The chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra doubles as a charismatic musical evangelist.

So what was it got you into conducting? 

Actually I started conducting very early. I think it was a wish to play all the instruments and realising that I wasn’t going to be able to do that. And so conducting is participation with the largest number of them. By the time I was 16, I was assistant conductor of the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra but I was also writing music for theatre plays and the school, and arranging various things for dance companies. It wasn’t until I was at the Royal Academy of Music in London and pursing a triple major of horn, conducting and composition all at the same time that I realised there are only 24 hours in a day and I only have a certain amount of talent.

So must a conductor have studied an instrument at a professional level? 

Conductors need a thorough understanding of what each musician is dealing with – you have to stay outside with a sense of the global. But I personally can’t understand how you would be able to conduct instruments without having worked to a high level...