Audio: "A Maestro’s Secret for a High-Performing Team"

Brett Mitchell is the featured guest on the current episode of The Leadership Podcast, a weekly program featuring in-depth interviews with leaders from around the world. Listen here:

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Brett Mitchell is the Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. He discusses leadership and teamwork, and how the best orchestras don’t just play with each other… they play for each other. He considers trust to be the first step to leadership and shares his philosophy and methods. He talks about the discipline of music, and how music theory can inform innovation, leadership and teamwork.

Key Takeaways

[2:51] As a young music director, Brett works consciously at leadership.  

[4:29] Brett’s last position was with the Cleveland Orchestra, one of America’s Big Five orchestras. He started there in awe of the training and skill of the elite musicians. Brett learned that the better the orchestra, the more they want to be led. The musicians make music with each other and the conductor helps guide them, but does not dictate to them. The conductor is the arbiter of taste.

[10:06] Leonard Bernstein did a video with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducting them with his facial expressions alone in supreme trust and joy. Brett attributes his own career to the path Leonard Bernstein blazed for American orchestral conductors.

[16:20] A Conductor leads an orchestra; the Music Director is responsible for the artistic side; the Executive Director is responsible for the business side; the Maestro is a teacher. Brett studies the score, learns everybody’s part, listens to the orchestra, teaches the orchestra what the composer is saying through the score, and guides them through the execution of the score.

[26:38] John Williams’ film scores gave Brett the inspiration to study composition. Brett discusses how he and the staff at Public Radio Station WCLV happened to create the award-winning documentary on John Williams’ Star Wars movie scores, The Score Awakens.  

[34:33] Brett is also an active guest conductor. Trust comes from being reliable, getting right to work, showing you are prepared, and being authentic. The goal is not a flawless performance, but a performance as close as humanly possible to being flawless with passion. Beethoven said a wrong note is nothing, but to play without passion is inexcusable.

[43:00] Brett talks about dealing with mistakes during a performance. The conductor needs to find the mistakes that will not fix themselves, and correct and direct for them.