Charles Hazlewood – Keynote Speaker

International conductor, founder of the world's first orchestra of disabled musicians and innovator of the classical music world

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Charles Hazlewood Profile Picture

Specialist Subjects

  • Performance
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Embracing Change
  • Trust
  • Power of Music


  • English


Charles Hazlewood is a British conductor of international renown. He has conducted some of the greatest classical repertoires with some of the best orchestras in the world. Beyond this, he is a visionary with a mission to break new ground in orchestral music, and to break new ground using music.

Hazlewood is not only well-known for what he has achieved but how he has achieved it. He has always eschewed the dictator model of conducting; evolving a creative leadership style that has been the foundation of his success.

Charles Hazlewood believes that music can overcome barriers of language, class and culture and has proved this over his career in many ground-breaking projects: an opera company recruited from black townships in South Africa that won the Golden Bear Award for best film of a classical opera; a pay-what-you-can orchestral music festival attended by thousands of people who had never heard an orchestra live before; and the world’s first orchestra of disabled musicians, who played alongside Coldplay at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics and continue to tour the world.

Brief description for Charles Hazlewood’s talks:

All or any of these talks can be presentation only, interactive with the audience alone and/or involving an ‘imported’ group of professional musicians or singers, depending on the client’s goals. Each ‘performance’ is created bespoke for the individual event.

How to make your team into an ideas factory:
Sometimes there is no score and new music is required. Conductor, Charles Hazlewood describes the process by which he creates new music with the talent in hand. Drawing on the qualities and experience of the individuals in a group – be these singers, actors, instrumentalists of any nationality, colour or physical impairment – fresh and vital work can be created with (always) limited time resources.

Charles illustrates this talk with the story of the British Paraorchestra which he founded– the first orchestra of disabled musicians ever created, with whom he always works this way in order to make best use of the individual talents and instruments available.

The process of creating a new piece will be playfully demonstrated with a group of locally hired singers, who, in a short time frame, will ‘create’ and perform a short improvised piece to show it can be done!

How to bring together a team of stars
(where no-one’s light is dimmed but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts):

‘ I remember going to see an orchestral performance. I had never been to a classical concert in my life. But I am watching this and thinking about the co-ordination and the teamwork — one starts and one stops, just fantastic. So I spoke to my players about the orchestra — how they are the perfect team.’
Sir Alex Ferguson – Ex -manager of Manchester United Football Team

Hazlewood describes the challenge and the necessary conditions for creating this perfect team. With humorous anecdotes from his own career conducting orchestras around the world, (including hostile jokes from notoriously reluctant brass sections), Hazlewood illustrates one of his key themes, trust. Trusting oneself, delivering a strong and clear framework whilst creating a trusting environment in which each player is enabled to shine, whilst ‘binding’ the collective to achieve the best possible performance.

This session often culminates in Hazlewood getting his audience singing in 4-part harmony.

‘Will they play for me?’ (The journey to confident leadership):
In this honest presentation Hazlewood shares his journey to becoming an effective leader, from musical nobody to conductor of world renown.
Hazlewood draws out the key qualities he needed to find in himself in order to command an orchestra: confidence, clarity, persistence and openness, and how he learnt them. He focuses on two key experiences: his sometimes turbulent, and even dangerous, journey creating a world-class opera company from the poorest South African townships and the struggle to establish and eventually launch the world’s first paraorchestra to millions around the world at the London 2012 Paralympics.

‘When I walk into rehearsal with an orchestra, I have an idea of the speed I want the piece of music to go, but as we rehearse a new consensus speed emerges. This new speed has more value because it’s been collectively ‘decided’. I’m no longer afraid of being seen as lacking vision or consistency. What I now know is that success is about adapting to the context and allowing the best to surface’.

Recent testimonials

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