I spent all of Saturday at a Conducting Symposium. As Ski asked me when I was done, “Can you conduct yourself better now?”. It was a wonderful event and I learned so much from it…and it left me quite frustrated as well. I didn’t apply early enough to do any actual conducting but just watching the way everyone else conducted and putting myself in their shoes, I really picked up some key points on how to be a better conductor.
Now, my big question is, how do I apply this to my every day world? How and where can I really practice my craft? The pieces they pick for these symposiums are very high level and there’s no way that our top group at Stony Point is mature enough to perform it. It is absolutely inappropriate to ask my mostly freshmen & sophomore group to attempt any of this. Okay, so pick pieces that are at the level of the kids and use the big ideas to create music from these notes on the pages. Can do. Problem is, I spend a lot of time teaching notes and rhythms. We have glimering moments during the process of learning pieces for contests that there is actual “music” being made. By the end of the process, it does happen more often but there’s still something missing.
Dr. Gary Hill from Arizona State University was the guest clinician at this symposium. I really agree with his philosophies about conducting and creating music with a band ensemble. The more I talk with professional conductors, I am fine tuning and understanding what I feel is my philosophy of how I can be a better conductor.
Dr. Hill talked a lot about balance. He talked about how you must balance the intellectual parts of music with the emotional parts of music to really make a piece come together. “Put the brains with the heart.” There was also a lot of discussion about non-verbal communication. How to tell your ensemble to be “more soft right here” without stopping rehearsal to tell them verbally, etc. There was a lot of talk about different styles of leadership and how each style has it’s ups and downs. I guess the best leaders are the ones who are able to know which style is appropriate at each moment and put them into practice.
I learned so much that really, my brain was almost over stimulated. Luckily, I took a lot of notes about what was said and how things were suggested. Next symposium is at the beginning of March at Texas A&M Commerce. Dr. John Whitwell from Michigan State University will be the clinician there. I’m definitely balanced between nervous and excited!