Wow to another powerful week of conducting & learning at the Bard College Conservatory of Music Conductors Institute. I am grateful not only for the conducting experience but also for the conversations and thought-provoking discussions. As I mentioned in my last post, there is some tension between the world of professional conductors and the world of music teacher conductors. I'm glad to know more about how "the other side" thinks and get to play a small part in meshing the worlds. The first week I got to conduct:
Brahms 2, IV
Tchaikovsky 6, I
Elgar Enigma Variations, 8 & 9
And the second week I got to conduct:
Farberman Three Songs, 2
Tchaikovsky 6, III
Mahler 9, IV
Our teacher the second week, Apo Hsu, was wonderful. She gave very direct and helpful feedback but it was very specific to the conductor so there is less "sweeping advice" to share. In her lecture she shared great stories about her start to conducting and how her career has unfolded. To me it was very special to have a female teacher and have her as a role model.
A few random tidbits from both weeks:
Perhaps it's thanks to Prof. Oltman in undergrad but I get so very frustrated when conductors and musicians can't find the same measure to start on! All involved parties should have every measure numbered. And if there are rehearsal #s or letters in the musicians' parts, the conductor should check before the first rehearsal to make sure they have all those rehearsal markings in their score. The "where are we starting" discussion got very old through the 2 weeks.
All conductors need to eliminate "one more time" from their vocabulary. It's never "one more time." It will be many more times. Try "again please" or anything other than "one more time!"
And finally, we were each strongly encouraged by Maestro Farberman to decide "what is a conductor" for ourselves. This was an interesting question for me to think through. Kind of like my Philosophy of Music Education, I imagine this definition will continue changing and evolving. I believe a conductor is a teacher and leader. A conductor should lead the orchestra in making music together and when decisions need to be made for the group (tempo, balance, etc) the conductor makes those. The conductor is liaison between musicians and composer and the ultimate goal is successful, meaningful music.