PEOPLE

James Clark

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The English concertmaster offers his advice on leadership

The leader is the conduit between the orchestra and the conductor

A concertmaster’s role is not just about preparing music and deciding on bowing, it involves being a diplomat, psychologist, consultant, part-time conductor and, most importantly, maestro’s coffee maker as well! The leader is the conduit between the orchestra and the conductor, and he or she has to command respect from everyone on the platform – motivating, mediating and calming frayed nerves as required.

As a leader you encounter conductors on their debut, ones who don’t speak much English, or ones – as once happened to me – who turn up expecting to conduct a totally different programme from the one scheduled. If a player in the orchestra is having difficulty interpreting what the conductor wants, and either side becomes frustrated by this, the leader needs to step in and resolve the situation quickly and delicately. And if the conductor has an unhelpful stick technique or is demanding a style that the orchestra doesn’t warm to, the leader needs to drive the orchestra forward with their own musical technique or movement of bow and violin. Oh, and did I mention that they need to be able to play the violin rather well, too?

This article was first published in the July 2011 issue. To download a digital edition, go here

Photo credit: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

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