To become and, above all, to grow as a conductor is a privilege only a happy few get to enjoy. That is why, in 1990, Donatella Flick founded a conducting competition in partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra. The prize is 12 month's work with the acclaimed LSO.
From a field of 200 candidates, a talented trio - one of them a young woman - made it to the final.
Her presence was encouraging for Flick: "It's very difficult to find female conductors. I don't know why but this is an increasingly masculine job. Women do approach it, but the path is very long. I believe it's a job where great mental and physical strength is required… the heart too… your brain and soul together, but above all you need physical energy."
28 year-old Elim Chan, a British citizen born in Hong Kong and now studying in the United States, emerged as the winner.
She said winning the prize would help her fulfill her dream: "Becoming a conductor - I just had this idea when I was really young, when I saw the conductor go on stage, working all these wonders, I [thought]: I want to be up there!"
"[While I was looking] at the musicians, and the music was happening, it was so unbelievable because it's almost like it's not me there and it's not them there, it's just the music, and once I looked in their eyes everything was connected…"
Describing the role of the conductor, Chan said: "It's like a lens, like a glass, [but] you cannot shine on your own, you need the light, something to shine through you… [and] that's the music from the musicians, and the passion! Then it goes out there for the audience, and goes back to the musicians, too, and for myself!"
Donatella Flick is a 21st century patron of the arts. Despite her fairy-tale life, this descendant of a noble Ossetian family is under no illusions about how difficult a conductor's life can be: "This is a very tough world, where no-one will buy you coffee unless they expect something back from you. It's changed so much in the last five-ten years… I strongly believe patronage is a duty, especially today. It's extremely important, and there's not enough of it," she told euronews.
Ten Years Ago They Were Stars, Now They Are Competitors
Verbier Festival 2011
2009 Nobel Prize Concert
2003 St. Petersburg Gala, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the city
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra