I applied for a Masters in musical composition for which one of the requirements was to be able to conduct. Never having conducted before, I may have exaggerated my conducting abilities during the interview. Well, they let me in and one of our first assignments was to conduct a 30 piece orchestra. In the week leading up to it, I bought a book about conducting that had diagrams of the various hand movements and I practiced and practiced. I knew what music we were going to have to conduct and by the time the assignment arrived I was pretty confident.
I stand up in front of the orchestra, tap my baton for silence and start them off. After a couple of bars it’s obvious something is wrong; all the musicians are looking confused and the music quickly descends into chaos. After less than a minute everyone has stopped playing and 30 musicians are staring at me. I stop. One of the oboists pipes up. It turns out I have made a fatal mistake with the book’s diagrams. I assumed they were drawn from the perspective of the conductor, whereas in fact, they were drawn from the perspective of the orchestra. I have been conducting perfectly but in an exact mirror image of the correct movements. I failed the assignment.