A conductor is known as a leader of an orchestra and conducting is defined as the art of directing a musical performance.
The Conductor is one of the most important people in an orchestra as he helps the musicians keep in time with the music. He also keeps musicians informed as to whether the music is loud or quiet (volume), what speed to play at (tempo) and to keep in time (rhythm).
To communicate with the musicians, a conductor uses hand gestures in order to give instructions to musicians. He/she will often have a baton (stick) in their hand to aid them.A conductors gestures can be shown through how much strength he/she uses in their arm movements. They can also, at times, use other signals to communicate such as eye contact.
Conductors are normally found at the front of an orchestra, standing on a raised podium (platform) with a music stand infront of them. On the music stand will be a full score of the music, being performed, which includes all instrumental and voice parts of the music.
The earliest form of conducting could be found as early as the middle ages, mostly in churches. The person leading the church choirs would be found at the front, holding a staff (long stick) to signify his role; which is where the baton derived from.
In the 18th century, as music evolved, it was customary for a member of the ensemble to act as the conductor. This would often be the principal violinist, known as the leader, as they would use their bow as a baton to lead.
In the 19th century it was already common to have a resident conductor, a person who did not have to play an instrument during the performance. By this time the size of the orchestra grew and therefore the use of a baton became a necessity so that all musicians could see the gestures directed to them by the conductor.
The 20th century brought a higher technical standard to conducting which was recognised by many composers and musicians throughout Europe.
Conducting during these centuries was seen as a male dominated job role. However, the 21st century saw a break in the gender roles with more women entering into the world of conducting.