The most enormous privilege and immense burden
The eminent conducting teacher, Elizabeth Green, suggested that to be a conductor was at once both the most enormous privilege and immense burden. I think that it took me a number of years before I realised exactly what she meant.
A good conductor is a servant – a servant of the composer and of the musicians. A good conductor doesn’t need to be seen, except by the musicians. The finest conductors want the music to be more prominent than they are and young conductors may not have that dynamic quite the right way around. I don’t think I did. I loved working with my orchestras and bands – the students were a joy to be with. I know my work with them was valuable but I think I am much better at what I do now because I have continued to learn that being a conductor I must have a servant heart – for them and for the composer’s work.
It may be that as I have come to find the Christian faith I have become more aware of that servant heart. The One that faith is founded on said a couple of substantial things that have helped me become a better conductor, and teacher, as I have grown older. He said, “He who is first shall be last and he who is last shall be first.” That’s a significant mind set to take on as a conductor.
He also said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Oh…
That’s what I want to get better and better at as a conductor and as teacher too. I want to ensure that what I say is useful for the player and for the composer as well, and how I say it sets the tone for rehearsal and learning.
As I said somewhere else on this site, it’s still a long road ahead…