Clarinetist on Conducting

Clarinetist on conducting is a result of a conducting clinic that Dr. Mallory Thompson presided over and I performed as a clarinetist. Many of these thoughts are timeless in regards to the conductor's role with the band/orchestra/choir.

See 252 beats per minute Flight of the Bumblebee here.

Mallory's musicianship and wisdom were all very well taken. When she rehearsed the band, these were the immediate notes I wrote down:

1. No unnecessary talking from her on the podium

2. Everything she said had real meaning (a reiteration of No. 1)

3. She was very efficient

4. Her knowledge of the score and musicianship was exceptional

If you are a conductor, continue reading because I've seen it all (probably not all, but plenty). I'm amazed at how many of these thoughts are broken, ignored or WORSE.

Clarinetist on Conductor –
Working with a soloist

The following thoughts are the result of a clinic Dr. Thompson gave on the subject of working with a featured soloist:

1. Protect the soloist from the accompaniment

2. Don't ever be an @ss

3. Make the soloist as comfortable as possible

4. Make it easier for them to sound good

5. Never follow a soloist, anticipate the soloist

6. Conduct where we are going

7. Conductor (not about me), it is about the soloist

8. For the conductor, do not move during the cadenza

9. Point of honor for me (the conductor) to get it right for the soloist and group

Clarinetist on Conducting notes Dr. Thompson's other gems

These are from the overall conducting clinic experience:

1. No one can play great music in the absence of steady time

2. Preside/Manage/Influence

3. Assume you do not have to subdivide

4. Throw darts (interpretation stop the band, make short corrective/constructive comments to the different groups or individuals and move on with the rehearsal. More interpretation full dissertations on the podium or explaining as if the musicians are dumb turn the musicians off, quickly)

5. Music, not what it looks like, but what is sounds like

6. Rhythmic problems, listen to solve it; not watch to solve it

What Do Musicians Want from the Conductor? PULL OUR HEARTS OUT

Also, during the time with Dr. Thompson, somewhere the conversations came up, "what do musicians want from a conductor?" Following are thoughts from Chris of Clarinet-Now.com and inspired by conversations during the clinic.

Here is what this musician (this clarinetist) wants out of the conductor:

1. Knowledge, experience and quality musical interpretation

2. Efficiency

3. Drag the music out of us. Pull our hearts out. If you are old enough to remember the second Indiana Jones movie, you will remember a scene where someone literally gets the heart pulled out of their chest. You see the arteries pulled as if strings. The heart is beating in the hand of the 'heart-grabber.' I've had a few conductors literally pull my emotions out by his/her musical interpretation, and I can imagine them holding my heart in their hands. This, my friends, is what I'm looking for, and it comes very rarely.

So, Dr. Thompson does have this effect (plus more as I've only seen her over a three-day period), and if you have a chance to play in her band or study conducting from her, go for it. If you are a conducting colleague, study and learn from her.

Hear this magnificently programmed and performed CD under conductor Dr. Mallory Thompson of the Richard Strauss Wiener Philharmoniker Fanfare, AV 109; Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Winds; Michael Colgrass Winds of Nagual; Symphony No.1 “Jeremiah”: Profanation by Leonard Bernstein; and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565.

So, if you actually made it all the way to the bottom of this posting; congratulations, you have an interest in conducting or musical leadership. So, read more here on Clarinet Leadership or read some Clarinet Sectional Secrets tips here as well as adding your own secrets.

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Read more about the Giraffe Clarinet "Flight of the Bumblebee" video here.


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