When you are dealing with professional musicians, the educational component is still present, but your demeanor and approach need to be different. With professionals, you need to communicate what you want, but you must also give them the space and respect to create something beautiful without micro-managing their artistry.

It is fairly easy in a private lesson to communicate a detailed technical description of how you would like a student to go about doing something. In the context of a private lesson, the student has come acknowledging your expertise and is expecting specific tools to solve problems. In a professional situation, when a conductor attempts to provide a technical solution, he or she is in immediate danger being condescending to the musicians.

For example, if a conductor says to me, “Can you brring out this line a little more?” I generally respond in a fairly positive manner. If a conductor says (as one did to me one time), “Can you use a little more forearm weight to bring out this line a little more?” I tend not to respond very positively because I feel like the conductor is trying to tell me how to do my job. He or she is not inviting me to listen in a different way, but, in fact, telling me not to listen and to do something mechanical.

The most common solution that professional musicians take for this kind of conductor is to respond by playing it the exact same way. 90% of the time, the conductor will respond by saying, “That’s much better.” After that, you may feel free to lose respect for the conductor. Then, you turn to your neighbor and say, “What’s the difference between a bull and an orchestra? The bull has the horns in the front and the asshole in the back.”