Meet the humble music director

Former ENO chief Mark Wigglesworth, promoting his new book:

… a collegiate and humble approach to leadership is that which performers appreciate the most, and is ultimately the most successful. The best conductors, just like the best theatre directors, achieve what they do through a natural authority that doesn’t need a contract or a podium to assert itself. Their power comes from a trust in those they work with, an openness to what they hear, and a willingness to respond to that without loss of face.

This respect is then reciprocated, creating a virtuous circle that allows everyone to give their all. In both music and drama I believe the subtle approach travels the furthest.

This form of leadership is at odds with our times. In political circles at least, views have to be extreme to be heard. Self-centred appears strong. Loud is good. The nuanced view struggles for air(time) and the most popular leaders are the ones who shout the most. Whether they have vision is considered to be secondary. People seem comforted by dogma.

Music and drama, on the other hand, show that collaborative leadership works. It actually works very well. I am not suggesting that our finest conductors and directors should run the country, but I think they provide evidence that this form of leadership is not a utopian impossibility. People are happy to be led by a leader who is not too proud to follow.

Read on here.

 

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  • “The best conductors, just like the best theatre directors, achieve what they do through a natural authority that doesn’t need a contract or a podium to assert itself.”

    Core truth right there.

    If you’ve ever been in an ensemble that changed conductors it becomes clear that some conductors have it, some conductors don’t, and no amount of doctoral degrees, advanced study or famous artist mentorship will fix the don’ts.

    However, that means his book won’t help them either.

    • +1

      I was never good enough at music performance to advance beyond student and community type orchestras. But that meant that the podia were populated by young egos whose program biographies proudly announced that they had studied at the “prestigious” so-and-so conducting program or got to assist some “famous” nobody at a middle-tier summer festival. Absolutely insufferable dictators whose only musical vision was bowing before a standing ovation.

    • Greta, Norman,

      As a former professional violinist, I worked with Mark Wigglesworth on a number of occasions before I retired some years ago and I can vouch for him ‘practising what he preaches’.

      Moreover he was not slow in praising players or thanking them for their contribution where he felt it was appropriate.

  • ==no amount of doctoral degrees, advanced study or famous artist mentorship will fix the don’ts.

    That’s right. Barbirolli was no great fan of all that sort of thing and was quite outspoken about how all the natural skills in people could be seen early and clearly.

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