Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Conductor

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Conductor

Overview: Conductors direct orchestras, symphonies, choirs, and other musical ensembles, interpreting the music and setting the tempo for the musicians. Their responsibilities include studying the musical scores, planning and overseeing rehearsals, and leading performances. They may also network with potential donors and help with fundraising. In addition, conductors taking on a secondary role of music director will select the music and schedule guest performances for their program.

Conductors are most often associated with top-end symphonies and choirs. But they’re needed for all levels of musicianship, providing career opportunities in schools and universities, community groups, musical theater companies, and military organizations, as well.

Necessary Training: A four-year degree is required and a master’s degree is often preferred. Conductors should also have significant mastery of one or more instruments. Practical experience is imperative; many aspiring conductors achieve this by attending conducting workshops to gain the advice of a master, enrolling in a grad school program to study with a teacher, and conducting small groups and ensembles.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, good listening skills, multitasking, musicality, photographic memory, promotion

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Alert, ambitious, analytical, appreciative, bold, confident, cooperative, decisive, disciplined, enthusiastic, focused, imaginative, inspirational, meticulous, passionate, persuasive, studious, talented, uninhibited, whimsical

NEGATIVE: Perfectionist

Sources of Friction: Musicians with a diva mentality, oversensitive musicians who can’t take criticism, one’s authority being challenged, creative differences with the musicians or composer, facilities issues (the building having terrible acoustics, a broken heating or a/c system, etc.), language barriers, a show or tour being cancelled, flagging ticket sales, losing a major donor or benefactor, romantic entanglements with one’s musicians, a physical ailment that threatens one’s career (hearing or vision loss, a degenerative bone disease that makes it difficult to stand, etc.), being uninspired by the piece one must conduct, being unable to advance to a more desirable program

People They Might Interact With: Musicians, a music director, composers, donors and benefactors, other conductors, facilities staff, journalists

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A conductor in a lower-level organization with a dream of working with a top-tier ensemble may become disgruntled at his or her inability to move up.
  • Esteem and Recognition: A conductor who isn’t respected by his peers might begin to feel resentful or insecure.
  • Love and Belonging: People who are highly passionate about their work often find it difficult to share their time, attention, and passion with others, which could lead to a love and belonging void.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, ballroom, black-tie event, community center, cruise ship, green room, gymnasium, high school hallway, hotel room, performing arts theater, recording studio, university quad, Vegas stage show

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:

  • Conductors, by and large, are male, so consider a female for this leading role.
  • When we think of people in this role, they’re usually wealthy, pretentious, and snobbish. Twist the stereotype by giving your conductor some unorthodox traits, making them quirky, timid, sloppy, uncouth, etc.
  • Instead of putting your conductor in charge of a highbrow ensemble, consider the less-represented options. Maybe she conducts the army band, an orchestra for an off-Broadway show, or an inner-city children’s choir.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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