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.

What kind of music did you enjoy as s child growing up in Greece?

When I was a child I was curious about many instruments. I grew up on a wonderful island, Corfu. I began the violin at 5 years old, but there was a big tradition of wind bands in Corfu. All my friends were playing in the band every evening, so I went along with them and I learnt saxophone, clarinet and I played drums. When I was 17 I left for Germany and  began to study violin and composition full time.

Did you teach yourself every instrument?

The bands are a big tradition. It’s a small island and each village has a band. Each child has to play an instrument. Learning the violin first was hard, it doesn’t sound good for a long time so when I was 8 I said to my dad that I wanted to play in the band and learn a wind instrument. I began with clarinet then percussion and then I went to the conductor of the band and said I wanted to learn trumpet as well, and he said ‘no, you need to be great on just one instrument now’. So I left the band to concentrate on the violin.

Do you still play now?

I was lucky, when I was 19 I got a position in the orchestral academy in Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland and I played there for five years. That was a great education for me.

How did it feel the first time you conducted?

I was really shocked – stressed – I remember. It was in Corfu. I was 15 or 16 and it was the band. I had to conduct some Italian overture and I was really stressed. I prepared for months! To be honest I didn’t have any respect for conductors at that point... I thought if someone was no good at playing their instrument they had to become a conductor. One of my teachers suggested to my parents that I should try conducting and I was really disappointed. I said ‘does he think I can’t play an instrument?’ But when I started to study conducting it was like a magnet. The music is coming from inside, so you have to go even deeper. It’s not about only staying in front of the orchestra, but making music together. Holding the people together and going more deeply into the score. That’s why I want to become a conductor.

Do you have a warm up routine?

I want to be very quiet. Sometimes I take ear plugs. I want to listen to silence. Two minutes before I go out I don’t want to hear anything.

And afterwards, do you celebrate?

It depends how tired you are. This is part of the job. The biggest celebration is on stage.