Firstly, sorry if this question is off topic. I thought this would be the best place to post it.

I'm a teenage composer. I've written a few orchestral pieces before, and I also am fluent at playing a variety of instruments. I'm interested in getting into conducting, however, I see no way that anyone would allow me to lead a volunteer orchestra without any previous experience (with no degree etc.).

Am I just trying too much too soon? Should I give up hope, or should I ask some volunteer orchestras around if they would consider me as a conductor? We have several adult and youth orchestras in the surrounding area. Is there any way to get experience in conducting without a degree in music?

  • You don't need to "lead" an orchestra initially. Firstly, you need to learn how to conduct, in just the same way you would learn to play an instrument. Then you can gradually build experience, by conducting small, medium, then larger ensembles. Think of it this way: you wouldn't learn how to play an instrument by turning up with that instrument at an orchestral rehearsal and asking to play a concerto with them... Apr 13, 2014 at 23:20
  • Practically speaking.. would I just ask to help out with a small ensemble? I mean, since most already have conductors.. how do I go about that practically?
    – CC Inc
    Apr 13, 2014 at 23:24
  • 1
    Do you currently have any music tuition? For instance at school or college? If so, anyone who conducts a choir or instrumental ensemble at such an institution may be able to help you best. Often orchestras, choirs or other ensembles have SECTIONAL rehearsals, where a small part of the group rehearses separately; this could be a good starting point. But, I must stress, you really need to learn how to conduct first. As I say, you wouldn't expect to turn up and play violin in an orchestra if you had never had any violin lessons... Apr 13, 2014 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


Certainly don't give up hope! If you are excited about conducting, then you are already on your way to being a conductor. Realistically, though, learning to conduct is similar to any other musical discipline; you need to study how to do it. This doesn't mean you need a music degree though. If you already know of adult and youth orchestras, ask to sit in on on rehearsals, to experience the process of conducting and rehearsing an orchestra. Also, you should get in contact with the conductors of these orchestras, either for advice about study, or to take private tuition. Lastly, orchestral conducting may not be the easiest route into conducting for you. You can learn a lot about conducting by directing much smaller, chamber ensembles. Choral conducting may offer a route into gaining conducting experience, too.

You will learn how to conduct far more easily if you take conducting lessons. As soon as you start doing this, you should aim to put your skills into practice; you could even start by asking a couple of fellow musicians to allow you to conduct them playing duet music. Sure, they could probably do this on their own, but in such a situation you would be asking them to respond to your musical interpretation, performance instructions, and ideas in rehearsal. No ensemble is too small for you to start learning to conduct...


Have you NOT approached local orchestras already? Come on - as God said to the man who prayed for a lottery win: "Give me some help! BUY a lottery ticket!".

You could start by joining as a player. Then ask if they'll let you run through one of your compositions.

Music is a profession where a degree is only relevent when applying for a teaching post. Mostly, you just have to be able to do it.

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