training and artistry

For most people, music is fun, a hobby, entertainment.  They don’t lead others, so they don’t understand what it takes to lead others, and it would never occur to them that special training might be required.  And so they hire their accompanist or the section leader to be their conductor.  Sadly, the odds are slim that an excellent accompanist or singer is also an excellent conductor, yet those who hired him or her have not read my blog and therefore don’t know enough about conducting recognize lousy conducting when they see it.  Worse still–and this a problem that makes me want to put on a cape and intervene for the good of the world–the members of the ensemble don’t know enough about conducting to recognize lousy conducting when they see it.  Those poor singers, suffering under the flapping elbows of a flute player who thought she could conduct because, hey, how hard could it be?  You beat time and cut them off, right?  

Oh, the humanity!

I’ve spoken before about all the things a conductor is.  They need more than musical skills: leadership, pedagogy, the physical skills required to make clear and expressive gesture, etc.   And yet, the really important thing for any conductor is to be an artist.  Conductors who lack training might still be excellent if they are thoughtful artists.  But imagine how effective they could be if they cleaned up their gesture, learned something about teaching, watched some videos of themselves on the podium to see how others see them…

Excuse me while I fetch my cape.

Okay, here’s me saving the world a little bit–
To anyone who is hiring a conductor: look for someone with training, and look for artistic vision.  (It helps if you have established an artistic vision already.)  If you can find a conductor with lots of training and artistic vision that jives with yours, hire him quickly and pay him well!  Trust in the value of training.  Expect your leader to be an artist who will bring inspiration to every rehearsal.

To individuals who are conducting ensembles but have little or no training (I mean YOU, church organists!): get thee to a summer workshop!  You will be sooooo glad you did.  And so will your ensemble.

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5 Responses to training and artistry

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