Which is which and who does what?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

As a classical music insider, there are some things that still shock me when I realize most people on the planet have no idea about classical music.

For example, living in a part of the world where people from all over the USA and other places congregate for anything but classical music (i.e. sun, sand, sea, Mickey Mouse and alcohol), I frequently hear people stumbling over the terms Conductor and Composer: They clearly don’t know which is which and who does what.

In case you find yourself alongside someone who doesn’t know (it’s not their fault!), you might feel inclined to help them appreciate some of the differences. Doing so will definitely help them make the most of the live classical music concert you suggested they attend!

Try explaining it this way:

A Composer is the person who created the piece of music. They wrote it. They dreamed up and described (using symbols we call notation) what sounds should be played when, how and by what instrument. A composer composes a composition. A concert is the event in which that composition is shared with others.

A Conductor is the person who helps a whole bunch of people share a particular composition. Not every group of musicians needs a Conductor, but if the composition/ piece is complicated or there is only a short time for preparation, a Conductor [should] help to ensure everyone knows when to start, when to finish, reminds folk how they agreed to interpret the Composer’s symbols, and can also help if something goes wrong onstage (like a player loses where they are in the music, an instrument breaks, etc.). There’s a lot more a Conductor does as well, and the vast majority (about 90%) of a Conductor’s work is done before the concert even begins.

Yes, lots of Composers conduct.

And sometimes, you’ll find a Conductor who also composes music (like me).

And then there are the other Conductors.

The ones that everyone jokes about, thinking us musical Conductors haven’t heard about before:

Bus and Train Conductors.

Not that different a role, really, when you think about it.

This week, I’m focusing on my activities as a composer.

In yesterday’s lesson I shared some of my compositions you can download the audio for.

Here’s that link again, in case you like what you hear and want to share them with a friend or six: