No orchestral post is surrounded by more myths than is that of the conductor. “Conductor” denotes more than just a profession. It is a symbol. It stands for authority, for the lone wolf, for the diva. For decades, conductors were the pop stars of classical music. The ones whose names were known from posters and record jackets while other orchestra members were frequently invisible amongst the ensemble. Conductors decorated title pages, were taken as models for characters in movies, and were frequently also seen as epitomising vanity, narcissism, and—of course—power. After all, who else can claim that others follow even their smallest hand motions, obeying a mere wave? The conductor is arrogant, thoroughly convinced of himself; he’s also liable to become a tyrant—and over the course of music history, this or that one has even been likened to a dictator. Not infrequently, conductors have been characterised as such in a spirit of unambiguous respect. As the difficult musical genius, to whose moods one must submit in full. It seemed unavoidable and even somehow quite natural: the combination of a socially challenging demeanour with superlative artistic achievements.
But times are changing—and with them, happily, certain views and ideals. Orchestras are now among those working environments where mobbing is being called what it is and being taken quite seriously. And in the wake of #MeToo, nobody—not even in the musical world—still considers verbal abuse or attempts at intimidation to be minor offences. Female conductors have long since come to exist alongside their male colleagues. And it’s more and more common for women to lead orchestras and attain star-status while doing so. With them, a new team spirit has arrived that places the experience of community before the brilliance of the individual. How was it that conducting star Alondra de la Parra described her profession? She said that it’s about responsibility, patience, and above all one thing: teamwork.