Orchestral conductors dont shout and scream!!!!!!


I just want to pose the question:

Why is it that some brass band conductors even at the top level, find it impossible to remain professional and treat band members with the respect that any human being should be able to take for granted!

I realise that many of the top brass band conductors in the country at the moment were not actually professionaly trained musicians before their conducting careers, but I fail to understand why band members put up with tantrums, victimisation or worse, bad language. Is the conductor a servent of the band or is it the otherway round?? :?:

Its a question I've pondered for a long time. No conductor has even raised his voice in any professional rehearsal I've been involved in, or in any of the top bands ive been involved with, so why does it happen in some rehearsal rooms??

For me it is totally unacceptable and I would not accept that treatment myself either in a professional or amature situation. I realise that it is the exeption rather than the rule, but i feel it should not be accepted.


The Cornet King

Active Member
I totally agree. i fail to see how a conductor raising his/her voice can have the desired effect. If anything it can be quite humiliating for all concerned to listen to the conductor completely lose it with a band or individual.
I can remember a few months back going to listen to a Brighouse and Rastrick rehearsal. The conductor David Hirst (during the interval) went up to the principle trombonist and whispered something along the lines of 'come on, get your act together'.
Needless to say this spoke volumes more than a shout or a scream would have done.

You do not have to scream to get the view across or get the desired effect.


Active Member
Could be they shout to hide their own inadequacies,
Just a thought....... :roll:


Active Member
Oddly enough the only time I've ever wanted to leave a rehearsal because of the behaviour of the conductor it was an orchestral gig - Mahler 2 in Cambridge - when a very good professional musician was subject to an unwarrented torrent of abuse. Second rate orchestral conductors are amongst the most ego-driven individuals in the musical world and their tantrums are to do with power, control and putting people in their place. In bands, it usually seems much more concerned with a passion for the music and getting worked up in order to achieve the best performance as a member of a team. Your conductor won't lose his temper if he doesn't care deeply about what you're doing!

That's not to condone abusive or threatening behaviour which is unacceptable under any circumstances.



I left a band because the conductor couldn't keep his temper, and also seemed to take out the fact he couldn't get the band to follow his (non-existent) beat on me. :( I won't name the band or conductor (for obvious reasons), but he even treated me the same when i helped out his other (championship section) band. When a conductor is insulting you in front of the band you know it's time to leave.
I'm sure i'm like a lot of other people, when i say say that i can take criticism, but if it's in public and/or unfounded, then that is unacceptable.

Brian Kelly

Active Member
I agree that abuse, victimisation, bullying, insults, bad language etc are totally unacceptable at any time.

However, such behaviour is not confined to brass band conductors. Toscannini was infamous for his hair-trigger temper, George Solti was known as "the screaming skull", and Sir Thomas Beecham's sarcastic comments probably did not seem so funny or witty to the unfortunate player on the receiving end.


drummerboy said:
When a conductor is insulting you in front of the band you know it's time to leave.

Thankfully I'm not in a position to have to worry about this, but it makes me wonder what if I were? It's 230 miles to the next closest band (not the next quality band, the next band of any tyoe - and before I'm missquoted it happens to also be a very high quality band too.) I'm just wondering what I'd do with a tenor horn and no band? It's be like trying to sell spark plugs in amish country.

Seriously, I've been under the baton of an orchestra conductor who was renown for scaring people, but once you got into his head, and kind of got the game he was playing you could play along, not a game for the faint of heart, and he wasn't outright abusive (at least not often) but a genuine character.
Different individuals respond to different forms of criticism/encouragement. Some people do 'pull their socks up' and actively improve after a public dressing down, however other people don't and it just makes them more despondant. I believe it is up to each MD to make that distinction and behave appropriately and remain professional. If outburts of unproffesionalism are uncalled for them I personally deem it highly inappropriate. Many members of bands give up their time volountarily and if they wished to be abused/disprespected/humiliated etc they could simply visit their parents instead of attending band! :wink:


Brian Kelly said:
I agree that abuse, victimisation, bullying, insults, bad language etc are totally unacceptable at any time.

However, such behaviour is not confined to brass band conductors. Toscannini was infamous for his hair-trigger temper, George Solti was known as "the screaming skull", and Sir Thomas Beecham's sarcastic comments probably did not seem so funny or witty to the unfortunate player on the receiving end.

This is a completely sound argument, and i of course agree with you.

I would just say that these conductors are from a different generation, where musicians didnt have the same kind of protection from a union and european court as they do now. Im sure had Sir Thomas Beecham lived today the orchestra management would have had to have him curb his sarcasm and attitude towards players for fear of legal repercussions. (Remember he founded the RPO, and so owned it. Everyone was directly his employee and he was answerable to no one.)

This is not of course any kind of slur on their work, they were the best in their field and deserve total respect.

A J Foad

There is also a very big difference between conductors who shout and scream, and conductors who put the fear of God in to you because they might shout and scream at you! I personally prefer working with a conductor who operates in an entirely non threatening manner, but I have to admit that some of the conductors I've worked with kept entire orchestras or bands on the edge of their seats with fear - and it brought out the best in the players. I must also add that the conductors in question were immensely well respected by the musicians on each occasion.

However, this kind of respect can only be gained by an extraodinary musician (which could well account for Messers Beecham and Solti) and anyone who thinks that yelling, bawling and victimising players is the way to get the best out of a musician belongs far away from the rehearsal room....

