I have always been attracted to friends and lovers (always musicians of some sort) who are outgoing, fun, vibrant, and full of life. My husband and I have similar careers as orchestral conductors. In our traditionally male‐dominated profession, his outgoing nature and capacity for self‐promotion have served him well, while my quietness and fear of putting myself out there have sometimes held me back. While this has created tension in our relationship, it has also provided us with tremendous opportunities to develop mutual support and appreciate our various differences.
People think of conductors as egomaniacs, but the days of the dictator on the podium are pretty much over, regardless of gender. Today’s maestri must be team players. They must earn the respect of the players with whom they work and consider them to be colleagues. They must motivate, captivate, and inspire with their physical presence as well as their words. It’s not an easy job, but it can be extraordinarily rewarding when things are working. It’s electrifying, really, to be in the center of all that energy.
I am an excellent listener, which is a critical skill for a conductor. You must hear all elements of the music, bring out the important ones, help fix errors and mistakes, and make decisions about where the music will go based on where it is at the moment. And it’s different every time. But I am not a great talker, at least in my own opinion. However, when I am speaking publicly about something I’m passionate about, the excitement and enthusiasm edge out the embarrassment. Audience members seem to appreciate my speaking as it helps them connect more directly to the music they’re about to hear, to the composers who created it, and to the performers who are about to bring it to life. And my husband, my biggest fan, says I’m terrific at it.
I still sometimes get nervous getting up in front of an orchestra, but I know that my mission is to help people make great music together, and that involves taking risks and putting myself out there.