The Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition, held every two years, was founded in 1990 by philanthropist Donatella Flick. Ahead of the three rounds which will crown the 2016 winner, between the 15th and 17th November, Bachtrack's insider Nicole Wilson meets the competitors who will have to prove their talent conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Did you learn an instrument before you started conducting?

I was at music school as a child. I played piano and violin and I was in a choir class with a conductor who was director in the Riga choir school. I then joined the choir school but still played piano and violin until I was 18 when I went to the Music Academy.

Are your parents musical?

Not really. My mum was at musical school for a few years when she was little, but no, basically not. She helped me in the beginning to help me get used to instruments but no one else in my family has studied music to the level I have.

Were you self-motivated to practice?

As a child it was different, sometimes I didn’t want to practice, I wanted to play outside. But essentially I did feel like I had my duty to prepare and prepare well, and when I did I had good results and had the feeling that I had to improve, that I couldn’t be lazy.

When you were a child at choir school, did you play violin in an orchestra?

No, I played in a few ensembles but had no orchestral experience. There was no space for me in the orchestra, I had applied too late and so I sat with friends in the orchestra and watched the whole orchestra from the very back.

When you were sitting in the youth orchestra, watching but not playing this must have been quite influential in you becoming a conductor?

Yes it was. So I started to conduct at 14, that was part of my schooling after my voice broke. I had score reading lessons for one year and then I started to conduct. The orchestral experience I saw influenced me, but in the beginning I just did choir conducting. Orchestral conducting was really scary for me when I tried it as it was so unknown and it was terrifying having all those musicians looking at me…

When you first started you said it felt frightening, how does it feel now?

My first experience was in a choir competition in 2005. In the third round I had a chance to conduct an orchestra. It was the Latvian State Choir, Academy Choir and Orchestra in Rachmaninov’s Cantata ‘Spring’. From that time on I was hooked. Not maybe because it was Rachmaninov, so passionate and full of emotions and with so many people on the stage, but because when I felt that music for the first time I knew that was how I wanted to feel that music for the rest of my life. It’s an amazing feeling, just to show your feelings in music, to be so passionate and so confident that you are doing it right and to be able to  move other people. If I see that really working, it motivates me to move on, to carry on down this path.

How do you anticipate it will feel if you get through to the final with the LSO?

It doesn’t scare so as much as I would imagine if I hadn’t had any professional orchestra experience. It’s not like I’m scared, as I have had some experience already. But it feels like you’d be driving a Rolls Royce because you have such an amazing orchestra in front of you and want to do your best, and you just mobilise and are very concentrated in what you are doing. I will have to be very focused and do my best.