Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Learning from Conductors

I think my time at HPAC has taught me some general dos and don'ts for conductors who want to build a rapport with an orchestra.  It seems most conductors exercise various aspects of both categories.  It's seems like something worth reflecting upon, something worth an attempt at making explicit.  

-Rehearse.  Be clear about the concept of the piece by showing what you desire in each part of it. 
-Specify ideas of articulation, of phrasing, of dynamics, of balance.  What is important at any given moment?
-Come up with these ideas before rehearsal.
-Exercise humility. 
-Assume that the musicians you are leading are more qualified than you are.  
-Phrase commands as requests, perhaps even in the form of a question.
-Score study.  Have a vision of what the composer wanted and put that first and foremost.
-Be curious.  Never stop asking questions about the score and never assume that you know it.

-Just run things.  Don't go back further than necessary to make a correction or keep going longer than necessary.  Respect the orchestra's time and energy.
-Be the commander.  You only lead by the grace of those that follow.
-Pretend not to make any mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes;  at the very least, everyone has more they can learn.
-Crack open the score for the first time on the podium.  A score should likely be well-marked and dog-eared, or memorized.  
-Assume you know more than the members of the orchestra.  They are the ones making the sound in the end.  

I think it is probably impossible to be a perfect conductor.  But there are those whose only imperfection is that they haven't learned everything they can learn and this is a different sort of imperfection.  When one realizes that one still has more to grow, one becomes humble and this humility in itself becomes an asset.  These are the best conductors, the ones that place the music higher than themselves and ask the assistance of their fellow musicians to help in the endeavor.  There are still many more conductors in my future; I'm looking forward to learning from all of them.  

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