Is Being an Orchestra Conductor Hard?

Conductors do much more than keep time; at their best they unify groups of musicians to produce an artistic experience.

So is being an orchestra conductor really difficult? Let’s consider some of the challenges.


Conductors have one of the most visible jobs in music, yet many people remain confused as to what their actual duties involve. Conducting is more than simply beating out rhythm patterns with baton and waving arms – it involves psychology, body language, history knowledge and an sensitivity towards how humans operate.

Before performing in front of an audience, orchestras and choirs undergo extensive rehearsals that require weeks. Conductors get their chance to show what they can do while also getting the best performance out of their musicians.

Conductors are charged with communicating their vision of music to orchestra members through both words and physical gestures. Their purpose is to translate complicated musical ideas so that all musicians understand them, then translate these interpretations into their playing or singing styles.

Conductors also must establish and keep up the tempo, which is critical in producing outstanding performances from even the greatest musicians. Conductors should give specific verbal instructions during rehearsal to inform musicians exactly what is desired in terms of musical execution.

Conductors must teach musicians how to interpret composer’s intentions, and convey emotion to an audience. While this task is challenging and not always possible, conducting should at least try. Conductors are expected to inspire their musicians while keeping them motivated toward producing optimal performances.

All these factors combine to make being a music conductor a challenging job, yet its rewards are great and are sought by many talented musicians. Unfortunately, its perceived elitism and almost exclusive maleness has discouraged some from pursuing this career path; those who persist will find that persevering will prove it well worth their while.


Conductors may not make sound directly, but they are instrumental in orchestrating hundreds of instrument players to produce an unforgettable soundscape. Clad in white with waving arms, conductors create an unifying vision in performance that takes weeks of rehearsals before its grand unveiling in an auditorium.

Great conductors bring works to life using their highly refined sense of the work itself, through gestures that bring musical lines alive, highlight nuances, emphasise parts while controlling others and create new musical ideas altogether. Furthermore, their precise body movements bind orchestra members together like never before; arm waving may feature heavily or more relaxed gestures may be applied according to what atmosphere is desired.

Aspiring conductors should attend rehearsals to witness how master conductors do it and to learn from their example. Attending rehearsals can also give an aspiring conductor valuable education about how pieces should be played; you might even try imitating some styles of conducting.

If you lack experience leading people, conducting may prove daunting. To gain experience before trying out for larger orchestras, start by leading small groups such as friends or student musicians before trying your luck at it all alone.

Passion for music should always come first when considering conducting, as you should channel that love into influencing a group of musicians to bring the music alive. Furthermore, mastery of musical language such as learning to read scores and become acquainted with classical pieces is also vital – listening to recordings will help give an indication of how composers intended their compositions to be played back out!


At a successful orchestral performance, there are so many factors involved that it takes years of experience and preparation to become an orchestra conductor. They must learn to interpret music, set and maintain tempo, communicate musical directions using both verbal and nonverbal communication methods (which may include gestures with or without baton), shape an orchestra’s sound while listening critically during rehearsal and performances, make adjustments during rehearsal, as well as during performances themselves – and more!

Conductors often face immense pressure to deliver outstanding performances and can feel responsible if something goes amiss. This is particularly true in smaller ensembles or community orchestras where the Conductor serves as their face of the organization and must do numerous interviews for publicity purposes and concert sales.

Conductors often serve as the public face of their organization, and as such can often find themselves being asked to raise money on multiple fronts with conflicting viewpoints on how best to go about doing this. This can cause tension between Music Director, Orchestra Manager and Conductor which in turn creates challenging situations for all involved parties involved.

Conductors face another unique difficulty during performances: only they are permitted to speak during performances while the audience simply watches. This is because only they understand all of the technical facets behind orchestra performance and can give direction as necessary.

Conductors often spend up to 30 minutes of a concert discussing music – an unfortunate part of being a Conductor as this often obscures what should be happening on stage! Unfortunately, this can often take away from what should be a powerful performance experience for audience.

Conductors need to remember that it’s essential for them to focus on the music rather than what they’re saying, in order to give an audience the best performance possible. Their onstage persona should remain that way and no personal issues should come up during performances.


Personality plays an essential role in the conductor’s ability to do their job successfully. A conductor must be able to clearly convey their interpretation of music, inspire his/her musicians, and keep rehearsals on schedule – lack of these abilities could compromise his/her effectiveness as a conductor.

Esa-Pekka Salonen suggests that for aspiring Conductors to succeed, attending conducting workshops and orchestra rehearsals are among the best ways to prepare themselves. He further suggests gaining a strong grasp of music language as well as understanding body movements during music performance and how notations work; having a love of classical music should also be prioritized as part of preparation.

Aspiring Conductors must also be capable of handling the pressure associated with performing in front of an audience. Being on a podium in front of hundreds or even thousands of people means creating and sustaining an air of energy that appeals to them and will keep their audience interested.

Conductors must also be able to bridge the gap between their vision of how music should sound and what actually transpires on stage. A mismatched beat or off sense of timing are often blamed on musicians; but it could actually be down to insufficient direction at just the right moment from their conductor.

Though each member of an orchestra reads from the same sheet music, its conductor is charged with adding life through arm and hand movements, facial expressions and body language – these subtleties can make all the difference in an orchestra performance from ordinary to remarkable.

Conductors need to go beyond their musical talents when planning and organizing special events and trips for their orchestra or band students. Doing this will give the children something to look forward to and will encourage them to give their best effort – after all, students come to band or orchestra because it provides a positive and enjoyable experience and an engaged Conductor will do everything in his or her power to ensure this.