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.

How did you get involved in music?

My mother is a violinist and  I started violin at 4. My brother played the cello. After a couple of years I decided to go into the wind section and I started learning the oboe.

That’s hard work!

Yes but if you try early enough it’s much easier. I wanted to play from the age of 6, but it was a bit early. I would blow the reeds to get used to the blowing techniques, by 7 and 8 I could reach the keys. It’s important to start early enough so the body can get used to the pressure so you don’t suffer too much later on.

Was there a lot of family chamber music at home?

Yes, some trios with my brother and mother, in which I played the piano. But mainly we sang Bach chorales together. I loved it.

What made you want to turn to conducting?

Many things. I was very attracted to it when I was studying in Paris, and I asked if I could try and conduct the orchestra. I did it and it felt terrible, so I thought maybe it wasn’t for me. I kept concentrating on the oboe. But this never left me and I was always fascinated by it, and I was always trying it with smaller ensembles. I discovered that the more you get into the musical texture and know what you want it becomes easier and easier. A few years later I got a job in an opera house as an oboist and settled down to my life, doing less travelling and so I was able to start studying conducting, to give it a real serious try.

Have you ever formed your own orchestra?

I created an orchestra in Zurich which was formed of my friends from the three main orchestras in Zurich. We started a chamber orchestra and had a few concerts, this was wonderful and they were very supportive.

How do you feel inside before you go on stage to conduct?

I can’t stand, I just need to go on the stage. Always I’m too early and then I have to wait, so I eat all my bananas, and then I don’t have any bananas left… Stupid things. Nervous in a positive way, I can’t wait to start.

And when it’s over?

I’m happy! It’s all about the happening, the event. If the concert was nice then it’s a great feeling. I can’t wait to drink my first beer!

When you’re in a concert and something goes wrong, what do you do?

I’m very calm. I can be completely zen. I need to find the right bridge to the right solution, so there’s no time to panic. I give the sign and then wait, and bring in the next entry. It happens sometimes in the opera. I hope I won’t panic ever, even if the floor is falling. As a conductor you must keep your place and never panic. Keep the positive thoughts and then give room for things to happen.

Is it different socially being the conductor to being in the orchestra?

As originally an orchestral musician, I somehow still need to belong to a group. It’s like being a football coach. You are close to your players, you share moments and you go and have a beer with them but you still lead them.