Nicholas Braithwaite’s memoir takes its title from the oft asked question, what does a conductor do? Quite a lot over the course of a lifetime in the music industry, as the Adelaide-based conductor reveals in this conversationally written account that spans his childhood in wartime London to Australia in the early 1990s.


Braithwaite’s career in Australia alone has seen him serve as Principal Conductor of the Adelaide, Tasmanian and Canberra symphony orchestras as well as conducting for State Opera of South Australia, Opera Australia, and heading up the music school at the Victorian College of the Arts, but he’s best-known for his work in opera, and is particularly associated with Wagner (he conducted State Opera of South Australia’s Die Meistersinger von NürnbergAct 3 just last year, and led several RingCycles with English National Opera in the 1970s).

Born in London in 1939, he was the son of conductor Warwick Braithwaite (“I have always put down my choice of career to lack of initiative on my part,” he quips early on) and he relates – in addition to childhood memories of the Second World War – being allowed to watch Rudolf...