The conductor stands on a podium with a wand in his arms while ranks of musicians armed with various instruments wait for him, or her, to raise the wand and then suddenly lower it in a flourish; which magically makes all those instruments suddenly come to life, and miraculously music of Mozart or Beethoven files the room.
But from the audience’s perception it seems that the musicians are doing what they already know and can do. It’s like a conductor is the keys for a car: once it starts the “engine”, you don’t use or really need the keys anymore.
Ever since large orchestral music started, doubts about the guy on the podium have been common: does the conductor have any real influence or effect on the players? Typically the “players” already know the music, and typically think they know “the game” better than the “coach”. After all, it’s “always the players who play the game”, but it’s the “couch” gets the credit – and the big salary.
But on the other hand, a conductor can be seen as a guide on a hunting trip; even if the group is experienced and knows the terrain, the “guide” knows every pothole and hidden traps on the way. So In the same way, an Orchestra also needs a “guide” who knows the musical “terrain” even better than the players.