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Orchestra conductors must exercise a unique style of leadership. They must listen intently, and without saying a word, draw out strong performances from their orchestras. This requires that they learn to be the ultimate collaborators, understand the unique capabilities of each musician and decide how best to blend them into a coherent whole.
In this video, Itay Talgam shows that contrary to their popular image, the best conductors are not dictators. Instead, they are successful by being great teachers and by mastering the art of helping others give voice to expressive contributions. The most successful conductors believe in the inherent capacity of the people they lead to accomplish whatever is required. The players may need to be coaxed, nudged and enticed, but masterful performances reside within them.
Benjamin Zander, conductor for the Boston Philharmonic and author of The Art of Possibility, suggests that one way to determine whether you are on track is to look into the eyes of those you lead. “The eyes never lie. If the eyes are shining, then I know that my leadership is working. Human beings in the presence of possibility react physically as well as emotionally. If the eyes aren’t shining, I ask myself, ‘What am I doing that’s keeping my musicians’ eyes from shining?'”
Conductors, or leaders, who recognize that they do not need to make a sound or dominate or control, can focus on enabling others to be more effective. They can help others feel energetic, lively, engaged and focused not only on the task at hand, but more importantly, connected and listening to the other musicians, their orchestral collaborators, required to make beautiful music.