What is the role of the conductor in a wind ensemble?

What competencies must the conductor develop?

What drives these conductors to be so involved in community music-making?

What are the challenges and rewards of working with a group like the Wellington Wind Symphony? Wellington Wind Symphony music director Daniel Warren talks with past conductors Michael Purves-Smith and Dave Davidson.

 Daniel Warren

Darren Warren is noted as a conductor of an exceptionally wide variety of musical organizations including acting as the pops conductor for important symphonies, and  as guest conductor of many important orchestras. At the same time he is the beloved director of a community orchestra and he is the musical director of the Wellington Wind Symphony.

More about Dan Warren

Conductor Daniel Warren’s website

YouTube video: Dan Warren conducts the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony in a performance of Brahms’ Academic Festival Orchestra

Michael Purves-Smith

Michael Purves-Smith has conducted a very wide range of repertoire from premieres of important works for the band to new operas and music from the middle ages to the most daring contemporary scores. His is retired from the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University where he taught conducting. He was a specialist in conducting early music. He is the conductor emeritus of the Wellington Wind Symphony.

More about Michael Purves-Smith

Michael Purves-Smith’s website

YouTube video: Michael Purves-Smith conducts the Wellington Winds, with Dan Warren as trumpet soloist

Dave Davidson

Dave Davidson is a retired high school music teacher. Throughout his career he has specialized in conducting community groups. He has conducted the Galt Kiltie Band, The Mississauga Pops Concert Band, the Guelph Concert Band, several shows with Royal City Music Productions and was the founding conductor of the Wellington Wind Symphony. He is currently the conductor of the prize-winning Kitchener Musical Society Band and Associate Conductor of the New Horizons Band (Guelph).

Questions to Drive Further Inquiry

  • Why do musical ensembles need a conductor beyond keeping the beat?
  • What are the musical competencies of being a conductor?
  • What competencies beyond musical ability are required to be successful as a conductor?
  • We are familiar with the conductor as a performer, but what about the role of the conductor in leading rehearsals?
  • Do you enjoy playing for conductors who inspire you? What does the word inspire mean to you?
  • Can you describe what you like best about one of your favourite conductors?
  • Why aren’t there more women conductors?

Resources about Conducting

What Do Conductors Do? The Telegraph, May 2014.

LSO Conducting Masterclass with Valery Gergiev: From the London Symphony Orchestra’s YouTube channel.

Traits and Competencies of the Music Director: From the League of American Orchestras.

11 of Today’s Top Women Conductors: From the BBC Music Magazine online.

Gustavo Dudamel’s Story: The inspiring story of this famous conductor.


Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen discusses the role of the orchestral conductor.


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