Charles Hazlewood – Orchestrating Success

Inspirational Keynote Speaker -


Internationally renowned conductor, motivational speaker, and after dinner host; Charles Hazlewood has won hearts and minds around world with his ground-breaking musical projects.  

Moving audiences to laughter and occasionally tears, his presentations – currently being delivered online via video conferencing – have inspired leading organisations including Google, the US Federal Reserve, Mulberry and TED. 

Charles Hazlewood is a top arts and culture speaker who won the European Broadcasting Union Conducting Competition in his 20’s.   

After that, he has enjoyed a global and pioneering career conducting some of the world’s greatest orchestras including the Gothenburg Symphony in Sweden, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and the Philharmonia in London. 

Charles has conducted many of the best orchestras in the world and is a significant presence on British television and radio.  

He is the founder of the world’s first Paraorchestra and his music theatre shows have won awards and tour the world.  

Charles is a visionary with a mission to bring the ever-modern joy of orchestral music to the 21st century and in doing so, change lives and communities for the better. 



In his early career, Charles was the bad boy of the British orchestral scene. The thing was, he loved orchestral music so much he wanted to share its ‘sheer, exuberant joy’ with everyone; not just the initiated.   

So he decided to re-invent the form – talking to the audience for example about the music the orchestra was about to play, taking orchestras to unusual places, mixing up the form in ways few had done before.  

At his first concert at London’s celebrated Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Times reviewer wrote ‘I left at half-time, I could take no more.’   

Years later, at the very same venue, Charles was heralded by the chairman of the Arts Council, Sir Nicholas Serota who paid tribute to Charles’ contribution to the British cultural scene. 

How do you re-invent an orchestra for the 21st century?  

Following the birth of his musically-gifted and disabled daughter, Charles asked himself, where are the musicians with disability in the world’s orchestras?  

In a world that sees disability as a disadvantage, Charles saw uninhibited talented musicians, playing a range of unique adapted instruments, with no standard score or format.  

A new creative opportunity. Charles tells the story of starting the world’s first ever ensemble of professional disabled musicians in just a few months and launching it at the closing ceremony of the London Paralympics.  

Now this established orchestra, just reaching the heights of recognition and success, have been stopped dead in their tracks.  

What does an orchestra do in a future without live performance?  

Charles talks to how the Paraorchestra are deepening their connection to each other and their purpose to discover new projects that feel authentic and not ‘bolt on’ answers to the problem.. 


Trust makes the impossible, possible. How do 70 musicians perfectly synchronise their actions and create a perfect body of sound?  

Because they trust each other, and they trust the conductor. Without it, everything falls apart.  

The first of Charles’s three TED talk, ‘Trusting the ensemble’ as been seen by over half a million people around the world; in it he talks about learning to trust himself and how this creates a circle of trust in the ensemble. 

In a world ‘where the bottom has fallen out of the truth market’, a person who is true to themselves stands out and has a value that cannot be counted.  

The ability to consistently voice and embody one’s values whether one is an individual or an organisation has become more valuable than ever before.  

Charles describes his journey of discovering and claiming his own authentic voice and how it has forged new directions in impossible circumstances. He demonstrates how to know the difference between a performance that rings true, and one that doesn’t. 


Sir Alex Ferguson, described the orchestra as the perfect team, and insisted the entire Manchester United squad to see an orchestra play so they would understand what real teamwork looks like.  

‘Music making is the ultimate democratic act’ says Charles, ‘no-one is all important all of the time, the focus is constantly shifting between players and sections, everyone has their say and everyone must feel equally valued.’  

In the orchestra that is really flying, each player is free to bring their unique qualities knowing they are safely supported by the whole. 

‘Leadership is like holding a small bird in your hand, hold it too tightly and you will crush it, hold it too loosely, and it will fly away.’ 

‘This is what the late, great British conductor Colin Davies told me when I was young conductor’ says Charles in his opening remarks in this talk.  

Drawing on his experience as a conductor himself, often trying to establish projects with marginalised groups in difficult circumstances, Charles tells the story of his own journey in becoming a leader; including the crushing moments of failure, and how he came back to take his place on the podium.