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.

Do you have lots of music in your family? Are your parents musicians?

I was introduced music by my father who plays piano. He’s an amateur who taught himself. When I was 5 years old he asked me if I wanted to try and I loved it but I soon realised that rather than playing solo piano I loved to make music with other people. I was asked to coach singers and to rehearse with a chorus in my home town. I loved rehearsing, starting from scratch, building the piece and bring it to the performance, I realised it was something I wanted to do for life. What I love about conducting is that you’re not alone, it’s a collaboration. It’s a long process where you bring your ideas, your passion, your talent, but you also have to interact with other musicians, other artists. Every time it’s an interesting journey.

How do you learn a piece you’ve never seen before?

There are many ways. It depends on the repertoire. There’s some where you might want to read through it first, and do a lot of analysis and score reading, score analysis, phrase analysis, harmonic and melodic analysis, especially for contemporary music or 20th century music. Being a pianist I love to play through my scores at the piano, so I sit down and play every line, I try to play strings, wind and brass separately and then to bring everything together and to play the piece as if I were performing the piece, trying to shape it musically, showing all the soul I want the orchestra to bring to the piece.

What about the more practical aspects of conducting like beating?

Technique is a tool, a servant of the music. First you have to be clear about what kind of music you want to make, and then you start thinking about how to convey through the technique, how you want to convey the music that you want to share with others. To me technique comes after you really know the piece and you start thinking how do I conduct this, technically.

There might be instances when someone disagrees with your interpretation of the piece. How do you deal with that?

I usually try to avoid these problems. I’m very careful and I try to listen to what their problems are. However too much democracy can be a problem. At some point someone unfortunately has to make a choice. I try ideally to bring everyone with me on the journey but it’s not realistic sometimes.

Can you describe to me the feeling you get when you’re conducting a concert?

It’s magic. I think it’s something unique. You get a lot of energy from the orchestra, all those players give you their all, playing hard and giving their soul and passion into the music. It’s a very special moment when anything can happen and sometimes you are surprised by something you didn’t rehearse and suddenly there is a burst of energy or a beautiful phrasing from a solo, or a beautiful shade or colour that comes out of the orchestra. Because performance adds an extra layer to the rehearsal process. You can rehearse up to a specific point and then it has to be performance, you have to engage yourself, you have to bring in your personality and charisma. I think it’s a transforming experience, even for the orchestra. So it’s something that’s a very mix of emotions, but to me it’s very moving to think that if you want to bring a symphonic piece to life you need all of these people together and we all have to agree on what we have to do. Something clicks and magic happens, and it’s beautiful.