Distributed leadership functions: navigating conducting strategies in choral-orchestral music-making

Ye, Yajie (2023) Distributed leadership functions: navigating conducting strategies in choral-orchestral music-making. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2023YeMPhilRpdf.pdf] PDF
Download (2MB)


In this thesis, I propose to conceptualise the modern choral-orchestral conductor’s role by understanding how a conductor’s leadership functions in an ensemble consisting of a chorus and orchestra. Firstly, I explore the meaning of leadership for a conductor and compare past and present choral-orchestral leadership, especially how the conductor’s leadership functions in a musical institution in the present day. I secondly observe rehearsals and concerts and identify the conductors’ leadership presence by applying distributed leadership theory. Finally, I discover how and why social factors, such as interpersonal relationships and gender stereotypes, can be influential factors in the conductor’s leadership.

Primary data for this study is gathered from participant-observational fieldwork, including projects from BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, Dunedin Consort, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus, Edinburgh International Festival, and National Youth Choir of Scotland. Observing the work distribution in the rehearsal process across ensembles involving chorus and orchestra provides a lens to understand the leadership of choral-orchestral conductors on the podium and within the organisation as a whole. In addition to observation and documentation, the semi-structured interview is another principal way of sourcing insights from conductors who are widely acknowledged as successful models. Interviews were conducted with seven participants, who are professional conductors working with leading British orchestras and choruses, most of whom specialise in choral-orchestral music. The interview participants are Adrian Partington, Aidan Oliver, Christopher Bell, John Butt, Mark Heron, Sarah Tenant-Flowers, and Simon Halsey.

The main aim of this thesis is to address the lack of research evidence on the concept of the conductor’s leadership. By participant-observation, I examine how a conductor can employ strategies developed from the rehearsal process in resolving the leading and managerial issues posed by choral-orchestral repertoire. Meanwhile, leadership theory is applied to create a foundational outline and serve as a point of reference within the intricate and dynamic environment of music-making. This is achieved by formally and informally examining the working relationships among choral directors, conductors, performers, and managers. Additionally, the research investigates the symbolic and narrative processes that facilitate shared sense-making within musical organisations.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: Butt, Professor John and McGuinness, Professor David
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-84096
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2024 14:36
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2024 12:56
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84096
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84096

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year