For many people, deciding what you want to do in life is something that comes after university. How, they argue, can you know what you want to do if you’re barely out of high school? But, says 25-year-old Polish conductor Dawid Runtz, his path was decided for him a long time ago.
“I started playing the piano at age of five, and I started playing flute in primary school,” he told Young Post during his visit to Hong Kong in January for the 1st Hong Kong International Conducting Competition. “It felt very natural because many members of my family are in the music industry.”
Runtz’s parents were musicians, so it seemed only right to him that he follow in their footsteps. He continued to play both instruments throughout high school. Still, there were times during his high school years that he sometimes thought of changing his path.
“During my last year of high school, I realised maybe it would be better for me to be a composer,” he says. “I had started to write music, and I had won two prizes [for it] – one in Poland and one in Italy.”
However, these hopes of his did not come to pass, as Runtz realised that just because he could compose music, didn’t mean that someone out there was necessarily willing to perform it.
He decided instead that he would become a conductor. A conductor’s life, though much busier than that of a composer, was something that Runtz was used to seeing – from the other side of the music stand.
A conductor’s day typically includes having to read the musical scores of pieces they will conduct in concerts, listening to many recordings of the piece as it is conducted by other conductors, and attending rehearsals with the orchestra.
“I’ve always devoted time to music. It’s nothing special for me to read a score, listen to music, go to a concert, or attend a rehearsal. It’s a wonderful job, and it gives me satisfaction.”
Runtz, who has conducted the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and various other international orchestras, says that rehearsals for him follow a fairly regular pattern, but one that is different to how many other conductors have rehearsed in history. “I don’t want to be a conductor that only tells musicians what to do,” he says. “I would like to encourage people, and show them the way we will go together. A conductor is not a dictator. Conductors know very well that musicians in an orchestra are very good, and very educated. They all have different personalities, different musicalities, and we have to help them bring everything together.”
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After winning third prize at the 1st Hong Kong International Conducting Competition, Runtz went back to Poland, where he later performed at the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival in Warsaw.
Next season, he will make his debut conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague, as well as appearing at festivals like the Tanglewood Music Festival in Boston, in the US state of Massachusetts. Although his touring schedule is unlikely to become less busy, Runtz says he will still find the time to attend concerts and other musical performances – and advises others to do the same.
“When I was young, I listened to music all the time. Even if you are not interested in a career in music, I urge you to attend as many musical performances and concerts as you possibly can,” he says. “When you are young, you [have the time to] appreciate all of the magical and wonderful performances in a theatre or an opera house.”