Bonus: 12 Ingredients for a Perfect Conductor, with Don Schleicher

Welcome everybody to the 2nd bonus episode between seasons 3 and 4 of Podium Time. Today I’m really excited to share with you another clip from my time in Bulgaria this summer. In it, Don Schleicher shares the 12 ingredients to make a perfect conductor. These were compiled by Don and Gustav Meier, and now Don shares them at his workshops, and he was kind enough to allowed me to record and publish this in the podcast feed. This recording is from the 2019 International Conducting Workshop and Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria that I attended with Don and Larry Rachleff this past summer.

Below are my comments and some elaboration that I remember from speaking with Don about each point.

1. Great Musical Depth with Excellent Technical Conducting Skills

Right out of the gate we start with the one most of us think is most important for being a conductor. But you just wait, for there are 11 more ingredients!

2. An Expert Learned Approach to All the Instruments in the Orchestra

Something that I found important to Don is knowing each instrument and seeing each piece from how the player experiences it. The most arduous part of his score study process is singing through each individual line for every player on stage.

3. Great Ears

Not just ear training, but for balance and tone and style and hearing structures and influences.

4. A Genuine Love of Great Music

We had a pretty long discussion about what “Great Music” is and is not. Let it be what it is to you, but we can assume it at least includes the standards of the repertoire for your discipline.

5. An Ego-less Approach

The music, the composer, and the musicians come before oneself. Sometimes tough to remember and swallow, but almost every guest we’ve had on Podium Time has talked about this in some capacity. Gustav Meier’s book is The Score, The Orchestra, and The Conductor.

6. A Respect for Others as Human beings

Hopefully this doesn’t have to be elaborated on, and it’s paired with the point just above. We are leaders in a social profession who rely on others for absolutely everything to happen.

7. An Omnipresent Quest for Learning

Just keep reading, studying, and listening to Podium Time!

8. A Vivid Imagination

To explore what is possible, both in the music and outside of it.

9. Self Confidence

Important and often not addressed directly. We must be sure of our interpretation and ourselves as leaders. Sure enough, in fact, that we are open to the myriad possibilities that may come in rehearsals and concerts and are not offended by them.

10. A Brilliant Mind with a Great memory

Not for pure memorization, but for internalization and recall of both music and ideas.

11. A Tireless Worker with Limited Personal Distractions

Don described “limited personal distractions” as those things in life that may pull you away from what time you have to devote to music. An example of an outrageous personal distraction may be having to take care of 47 adopted dogs. Yeah, you can still be a conductor, but those dogs are gonna take up a whole bunch of your time and attention.

12. Great leadership Skills

Ah, the most difficult to develop. Don is a fan of observing leadership through biographies and history. The lives and trials and triumphs of great leaders, such as American Presidents, are a great starting point for a course on both internal and external leadership.

There you have it! You can find out more about the next workshop with Larry and Don at

We’ll be back to our regular interview episodes with the start of season 4 in early February, so watch the podcast feed and the social channels for interviews featuring some of our most requested guests!

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