It’s a cold, bright December morning here in London and we’re in the music hall at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama preparing for the 2014 Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition. There’s an orchestra warming up and groups of people standing around, also warming up (I did say it was cold).

The orchestra is the Guildhall’s own band, some 30 or student musicians who will be with us for the next two days for the opening rounds of the competition. The warming up stops to allow Lennox Mackenzie, chair of the LSO and head of the competition jury, to welcome the 20 competitors and introduce them to the orchestra. In fact, those 20 have already dropped to 19, one having called in sick so unfortunately unable to take part. By about 6pm, they will be down to 10.

Formalities out the way, Mackenzie lets them leave to prepare. He turns to the orchestra, welcomes them too and gives one piece of advice about working with the young conductors: ‘Just play what you see.’

DFCC candidate with Guildhall Symphony Orchestra on day 1