Conductors – who are they, what do they do and how did they get to become a conductor? On this podcast, I conduct conversations with a distinguished list of maestri to find out all the answers. Each week, I talk to a different conductor and discover the journey each of them has taken towards the podium along with secrets from their teachers and mentors. At the end of each episode, every conductor will be asked the same set of 10 questions by me, Michael Seal. Their answers reveal what sort of person they are and what makes them tick. So if you’ve ever been curious about the person waving the baton, or you are a real conducting geek, then this should be a fascinating insight in to what it takes to become a maestro.
You can support the podcast by subscribing at https://www.patreon.com/amiconthepodium where you can hear two new mini-series of episodes and take greater part in the podcast. Or, you can make a donation at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/a-mic-on-the-podium if you just want to make a one-off donation.
Episode 1: Introduction and Background
In this “taster” episode, I explain how this podcast came to happen, who was involved and what the format will be for the upcoming episodes.I also take the “10 question” challenge at the end!
Episode 2: Andrew Litton
Andrew Litton takes us from his earliest experiences growing up in New York through to his time as being Music Director in Bournemouth, Dallas and Bergen. I found out what it was like to commute from the US to Norway, how to conduct and play the piano simultaneously and what being assistant to Rostropovich was like. A chat I loved having, full of laughter, insight and bonhomie!
Episode 3: Holly Mathieson
This week, I chatted to Holly Mathieson and found out what she wanted to be before she became a conductor, what being an Assistant Conductor entails and how conducting ballet feels like slalom skiing! A lovely chat and a very interesting path to the podium…
Episode 4: Jac van Steen
No stranger to audiences all across Europe, my guest this week is Jac van Steen. I find out what it means to run an opera house in Germany, how teaching helps you to become a better conductor yourself and how to work on your technique while riding a bicycle!
Episode 5: Ed Gardner
Maybe this should be called ‘the cricket episode” as the subject of cricket does appear a few times? Ed Gardner tells us about his journey from chorister to conductor, which type of orchestra he would happily conduct more often and why he has an aversion to wood pigeons! A lovely chat with a good friend.
Episode 6: Alpesh Chauhan
The young British conductor, Alpesh Chauhan, was born and raised in Birmingham where he was first spotted and nurtured by the CBSO. I find out how those early days shaped his career, what he learned from talking to orchestral players and why rehearsing in a second language can sometimes be rather embarrassing!
Episode 7: Martyn Brabbins
I first met Martyn Brabbins thirty years ago and have always loved chatting to him. I find out what studying in Soviet Russia was like, what differences there are in approach between orchestras in Europe and Japan and what conducting 990 performers was like. A very interesting journey and true gentleman!
Episode 8: John Wilson
Chatting with John Wilson is always a delight! In this episode, I find out how his orchestra came to be born, why he loves recording so much and I briefly get to discuss one of my other passions with him, wristwatches.
Episode 9: Simon Halsey
After nearly 30 years of knowing Simon Halsey, it was lovely to just sit and chat about all things music and conducting. I found out which famous family had a hand in his musical history, how a conversation with Simon Rattle changed his life and why conducting lessons with one teacher in particular could be very revealing!
Episode 10: Daniel Harding (Part 1)
This really was a fun way to spend two hours! In a special two-part episode, I have a very frank and open chat with Daniel Harding. In Part One, I find out the differences between his two mentors (Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle), how he first got to meet Simon Rattle and why conductors should be more like Tiger Woods.
Episode 11: Daniel Harding (Part 2)
We had too much to talk about so here is the second half of my chat with Daniel Harding. I find out what his early years as a conductor were like, why conductors should be more like Sir Anthony Hopkins and why his life is reaching new stratospheric heights.
Episode 12: Barbara Hannigan
In this special “feature-length” episode, I chat with Barbara Hannigan – conductor, mentor, soprano and all-round musical polymath. I find out how she first started to conduct, how working with the greatest conductors in the world has helped her and that both of our lives have been influenced by meeting the “Yoda” of the conducting world! This was a real joy and an honour to chat with her.
Episode 13: Wayne Marshall
Wayne Marshall has a multi-faceted career as a conductor, pianist and organist all over the world. I found out how his journey to the podium started at Glyndebourne, how Stevie Wonder influenced him in his early years and why it is best to avoid him during a thunder storm!
Episode 14: Christopher Seaman
In a chat full of charm and laughter, Christopher Seaman tells us how he went from being Assistant Triangle with the NYO to being Chief Conductor of a BBC orchestra. He also tells me why making friends with the timpanist of an orchestra is not a bad idea and why wearing spectacles can sometimes be fraught with danger! A great chat with a lovely man.
Episode 15: Ryan Bancroft
Young American conductor, Ryan Bancroft, shot to fame after winning the 2018 Malko Competition and is soon to become Chief Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. I find out why the Mozart Requiem means so much to him, what it was like being taught by Jac van Steen and about his time dancing to Ghanaian music!
Episode 16: Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin is a Grammy award winning conductor, as well as a composer and author. I find out what conducting the Last Night of the Proms was like after the 9/11 attacks, how he came to know Frank Sinatra and we get to hear possibly the most amazing answer to the “final meal” question ever! A really enjoyable chat with lots of laughter….
Episode 17: Karina Canellakis
A lovely chat between two ex-professional violinists. Karina Canellakis has risen quickly to being one of the most sought after conductors. We have a frank and open discussion about conducting our colleagues, what it was like learning from players of the Berlin Philharmonic and why Simon Rattle terrified her! I really enjoyed our chat together.
Episode 18: Sir Mark Elder
Over a long and distinguished career, Sir Mark Elder has conducted pretty much everywhere. We chat about conducting in new concert halls and the challenges that can bring, how being left-handed has impacted on his career and I find out about his relationship with Sir Simon! Always a pleasure to chat with him and this proved no different.
Episode 19: Vasily Petrenko
Vasily Petrenko is a busy conductor worldwide and I really enjoyed talking with him about a wide range of topics. We discussed the state of music education in the UK, I found out how Sir Neville Marriner helped him early in his career and how close he came to becoming an Olympic swimmer!
Episode 20: Matt Dunkley
A fascinating and very enjoyable chat! Matt Dunkley has spent most of his career in the studio, working on over 200 movies. We talk about what challenges a conductor faces in film sessions, working with superstar session musicians and he gave a very suprising answer to how he studies his scores!
Episode 21: Bramwell Tovey
Bramwell Tovey has had a truly international career as a conductor and composer. I found out how the Salvation Army impacted his early life, how to pronounce ‘Gerontius’ and what is was like meeting Leonard Bernstein. We also get to hear extracts from one of his works in this episode which was possibly my favourite interview so far?!
Episode 22: Nathalie Stutzmann
I really enjoyed my chat with Nathalie Stutzmann – lots of laughter between wise words and a lot of insight. I found out what it was like meeting Jorma Panula for the first time, which word she would like to see dropped when describing herself and others and which instrument was deemed “inappropriate” for her to learn!
Episode 23: Paul McCreesh
Paul McCreesh is a good talker and, I think it is fair to say, did not pull any punches. We chatted about why conductors should be more honest, why you should employ a good harpsichord player and why there should be some chocolate in your suitcase!
Episode 24: Cristian Macelaru
Cristian Macelaru was warm, honest and fascinating to talk to. I find out what Pierre Boulez told him about musical structure, what advice a Bass Player in Philadelphia gave him and we discussed whether it was possible for an orchestra and conductor to fall in love with each other whilst “speed dating”?!