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Interview with Leeds Conductors Competition Jury member Colin Metters posted 21 Feb 2020

Interview with Leeds Conductors Competition Jury member Colin Metters

As a Jury member of the Leeds Conductors Competition 2020, Professor Colin Metters has a very important role. He shares with us his advice for competitors and more in this interview below. 

Since its inception in 1984, the Leeds Conductors Competition has played a significant role in empowering the careers of young British conductors, and is unique in providing a platform from which to launch a professional career. 

Tickets for the final gala concert go on sale on Monday 2 March. Book tickets here

Hi Colin, thanks for speaking with us ahead of the Leeds Conductors Competition. You have a very important role in this year’s competition, you’re a jury member! What are you looking forward to the most about the competition overall?

Having been a professional conductor and teacher all my working life I am always interested and excited to see new, young, aspiring conductors. Conducting is an extremely important area of responsibility in the music profession and has a huge impact on players and orchestras all over the world. Therefore we also have a responsibility to take their development and training very seriously and to guide, help, and mentor wherever possible.

Have you ever worked with any of your musical inspirations? If so, what impact have they left on you?

I have so many musical inspirations… in no particular order: Yehudi Menuhin (pictured below left), Michael Tippet, Colin Davis, Ilya Musin, Bernard Haitink, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, my own teacher George Hurst (pictured below right) – not to mention Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms et al.

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Do you have a favourite composer, and have you ever performed any of their work?

There’s far too many favourite composers to mention, but yes, I have conducted pretty much all of them.

What are three key things about conducting can you share with us that you’ve learnt over the course of your career?

Three things about conducting I've learnt over the course of my career are: be an honest musician (that means be a musician first), know the score, be true to the text and share your passion for music with your musicians. Always show respect to your musical colleagues, and continue to self-appraise, be self-critical and work continuously to grow and develop as a musician. And one more… never "bull...t" and always acknowledge when you're wrong! Mostly.

Has the role of a conductor changed and developed over time? Could you explain to us why you feel it has/hasn’t?

The role of the conductor has not changed substantially over the years but the way it is fulfilled (or not) has. The role fundamentally and in its simplest terms is to help musicians make music. This is what would be called "the bottom line".

There is of course a world of responsibility, requirements and expectations over and above that; to be a conduit, a channel to motivate and hopefully inspire musicians to play and perform at the top of their game, or above it. To enable them to realise their musical aspirations so they are constantly reminded why they chose music in the first place.

This role is now sometimes confused and compromised with other more non-musical issues. Promotion, publicity, superficial success, media recognition, all of which muddy the waters and make it increasingly challenging to realise the role of the conductor as outlined above.

Is there any advice you’d give the applicants of this year’s Leeds Conductors Competition?

Some words of advice I would give would be: be yourself, and be prepared to show yourself as an honest musician and share your love of music. Remember that orchestras are very intuitive and very quickly see through pretence and someone who is more interested in themselves rather than the music and the orchestra. Lastly, don't hide. Be brave and always go that extra mile to MAKE MUSIC.

Colin Metters, was Head of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music from 1983 to 2013. He continues to teach at the Academy as a highly respected professor of conducting.

His wide experience affords him an enviable reputation as professional conductor, orchestral trainer and conducting instructor. He has worked with leading symphony orchestras in the UK, and guest-conducted extensively abroad. Book tickets to see Colin Metters as a jury member in the final of the Leeds Conductors Competition.