting other ensembles or even as a performer, the ensemble will question their interpretation of the score more often.
The conductor must also be an organizer. They must decide who plays what part and when. They must set up times for regular rehearsals and call extra ones when needed. They organize concert dates and decide the appropriate literature to play during them. A conductor organizes tours and where to go during them. They also, especially in younger groups, are representative of the group and usually take responsibility for actions of ensemble members.
Lastly, a role of a conductor is disciplinarian. A conductor is the person who decides when a section sounds horrible enough to need a sectional. They control the chatter in a group, even if it should not be necessary to do so. The conductor also plays a role in firing as well as hiring in professional groups.
In conclusion, a conductor has many duties and roles. A good balance of their duties and roles makes a good conductor. The conductor is not just standing in front of the ensemble waving their arms; they are also doing ten times more.