Ponchielli suffered in his early career because he was ill-equipped to negotiate the politically driven, back-biting world of the established music societies of his day and the wealthy bourgeoisie which controlled them. For a time he was forced to take whatever work he could find, taking jobs such as band leader in Piacenza and in Cremona. He was known among his peers to be a man of absolute honesty and moral rectitude. He believed that success in any musical career should be based solely on true ability and professionalism and a true love of the art.
Ponchielli was known to feel strongly against any pressure from the impresario who employed him to make his compositions too complicated. He was a proponent of simple, straightforward melody and clarity that was not bogged down in confusion. He was a contemporary of Giuseppi Verdi, who mourned the occasion of Ponchielli’s death, saying the world has lost "a worthy man and a most distinguished artist."
Amilcare Ponchielli was the teacher of Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni and Corrado Pavesi-Negri.