60 seconds with ... Paul MacAlindin

Amongst his other musical exploits, Paul MacAlindin was music director of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq for six years. He will speak at HAF 2016.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I've always been a deeply intrinsically motivated musician, which protects me well against inevitable blocks from other conductors.

As a conductor, what are the most important skills that you use on a daily basis?
I think and feel with my body, so I move best through life that way too. I try to balance thought and motion.

How exactly do you see your role as a conductor?  Inspiring the players or singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?
My role is to get the absolute best from players: inspiring, serving, coaching but always with my own clear vision for the music.

What advice would you offer to young conductors and musicians about to embark on their professional careers?
As in all arts, if you want to be a conductor, do something else. But if you absolutely HAVE to conduct, then follow the calling & seek help.

In your experience, how important is music as a force for positive social change?
Brilliantly simple, music works on many levels, reaching into us powerfully, wordlessly for us to communicate, unite and share our humanity.

Can you tell us about any cultural differences you have observed between orchestras in the West compared to the Middle East?
The West has great instruments, teachers and pedagogy whilst Iraqi musicians battle extreme heat, sabotage, isolation and corruption.

What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in your life thus far?
Keeping going in the conducting biz is tough, because it's so mafia. You need prestige, privilege and powerful parents.

What made you decide to write a book about your experiences with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq?  After all, writing is a very different skill set to conducting?
I wrote UPBEAT as a catharsis, to share what I'd learnt from Iraq. Writing was easy as Dad was a journalist. We have a way with words.

You're a Scottish man who has lived in Germany for many years.  What has been your view on 'Brexit' and the leadership 'musical chairs' of the political parties?
I've cultivated my European identity over the years, so I find Brexit painful. If our leaders couldn't handle that crisis, what can they do?

You've had an incredibly varied career to date.  Which actor would you like to play you in a story of your life?
I adore Jake Gyllenhaal! He does those hunted loners in bizarre situations, which is how I often saw myself with the Iraq project.

Lastly, what is the next chapter for you and the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq?
Iraq is a failed state and the orchestra is over. We can only learn from our time together and move on. I want to get conducting in the UK.