What makes a great conductor? Columbus Symphony new Music Director, Jean-Marie Zeitouni

Jean-Marie Zeitouni Columbus Symphony Music Director

After a 2 year search, it was announced in September that the new music director of the Columbus Symphony would be Jean-Marie Zeitouni. (pronounced Zay-TOO-nee)

I previously wrote about him HERE and also HERE and HERE.

If you glance at any of those previous articles, you will not be surprised when I write that I am quite pleased with his appointment. And he signed up for a 4 year contract!

Most conductors bring to the podium a package or several high level skills. These can include a combination of any of the following: a good ear for pitch and tone; good rhythm; good musical sense; creative musical ideas; and/or good baton technique.

It is rare that a conductor has all these skills in balance. From what I have seen of him in 4 concerts, Jean-Marie Zeitouni has all those skills at very high levels.

One particularly effective and powerful tool for a conductor is to have a really good "ear". By this I mean the ability to hear and comment on intonation immediately, and hear exactly where a problem occurred, and by which player, even while the whole orchestra plays.

This skill may be applied to more than intonation. A conductor with a great ear can also hear any mistakes, including wrong notes and who played them, from within the thick layers of the orchestra.

The reason this skill is particularly valuable to a conductor is this: Most players have pretty good ears. If a conductor ever attempts to correct pitch and is wrong, the players will lose respect for him or her.

Jean-Marie has one of the best ears I've ever observed in a conductor. I'd say no more than 15% of all conductors exhibit this useful and rare skill.

The musicians KNOW that Jean-Marie hears everything. That makes us play our best, because nothing escapes him. Nothing.

Would you like to share practice ideas with other musicians? You could do so at the Practice Café.

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