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10/8/96: I am a Ph.D. student in music ed. Do you know of any research concerning the training of conductors? Specifically, I am interested in finding studies on the benefits of score study vs. teaching gestures. In most of my study of conducting, there is so much time spent on teaching gestures, that there is no time to teach different models of score study. I also believe learning to study a score well will benefit a young conductor far more than focusing mainly on gestural concerns. Your comments?

I know of no controlled studies of the kind you describe. You might ask the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Conductor’s Guild, and music-education resources (many on the Internet). When I went to school, score reading was an integral part of all music education, no matter what the major. Conducting as a major is a relatively recent phenomenon, however, and I have been hearing that the emphasis on gestures may be excessive—coming at the expense other skills-development such as ear training and score reading. If this is true, it would account for some young conductors’ inability to fix problems. They beat time; they look good; but they can’t work with an orchestra to clean up passages where there are problems (of intonation or ensemble, for example). Nor do they present a personal vision of a work to the orchestra and, ultimately, the audience.

Both gestures and knowledge of scores are important. Gestures are immediate: you can’t work without them; but neither do you spend a lifetime studying them. Studying scores is a lifetime pursuit. It’s impossible to give a formula for what the balance should be in a course. It would depend on the time allotted and the number of students and their talents. If I were teaching a course, though, I would not teach particular mannerisms as some teachers do. It will certainly require more time if a teacher insists that all students look the same in every detail.


©1996 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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