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 play an instrument before becoming a conductor?

I came to conducting very late - only 4 years ago. I did a lot of different things. I started clarinet and composing when I was about 9 years old, which I still do, and I have a degree in musical education from the Sibelius Academy. In the middle of my studies for this I changed when we had an introductory course to conducting. At first I totally sucked at it and yet somehow it felt natural at the same time so I pushed myself to do it.

What kind of music did you listen to in Finland growing up?

 I listened to all kinds of music, however I came to classical music quite late as my family didn’t listen to it. There were all kinds of folk music, a lot of popular tunes and I was very into heavy metal while I was at high school. I played guitar when I was younger, in a band. It’s one of my key things in my philosophy about music, that all music is important and incomparable. I have a huge respect for all kinds of music.

Would you describe conducting as a powerful feeling?

Power is one word… conducting is all about connection and cooperation. Basically the best moment in conducting is when you feel as if you are also part of the group making the music. I hate this old fashioned way of thinking of a conductor as a dictator. The best moment in conducting is feeling the sense of making music together. You could maybe call it ‘flow’.

Do you think you need to have to have thick skin to succeed as a conductor?

You have to have it in this professional don’t you? It’s elementary. I think I have now developed one…

When you’re learning  a piece, how do you begin?

I’m a reader. I go into detail reading all things printed in the score. I do listen to some recordings but that’s later on. I have to play it myself a few times for it to sink in. I don’t play the piano very well, but it has to be done to get all the harmonies in my head. It’s a slow process … Later on you listen to recordings. For example, for concertos you have to listen to different interpretations. So the Prokofiev (2nd violin concerto) we’re doing in the second round of the competition (I love Prokofiev, he’s my favourite composer of all time - every piece I study is so unique) - this concerto has so many different things that people do, extra ritardandos, etc, that are not written in the part - so you have to be ready, to be at the service of the soloist, that’s our job in concertos.