Planet-bpm.com interviews Moritz Gnann, a 35 year old German conductor. He explains to us how to build up an international career as a conductor. He tells us about motivations, opportunities and how to make a living as a conductor

You have been brought up and educated in Germany, now you work as an assistant conductor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Does it help in this very competitive world of professional musicians to say: I am from Germany?

Germany is  a reference for nearly everyone in this business, in regards to music education, but also considering the cultural offer we have, the concentration of talents and especially because of the still best working opportunities as a musician, because people really invest in music: It starts with the Musikschule, going to the opera, a concert or musical. It is true that our universities are probably not as known worldwide as US institutions like the Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY), the Rice University Shepherd School of Music – Houston, TX, Juilliard School – New York, NY. (editorial note: in the top 15 of the best schools in the world there is just the Oberlin Conservatory of Music). But although our schools do not have this “marketing image” everyone knows that the standard of education in Germany music wise is nearly exellent at all universities. Every institution is very specialized. I for instance went to the Universität der Künste in Berlinbecause I wanted to learn conducting with a certain teacher. In Germany it works more like this, you look for the professionals rather than for the image of the university.

Gnann conducting

How does one decide to become a conductor?

In my case I started with piano and violin and after a some time I realized that I was not good enough with these instruments to start a professional career, but I certainly wanted to be a musician. Then with 17 years I had the unique chance to conduct a local orchestra and I fell in love with the job. From when I was very little I knew my life would be linked to music.

How important is marketing in this world?

First of all there is the basis of hard work and passion and then like with everything else in music, marketing, is very important, too. Music is a business and the musicians, composer and a conducter is a brand and as well a product somehow. If they do not know you, they cannot contract you. I personally work with a PR-agency  and also with an artist agency. Besides I also have to do my own marketing work, which is not always easy. But at the end, this, besides being a passion, it is also business and as such you have to follow certain rules. In my case I have some fixed arrangements like in Boston, but you can never be sure and you have to keep in touch with all the good possible working places.

Music is a globale business and obviously these working places are around the world. How important is it for your job to speak languages?

With a very good level of English you get around, but obviously it is a big advantage if you speak the language of the orchestra you are working with, but since music is an universal language, you can also find a way to make yourself understand and connect with the people without speaking their language.

You are very young. Is it a new trend that conductors are starting off very young?

Right now there are many young and good conductors. There is no age limit. But of course to develop charisma and personality you need time, it is a profession where you obviously need to interact with people and for that you need experience. It is easier to live this profession if your personal life is also linked to music, otherwise it is difficult to live with. But since you travel around a lot, it is important to have a place where you can always go back to. For me of course that is always Germany and in Germany, Berlin, where I have an appartment.

Isn’t it hard to live in such a competitive world where you always find people much better than yourself?

No. It inspires you, it triggers you and it provokes admiration as well. I think it is important to know as well as your limits, your capacities and your talent to avoid too much frustation. I realized that as a pianist I would not survive, so I looked for another way to live from music. In the end it is about what music offers to you, how it satisfies you and makes you happy. Once you know for sure that music is your life, then the rest is just hard work, but work that you love.

About Moritz Gnann:

Born in Tübingen, Germany, Moritz Gnann studied conducting at the Universität der Künste in Berlin and at the Musikhochschule Dresden, graduating with distinction. He gained further experience through active participation in masterclasses with Gianluigi Gelmetti, Sylvain Cembreling, Hartmut Haenchen, Bernard Haitink and Diego Masson. After three years as Kapellmeister at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Moritz Gnann took up the position as an assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for seasons 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Gnann started his professional career in 2007 when he joined the Theater Aachen as a repetiteur and conductor. Working together with Julia Jones at Teatro Nacional de Saõ Carlos in Lisbon from 2009 until 2011, he conducted operas such as Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti as well as various concert programmes. As Kapellmeister and assistant to the General Music Director at the Deutsche Oper Berlin he conducted Die Zauberflöte, Così fan tutte, Hänsel und Gretel, Madama Butterfly, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rigoletto and Billy Budd as well as other projects. Mahlermania, a production that combines the biography of Gustav Mahler with his music, was recorded for the European TV channel arte and was toured under his musical direction to the Opéra de Rouen and to Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival in South Korea.