1. Be well dressed in clothing appropriate for the group and the occasion. If the group is in full uniform or in tuxedos for a major performance, the conductor should also appear formal so the total appearance is consistent. In this case there should be no casual shoes and no sports coats with slacks.
2. Be well prepared. Be certain that the group knows what you plan to do. Borrowing a phrase from the Holiday Inn people, “The best surprise is no surprise!” Rehearse every facet of the program, even standing and sitting. Leave nothing to chance.
3. Frederick Fennell’s rule for conductor’s: “Before going on stage or to the podium, empty everything: pockets, change, keys, billfold, kidneys. . .”
Conducting is an exciting challenge, and like many musical goals, the more you learn about it, the more you realize that you don’t know about it; and the more you learn about it, the more fun it is. It may be that the only really satisfied conductors are the happily naive ones, or the bad ones (the ones who do not practice and refine their skills).
Becoming a better conductor is one of the exciting opportunities that we all have to continue to grow and to improve. There are things that you can do to continue to improve and to grow as conductors:
1. Find and locate good role models, and study them to see how they move and how they do things.
2. Work and practice in front of a mirror.
3. Videotape yourself in rehearsal, and videotape your concerts and study them to determine how you can improve.
4. Study videotapes of good conductors.
It really is fun to be better!
Certs and Tests
Have you thought about the difference between a CERT and a TEST, or between a conCERT and a conTEST?
A CONCERT is first and foremost a musical presentation, and the conductor is an extremely important part of the presentation.
A CONTEST is also a musical presentation, but it is in a very structured environment and an unnatural musical setting–but, the conductor is still an important part of the performance. Note the term: “part of“—not something in addition to the performance.
1. Conductors do not set up chairs in front of the audience (although some “directors” might). With just a little pre-planning this can be taken care of in advance by using dependable students from this (or preferably another) group. Be sure to have the conductor’s stand level (or height) set in advance.
2. When you enter the stage for a concert or at most festivals (at least the ones which announce your performances) the preferred plan is to go directly to the podium, turn and face the audience, and acknowledge the applause (if any). It is nice to have the group stand as you enter so they can also acknowledge the applause. Then, have them be seated, and get ready to play.
3. Dress properly for the occasion. If the ensemble is dressed formally, the conductor should also dress formally.
If we want serious consumers of music (or consumers of “serious music”) to take our work and our music more seriously, we must do a better job of presenting our product. In the business world this would be called packaging our product. I believe that we generally do a good job of teaching our students music, and we do a good job of teaching them to perform. We have a good product! However, we all need to continue to work to develop a better awareness, and to do a better job in the area of “packaging our product” for public consumption.
Have fun, and good luck as you continue that mysterious and exciting quest to become a real “CONDUCTOR” as well as a great teacher and a good band director!
1. Am I conducting beat patterns, or am I conducting music phrases, dynamics, and style?
1a. Am I conducting measures, or musical lines and phrases (which may be groups of measures)?
2. Does my left hand function independently, or does it mirror my right hand?
3. Do I really know the score? Have I studied it so I am really prepared?
4. Have I practiced conducting it (the score); actually rehearsing my “moves”, developing a more effective style and more meaningful communication?
5. Do I always automatically inhale with my preparatory beat? (It will certainly improve the chances of your group beginning together.)
6. a. Start Big!
b. Start Soft.
7. How many ways can I conduct a release?
8. Am I a generic conductor? After all, 4/4 is 4/4 isn’t it? (Remember: All beats are not created equal.)
9. Am I (or is my band) a foot tapper? Some performances sound like foot-tap concertos with band accompaniment. This is just a habit, and it is easy to correct, but you (and they) have to be aware of it or you cannot correct it. (Many successful teachers teach their students to tap inside the shoe, keeping the shoe on the floor. Try it, it works.)
10. Am I a singer? Now everyone agrees that singing is a great exercise for conductors and for bands. . .but NOT while you are conducting publicly.