So, I have managed to finally sit down and start to write part 2 of my perspective on the art of conducting. In part 1 I laid the foundations of why to start conducting so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about my own thoughts on standing in front of a band/orchestra.
The first time I stood in front of my current band I was wreck! It was my first formal audition, I had been given the music from Les Miserable and had had an hour to rehearse the band and perform the piece. Then have a question and answer session. I then had to wait a fortnight whilst the other candidate had his audition and then the band voted on who they wanted. Thankfully I was chosen and I remember the very first rehearsal in January 2013 standing in front of 40 musicians thinking “OMG, this is actually it! You’re in charge!”
There were all these faces looking at me, anticipating my first words, their eyes boring into me. So I started with the scale over two Octaves of Bb major. Just to see where we were. Interestingly some people were unaware of which key they should be in and this set out my vision.
Being a conductor is like being a Manager. You have a workforce in front of you, all of whom, react and respond in different ways. They look up to you to lead them, inspire and if carried out correctly then they will follow. I conduct a community band with varying levels of standard, the way each individual is encouraged and at times criticized, but in a way which is motivational, helps develop the band. From that first rehearsal my vision has been to inpsire each individual to perform to the best of their ability. I have strived for perfection and continue to, as the band has now grown in numbers and strong players have joined us.
I have been given so much advice from other conductors on how to act whilst standing at rehearsals and I have tried to emulate this advice, but to be honest I truly believe and understand that to be the best leader, is to be yourself. Do not try to replicate another conductor as that is not then natural. React how you believe is the approrpiate way to react. Encourage always, be firm when needed. On the odd occasion you do have to be a tad Grumpy too. In the four years I have conducted the band I have snapped three batons in frustration. I’m not proud of that but whilst in the moment it was what was happened. It certainly caught a few gasps but my word the band focused afterwards.
So, my thoughts on being a conductor and standing in front of a band is just to be yourself. Be relaxed. The band feed off everything you do. If you’re having a bad day and show that, they will play like that. If you are tired and lethargic they will perform like that. Always conduct with energy, passion and to coin a quote, “Play with the blood!”