But why do we call a conductor “maestro,” even when he no longer has anything to do with the chapel, much less master of it? My opera singer friend John tells me that it’s an American thing. Europeans don’t address a conductor as “Maestro”–though certainly in our consciousness, we imagine obsequious violinists shaking hands with a man in white tie and tails, lowering his head and saying “Maestro…”
Opera singers, by the way, have a harder job than conductors do. Opera singers are amazing people, and they will definitely get their own post some day.
In the meantime, why do we call a conductor “Maestro?”
I don’t know.
It used to be common for composers to be conductors. It was also common for composers to be teachers, so it would make sense to address a teacher as “Maestro,” just as you might address your yogi as “Guru.” And why would we, in 2010, do that?
I don’t know.
Perhaps because conducting is such a mysterious art form, practiced by so few, deeply studied by even fewer, that we maintain a specialized title for members of a specialized field. Further, perhaps we enjoy thinking of the conductor as someone apart from everyday life. The Maestro. Or, in my case, Maestra.
This is not the most informative post I’ve written, but I have looked for answers and no one seems to have examined the issue because the practice is taken so for granted. If anybody else has an explanation, I’d love to know.