I’ve said repeatedly that the job of a conductor is neither to keep time nor to play traffic cop, but rather to embody the expressive intention of a composer. This requires us to listen (to the performers, to the acoustic of a performance space, to the energy of the audience) and feel feelings (our own, the composers, the choir’s, the audience’s).
I got my master’s degree in choral conducting, and my sister got a master’s degree in counseling. One day we had the insight that both of us had gone to grad school to learn how to listen and feel feelings.
Lots of people have intuitive ability at these skills, and I have to admit I began with a deficiency, which is why I had to do a bunch of remedial work that ended up teaching me not just how to execute these skills, but why they work. And why human beings need them.
I discovered I’d been lied to my whole life: told that stoicism in the face of adversity was the only kind of strength that mattered. Told that emotions were just drama, and only women indulged in that kind of twaddle. Told that feminism had happened, so I was on equal footing with men. Told that I if I weighed more than 158 pounds, I was unhealthy. Told that if I wanted sex, I was gross; and that if I didn’t want it, I was repressed. These lies are still everywhere everyday.
But I’m an artist. That means it’s my job to find some kind of universal human truth, and express it in the most authentic way I can. That means it’s my job to see past the lies to something real. And I found that the “something real” was truth that came from inside me.
Which is why my work overlaps with my sister’s. And why it will benefit musicians to watch her TEDx talk about sexual health. Because knowing what’s true and loving what’s true is just the beginning of our job.
After we manage to figure that out, we also have the responsibility of expressing what’s true.