Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
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The journey to the podium for a successful music educator that conducts performing ensembles requires a strong methodology steeped in score study, rehearsal planning, repertoire selection, musicianship skills, performance skills, and administrative duties. At the beginning of a career, educators often find themselves lacking the high level skills necessary to become a successful educator on the podium. This is often due to the many non-conducting requirements needed to complete the degree. Once a position is secured and professional life begins, these skills are often not fully developed. This then results in the music educator lacking the qualities needed to prepare an ensemble for performances, and not fully realizing the potential of the ensemble. This document will provide important background information on those topics along with a brief history of conducting, reference material and survey interviews with professional conductors.
A conductor must fulfill two basic requirements on a more practical level: know the music in great detail and have the technique needed to communicate this knowledge. Conductor training usually focuses on preparation, especially how to interpret a work. Students can learn rehearsal techniques in an educational setting; however, such students tend to be those entering the discipline of music education and not specifically conducting. Conducting training often lacks a focus on performance, almost as if performance were an afterthought or the result of the aforementioned processes. The reality is that conductors spend most of their time alone with scores and much less time in rehearsals or performances. Conductors must prepare for a performance by the first rehearsal, and they must use the rehearsal time to prepare the ensembles, not themselves. In most cases, conductors are without the benefit of having ensembles available to contribute to their preparation. What should they know? Composer, educator, author, and conductor Gunther Schuller made a simple but accurate statement: “[Conductors] must know everything it is possible to know.”
Developing the skills necessary for educators to lead ensembles successfully requires understanding the art of conducting. One must strive to become a great musician and that includes a high level of proficiency on an instrument. Playing one that is utilized in the orchestral setting is ideal. But regardless of the instrument, having a high skill level is needed to fully grasp the details that are involved with leading from the podium. This can be accomplished by continuing studies on a primary instrument and making the time to learn secondary instrument pedagogy that includes hands on experience.
In addition to performance skills, having a solid work ethic is necessary. Educators are often limited in time due to the numerous administrative duties that are required. Having a grasp on the non-teaching activities that are present and those that will be occurring in the future should go into the long term planning for each quarter, semester, and school year. This planning must include critical time needed for score study. Studying a score is a private process unique to each person. Thus, following one specific method could present some limitations. Conductors have different opinions about the goals of score study as well as some common ground and priorities. Philosophies on conducting tend to fall into one of two groups. One of these groups focuses on technique (i.e., the “stick” technique), such as conducting gestures and providing visual information to produce a better understanding of the work performed. The other group centers around forming artistic concepts and interpreting works to establish a conductor’s vision of what music can and should be, based on the composer’s information. Both of these approaches are connected.
This study presents ideas and concepts from leading pedagogues and professional conductors, it is not meant as a replacement for personal research. Instead, the purpose is to be one of the many valuable resources available to music educators who will be conducting ensembles. This is intended as a guide for conductors to utilize on their journey to leading those ensembles and creating positive and memorable musical experiences.
Music; Performing arts; Conductors (Music); Music in education; Music teachers
Music | Theatre and Performance Studies
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Neuman, Geoffrey B., "Preparation to Performance: A Conductor’s Journey to the Podium" (2021). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 4308.
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