Dave Payn

Active Member
This is also a subject currently appearing on 4barsrest. The 'Have your say' hasn't been updated since the thread appeared but here's what I put on it:

In my many years conducting lower section bands, I've never considered myself the 'bullying' type but interpersonal skills is a major make up of any MD and I openly admit that it's something I struggled with in my early years. I went on a brass band course a few years ago where they experimented with an additional conductors course for a year. (n.b. A course I seem to remember straightmute was on and doing exceptionally well with the BBC Big Band trumpeter Paul Eshelby doing an afternoon's clinic!) The stipulations were that all candidates had some conducting experience and were proficient on their own instrument.

It was fairly obvious from the outset (given the tuition and excellent teachers I had over the years rather than any individual talent on my part) that I was probably more experienced than the other conducting students. Now those that know me, would, I hope, know that I'm not a braggart (he, says, modestly....) but when it came to the final day of the course where all the conductors were given time to study a section and subsequently conduct a section of Kenneth Downie's Purcell Variations, I wanted to prove that I was at least capable, but I was also nervous seeing a band containing the tutors, all of whom were (and still are) at the top of their trade. It was a combination of keenness to do well with downright nerves which, I believe, made my interpersonal skills look considerably lacking. In the end, I was humiliated (or perhaps 'humbled' would be a better choice of words) by one of the tutors who'd noticed that I was coming over rather pompously. I won't name him, simply because (a) he was dead right to do so anyway and (b) I don't wish to 'name drop', even in a story against myself.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson that day and vowed to work on my interpersonal skills. As I said, I'd like to think I've never been a bully (but there again, that's for others to decide and I'm NOT fishing for compliments from those that know me!) I won't say my IS's are now perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned and worked out a few things for myself.

It (probably*) doesn't matter what section the band you conduct is in, it's likely that there are a few players with at least equal if not more musical and performing experience than you. (Something else I learned the hard way). Coupled with the fact that there may well also be players who are in the early stages of learning and/or struggling and the fact that we were all at that standard once, it's a good idea, I think, for us conductors to appreciate and respect ALL of the players under our direction. Remember, there are a number of people who come to a band rehearsal to relax, or get away from the 'realities' of a hard day at work. It's a hobby to them (as it certainly is to me, personally!). They don't expect to be b*llocked by a fellow adult simply because they don't 'come up to scratch' all the time.

(*I've never conducted a Championship section band!)

Sure, when things go wrong we all get frustrated from time to time, but let's face it, if nothing went wrong we'd hardly ever need rehearsals anyway!

I conclude by saying this is not 'advice from an expert', far from it. I'm just listing my own experiences where I learned (and am still learning) the hard way.



Active Member
'People skills' are just as important (if not more important) than musical skills to a conductor IMO. It doesn't matter if you're the most musically gifted person on the planet, you can't play all 25 instruments plus percussion, so if you can't get your ideas across you'll never be any good as a conductor.
I've seen some fantastic 'people skills' displayed by lower section band conductors. Harry Bentham immediately springs to mind, I've never seen him shout at anyone. His method of dealing with misbehaving kids in our junior band was brilliant, he'd make them stand up and play a tricky passage, then say 'that's very good, but could you make <something> a little more <something>', make them play it again, and so on for perhaps 4 or 5 times until they were thoroughly embarrassed. *But*, he'd been encouraging them the whole time, even though also kind of telling them off at the same time. Very clever. Our present conductor was one of his pupils years ago and I'm sure I detect the same methods being used even now!
Anyone who rants and raves has 'lost it', I think.
if any of my conductors shouted at me infront of my band, then i would be humiliated and want to prove them wrong.

if i can't play something then i get it sorted ASAP so
1) - they don't shout at me
2) - it's not embarassing for me to play it wrong infront of people at band.


As both Conductor and player (and i hate to say it trainee teacher) i have come to the conclusion that shoutin at people for musical mistakes is pointless and unlikely to make em play it better immediately, however might change the attitude of someone in a rehersal who is not takin it as seriously as perhaps they should... I aint loud in rehersal and certainly dont abuse players (although i do lighten the mood with light hearted humour occasionally).

A MD once told me as 2nd cornet i should take up fishin as i would be better at it. - i practised like hell for ages afterwards so it didnt happen again
He left and returned a few years later

To find me sat on principal!


Having "pimped" myself around a couple of bands in the last 2 years I have come to the conclusion that the "quiet word" is definitely the way to get results......with regard to my playing.

Unfortunately, as a teacher I know that different people need different approaches and what works with one person may not work with another.

I also tell my children at school (who are only 11) that we are never too old to learn and that anyone, of any age should be open to the ideas of others.

I think that perhaps a little understanding both ways can go a long way.

Obviously the guy in the middle is looking for results but some interpersonal skills are vital and sometimes sadly absent in the brass band world (that's from both conductors and players)

Anyway, just my opinion... For what its worth.

On a happier note.......... :p


Active Member
I agree that different people need to be approached differently, that is the secret to good man management.

However, if a conductor is shrieking at someone then that says something more about their ability. If they get to the stage that they have to scream and shout then they are doing something wrong!

I had a conductor when I was in a junior band who used to scream and shout at us kids. One day he was stamping the rhythm out on the foot of our soprano player as he kept getting it wrong whilst tapping him on the head with his stick! Funnily enough the lad got worse probably due to the fact that his foot hurt and he was crying!
That was the 70s so I suppose you could get away with it then!


Active Member
we've got a really great conductor. He is really patient with everyone and if anyone makes a mistake, 99 times out of a 100 he uses his brilliant sense of humour to point out the error of their ways. Everyone, including the guilty party has a good laugh and it creates a really good bandroom atmosphere and therefore good musical results follow. :lol: :D


spare a thought for those who are at salford/ybs and huddersfield/sellers!!

no escape!! argh

deave - sellers/huds uni
bmus *pending*


you should go down to see a Sally Army band practice. No raised voices! ! ! ! Well not in the bands i have ever been in.

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