I’ve written on this topic before, but it’s another great and simple rule for conductors. Don’t be an ass. If you didn’t get the memo, the days of the Toscanini type of tyrant conductor are over. For people like Ricardo Muti, it sometimes takes an extra explanation – like an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the La Scala orchestra inviting you to stop being their conductor.
One time, a friend thought a conductor was being too hard on me in a rehearsal. He made the conductor apologize to me. When the conductor tried to apologize for his intensity, I couldn’t quite grasp what he was trying to say. All of a sudden, I realized what the problem was. I trusted this conductor. I knew that this conductor’s only concern was to make the music sound as beautiful as possible. I never took his intensity in rehearsal as a personal attack. He had no need to apologize.
On the other hand, if a conductor starts dropping little phrases about his/her reputation, what people will think of the product, etc. I start to mistrust them. I start to believe that their purpose is egotistical and that the music isn’t the most important thing. When that sort of conductor starts to get “intense” in a rehearsal, I tend to shut down emotionally. I’ll still play the part, but I won’t entrust myself to him/her for a shared musical experience in the same way.
So, how do you tell which kind of conductor you are? Are you the humble kind that is serving the music or the ass kind that is serving your own resume? Here is a pretty good litmus. When is the last time you admitted making a mistake in front of your ensemble? If you are afraid to admit to your group that you made a mistake, you are still leading from a place of insecurity.