Two Typical Leadership Styles of Conductors to Watch For


With regard to leadership there are basically two types of music conductors:

  • Those that lead from the side
  • Those that lead from the front

Conductors that lead from the side will begin rehearsals with broad concepts. They allow details to organically evolve from the musicians in rehearsal and will mold this organic process into a cohesive vision by performance time.

These conductors usually begin rehearsals with uninterrupted readings; they will gauge and hone in on the natural tendencies of the orchestra and seek out ways to shape these tendencies into their broader, big picture.

Sergiu Celibidache:

Conductors that lead from the side may include archetypes such as:

  • The Diplomat
  • The Negotiator
  • The Colleague
  • The Teacher

These are the basic archetypes that leadership-success gurus like to point to as examples for business leaders to emulate. These conductors are generally the most approachable for the average musician to relate and talk to.

Conductors that lead from the front will approach an orchestra with a detailed interpretation already in hand; details are carefully micromanaged.

Complete readings of pieces may only happen at the final dress rehearsal.

A few archetypes of conductors that lead from the front might include:

  • The Autocrat
  • The Teacher
  • The Neophyte
  • The Enlightened Philosopher

In capable hands, each method can have its own merits.

Knowing which type your conductor is (or is trying to be) can be a valuable asset. While you as the subordinate may not agree with certain aspects of one style or another, anticipating a conductor’s method and understanding their strengths and weaknesses can help a player keep a positive frame of mind.

University of Horn Matters