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.
[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] The 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 on a guest conductor series. 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.
The better the orchestra, the more they want to be led.
As the conductor, I decide how fast is fast; how slow is slow; how loud is loud; how soft is soft.
To get an orchestra to deliver at its fullest potential it takes a conductor with the ability to truly listen.
A leader leads by trust.
The conductor is there to deliver information to the orchestra in a way that is useful to them.
It is so much easier to lead with joy if you’re doing what you love.
Trust comes from being reliable, getting right to work, showing you are prepared, and being authentic.
“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” — Ludwig van Beethoven
Leadership is leadership regardless of the field.
“The separation is in the preparation.” — Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Brett Mitchell begins his tenure as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony with a star-studded 2017-18 inaugural season, featuring such special guests as soprano Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Mr. Mitchell comes to Denver from his recently concluded four-year tenure as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, the latter of which he led on a four-city tour of China in 2015. Recent and upcoming guest engagements include the orchestras of Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Oregon, Rochester, Saint Paul, San Antonio, and Washington (National Symphony Orchestra); his summer festival appearances include the Grant Park Orchestra, the National Repertory Orchestra, the Sarasota Music Festival, the Texas Music Festival, and the Blossom Music Festival with The Cleveland Orchestra. Previous positions include music directorships of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra and the Moores Opera Center, as well as assistant conductor posts with the Houston Symphony and Orchestre National de France. Born in Seattle in 1979, Mr. Mitchell holds degrees in conducting from the University of Texas at Austin and composition from Western Washington University.
Books mentioned in this episode