若有讀者覺得上述關於音樂範疇的説法難懂，且讓我舉一個足球世界的例子 —— 摩連奴。摩連奴無可否認是現代足球界最成功，且碩果纍纍的領隊之一，但他在曼聯執教的日子卻是動蕩不安。他公開批評自己的球員、抱怨得不到球會支持、挑釁傳媒和球證，一副儼如無敵的形象好像所有人理應要膜拜。這種態度如果是在 20 世紀中可能依然有用（事實上，傳奇指揮家卡拉揚正正就是這樣），但在現代卻絕對不是這回事。看看摩連奴最後怎樣：球員都不願為他出力，而他執教兩年半後亦被球會解僱。
樂團指揮家和足球隊領隊，似乎是兩個完全不同且不相關的職業，但卻需要一樣的特質 —— 團隊精神 —— 才會成功，我相信在社會上其他領導者的角色都是一樣。
當我在杜倫大學擁有自己第一個管弦樂團，當時的我只有 19 歲、絕不成熟，且是個完美主義者，不斷催逼和要求我的樂手做到最好。我很沒有耐性，經常向他們灌輸很多資訊；有時候，我會因為覺得自己是唯一一個對音樂有深刻理解的人而哀嘆。綵排時候的氣氛永遠很緊張，沒有任何人會笑或説笑話，而樂手都很害怕會犯錯。在第一個學期結束後，有過半樂手退出，他們投訴我的樂團儼然是個壓力鍋，並經常擔心會被責罵。這提醒了我，其實自己只是正在指揮一個大學的樂團，不是專業的。直到那時我才意識到，我和樂手之間的關係是建基於恐懼，而不是友誼和尊重。
What’s so Cool being a Conductor?
‘What instruments do you play?’ is the question that I got asked all the time.
My answer has always been ‘I am a pianist, trumpeter and percussionist. But I am mainly a conductor now’.
Upon hearing my answer, people often displayed disbelief, looked mightily impressed and exclaimed ‘Wow! That’s so cool and you must be so good in music’.
If truth be told, I was at first amused and puzzled by their reactions. But as I received these responses again and again, I have become tired of them. Let me clarify this once and for all, conductors are not superior musicians; they are not above everyone else; and there is no reason to be amazed if you know that someone is a conductor. After all, a conductor, just like any other orchestral players – be it a violinist, a flautist, a harpist, a timpanist, a saxophonist or any other instrumentalist – is a musician, an artist and a team player.
There is a long-running joke about the conductor. When orchestras first came about, there were only wind instruments. Some of these people, however, were too incompetent, so they were given large pieces of wood with wires strapped around them. These people were known as the ‘strings’. Some were so pathetic that they couldn’t even do this so they were given two sticks and were told to hit whatever they wanted. These people became known as the ‘percussionists’. Finally, one of the percussionists was so useless and failed to hit anything accurately, so one of his sticks was taken away. He was then asked to stand in front of everybody. And that was the birth of the first conductor.
Well, I am certainly not implying that the conductor is the most incompetent member of an orchestra! What I am saying is, the conductor is part of a team, and the orchestral players are the teammates. A conductor would never succeed if he/she lacks interpersonal skills, does not have the respect of the players and believes that
he/she is all powerful just because of having the opportunity to wave a symbolic baton around and stand on a prestigious rostrum.
For readers that might find the above musical aspects confusing, let me give you an equivalent example in the football world – José Mourinho. Undoubtedly one of the most successful and decorated modern football managers, Mourinho’s reign at Manchester United was turbulent. He publicly criticised his players, moaned about a lack of support from his board, picked fights with the press and the match officials and deemed himself an invincible figure that deserved respect from everyone around him. This attitude would have been effective back in the mid-20th Century (and indeed, legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan was just like this) when autocracy was a key component in man management, but certainly not in modern times. And look at what happened to Mourinho eventually – his players were reluctant to play for him, and he was dismissed by the board after just two and a half years at the helm.
Conductors and football managers – seemingly two completely different and unrelated occupations – require the same attributes to succeed. And I am sure that this is the same for many other leadership roles in society. A conductor relies on the devotion and trust from the orchestral players. No matter how brilliant, talented and
successful a conductor is, there would be no music and no performances if there weren’t any musicians performing for him/her.
When I had my first orchestra at Durham University, I was young, immature and such a perfectionist who continuously pushed and demanded the best from my players. I was impatient, lectured them frequently and fed them so much information. On several occasions, I became exasperated and bemoaned why I was the only one who knew anything about the music. The rehearsal atmosphere was always tense; there were almost never any smiles or jokes going around; and the players were always afraid of making mistakes. After the first term, more than half of the orchestra’s players quitted, complaining that my orchestra was such a pressure cooker and that they were always worried of being scolded, before reminding me that I was conducting a university, and not a professional, orchestra. It was not until then that I realised the relationship between my players and I was built on fear, and not friendliness and respect.
Having learned from this painful experience, I adopted a completely different approach when I conducted my orchestra at the University of Cambridge. I fully appreciate that the players were all busy students and were keen to relax and have fun through playing in an orchestra. I made numerous jokes, chatted with the players
engagingly and sometimes even made a laughing stock of myself by showing what a terrible dancer I was.The atmosphere was jovial, light-hearted and delightful, and instead of the players grumbling and my complaining, everyone was laughing and genuinely jubilant. I realised that what the players needed was a slap on the back and not a slap in the face. Since then, I’ve never looked at myself (or any other conductor for that matter) as a superior or higher-ranked musician, but just a member of an orchestra that makes music with my players. After all, when I was a player, I often thought that the conductor was an idiot with no discernible talent, and that he/she had to resort to waving a stick because he/she couldn’t even play an instrument.
The conductor, just like the players, is only a member of an orchestra. A great conductor, ultimately, must be a great leader and communicator – inspirational, kind, supportive, humorous, encouraging and understanding. Remember, there’s only music when there are players. There’s nothing if there’s just a conductor.