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Who Leads an Orchestra

May 19, 2023

Who Leads an Orchestra

You may have wondered about the different roles within an orchestra. The person with their back to the audience leading the orchestra is known as the conductor. The conductor may be the most visible part of the orchestra because they are often poised on a raised platform or pedestal. Some use a baton to conduct an orchestra, while others disregard the baton and use their body and their hands. They are responsible for bringing a unified interpretation of the music to the entire orchestra while keeping them on time and on point.

Sometimes a conductor is referred to as Maestro, from the Italian word for master. You might also hear them referred to as the orchestra director. Whatever the title, a conductor is essential to bring a unified vision to the orchestra performance, and it is considered a position of skill, respect, and leadership

The Role of The Conductor

The orchestra conductor’s primary role is to interpret the score that the orchestra is performing, set the tempo, and arrange it through gestures so that the musicians understand it perfectly. It is a bit more complex than just waving their arms in the air. The conductor tells the musicians when to start, how fast to go, and when to stop or slow down. They keep the orchestra in time and allow them to provide a unified performance for the audience.

Before you hear the orchestra performance, the conductor has worked with the orchestra through rehearsals, guiding and teaching the musicians the musical score and their interpretation of the music. The conductor tweaks the performance, optimizing their knowledge and experience to present the best performance. Many refer to the conductor as the artistic leader of the orchestra as well. This is because conductors put their own stamp on the musical performance by changing or supplementing various elements of the music in order to create a performance that is both unique and inspiring.

Another Lead Role to Get To Know is Concertmaster

Another important leader in the orchestra is the concertmaster. This title is given to the lead,or “first chair”, violinist. The concertmaster usually comes out right before the conductor and leads the orchestra in tuning right before the performance begins. The concertmaster is usually chosen to play any solo violin parts in a symphonic work. They also are responsible for marking the scores so that all the violins are moving in unison and understanding the conductor’s ideas and relaying the information to the orchestra when necessary.

The conductor often shakes hands with the concertmaster at the beginning and the end of the performance. This is interpreted as a symbol of respect and cooperation and a way to greet or thank the orchestra musicians.

Experience A Conductor at Work In Person at the Colorado Symphony

It doesn’t matter if a conductor chooses to use a baton or not – they have a large impact on a symphony or orchestra performance. By interpreting a composer’s music, a conductor can present a unified vision of the piece to their audience. Not only a conductor but also function as a leader, a guide, and an artist. The result is beautiful, memorable, and exciting music for audiences to enjoy.

Come and experience a conductor at work in person at the Colorado Symphony. If you are new to the symphony, browse our upcoming events. The Colorado Symphony offers a variety of performances, incorporating several genres into symphony performances. Enjoy classical performances of Brahms or Beethoven as well as tributes to the Beatles and Elvis. The Colorado Symphony also screens beloved movies such as Home Alone and Star Wars: A New Hope while performing the musical scores. We have family-friendly performances as well as those that are perfect for date night. Get started by checking out our virtual box office now!

Image credit to furtseff on Shutterstock