>Specifically, what is it that makes a good conductor?
Love of music and of people and a need to share that love.
>Why do some conductors have the ability to immediately connect with an
>audience or orchestra, and others immediately turn us away?
In part, I think, it's horses for courses. Different conductors do
different things at different times and connect with different audiences.
>Is it necessary to be somewhat of a tyrant to be a good conductor?
I think the general feeling is that one doesn't need to be a tyrant, and
certainly from my point of view you don't need to be. Certainly, though,
you need to enjoy being in control and have the charisma and strength of
mind to lead a large group of people.
>Must one play every instrument well, or is it only necessary to have
>working knowledge of all instruments?
I think you must have played at least one instrument well and certainly
have a good working knowledge of all instruments. One of the central roles
of a conductor is to push people to ever higher levels of achievement so it
is vital to know what particular aspects of an instrument cause problems.
As a conductor, you should never patronise your players but you must know
how something could be done should you ask for it - even if they think it
What I mean is that when you ask for something to be faster, slower,
louder, softer, more sustained, harder, whatever, you are not guessing,
you _know_ it can be done.
>And how does the level of orchestra influence this standard? Obviously,
>a conductor at the high school level has different things he needs to do
>than the conductor of a major symphony orchestra. But to what degree does
>this alter his working style?
I don't think it alters what your concept might be, but it certainly alters
the way (and speed) you achieve it. When I work with my amateur group I
know they _can_ produce outstanding performances - but it takes more
support, explanation and time than with my professional group.
>When you hear an orchestra that sounds particularly good or bad, do you
>think the conductor gets the credit for it? All the credit, or just some?
Personally, I think the orchestra should always get all the credit.
After all, they made the sounds. But, if it goes wrong, it's always the
conductor's fault. In many ways, you are an enabler as a conductor so if
you do your job properly you let people's music free - if you do it wrong,
Having written all this, I do think conducting is very tough to talk about.
It is so individual that it is almost impossible to write about in general.
The only things I feel you must have are love and generousity. But that
doesn't tell you very much...!