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 got you started?

I started on the clarinet. It was available at school, but I didn’t know what it was at first. The teacher said everyone had to learn an instrument. I wanted to play drums, but we lived in an apartment and my mother was a bit worried about the neighbours! So we chose the clarinet instead.

What was the first thing you ever conducted?

It was a long time ago, when a new chamber orchestra was created in Riga, Sinfonietta Riga, about 11 or 12 years ago. The conductor was an oboe player and he was going to premiere a new oboe concerto, and he was short of a conductor. He knew that I was interested. So actually I had only one lesson before I stood before the orchestra. It was a terrible feeling – I thought it would be much more simple!

How does it feel when you stand in front of the orchestra? Is it easier if there are your friends in the orchestra?

Maybe I’m too naïve, but I don’t think it makes any difference. If you’re making music together it shouldn’t matter if they are friends or not friends.

Do you have a routine before you go on stage for a concert?

No routine. As a player I am always checking my reeds, but nothing as a conductor. I’m excited of course. But the excitement feels the same as if I am going on to play.

Who do you admire? Who’s your favourite conductor?

I admire two incredible conductors who come from Latvia, Maris Janssons and Andris Nelsons. I worked in the opera as a clarinettist when Andris started to conduct, so we made a lot of music together.