Conducting workshop - why so little interest?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Oct 30, 2018.

  1. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    Last weekend, our main band hosted a conducting workshop, led by Russell Gray. Those taking part came from across a wide swathe of country, yet despite the fact that Russell clearly knows his stuff about conducting, and about teaching others to conduct better, and the fact that there are a whole bunch of bands within a 25 mile radius of our band room, not one of the participants came from a local band.

    I'm delighted that every slot on the workshop was taken, and that all the participants agreed that they had learnt a great deal from it - but I'm baffled as to why so many local conductors weren't interested enough to take up the opportunity. ???

    PS - and all the participants agreed that the band had done a superb job of working for them, and with them!
     
  2. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Well-Known Member

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    Similar workshops for players happen in my area quite regularly. Some of my playing colleagues go, I don't because it doesn't usually make a high enough priority for my calendar.
    No need to be baffled, brass-banding isn't always the top priority.
     
  3. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    While most bands have a training band, I've been saying for a while now that conducting is getting neglected.

    When I was in a youth band, we all had to do some conducting. Aside from the fact that conductors are being trained for future generations, it also helped us understand what the conductor was doing. I'm sure some kids think the conductor is just there to do a funny dance.
     
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  4. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    Exactly, Queeg; I was just sitting at the back and watching, but I learnt a lot myself.
     
  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    People willl always have their own reasons for doing or not doing something and they may be well hidden, don’t bother to puzzle ‘cause the reasons are unlikely to follow your - or my - logic and experience. Though not a good example I want to go to a player development day run by a different band to my own. Whilst it will likely be a good day my other commitments just don’t allow me to give up a whole Saturday - that’s life for many other people too.

    If I was a conductor seeking development then I might well be happy to go out of area to get it and not happy to go within area. Who wants to expose their weaknesses to people that they might know? Who (under) values the expertise on their own doorstep but instead travels miles to hear similar wise words from a distant expert?

    On conducting I firmly believe that nearly everyone within the Band - certainly those in the Principal Chairs - should, as part of their ongoing development, do some conducting (get them conducting the Training Band first and then the Senior Band once they have enough of the basic skills). I’ve never seen that change of Conductor happen, as a development exercise, in any rehearsal that I’ve attended. Fortunately my own band has a few people who can also conduct and (when our MD can’t attend) they do it particularly well. I just wish that those members conducted more often ‘cause it would both strengthen that skill/resource and allow the MD to listen to the band in a different way.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
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  6. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Well-Known Member

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    I disagree with this to some extent.

    Whilst I understand the benefits for some people, with many this will be unnecessarily uncomfortable; not within their skill set (conducting is much about leadership and communication) and not good use of precious band room time. Within most bands there are likely to be a handful of suitable candidates, but to say 'nearly everyone' would be stretching it based on my experience.

    In business we don't let nearly everyone have a go at leadership and the same principle for similar reasons applies to banding.

    One related thing missing from player's development could be how to understand what's happening and how to play when conducted. I think most of us pick it up pretty well as we go along, but training would probably help us be more aware and effective.
     
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  7. GER

    GER Active Member

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    So do I. I love playing in brass bands, but have absolutely no interest in conducting the band. The band I play with really struggle to have a deputy conductor, so can only presume most members share my lack of interest.
    I have massive respect for conductors, I just don't want to be one.
     
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  8. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I have to respect the points of disagreement, as in all things there are pros and cons about the benefits and not of doing something.

    Reluctance to get up in front of people and conduct is certainly something I can envisage. Some folk are modest, others lack the skills and some know that it’s too far outside their skill set. On the other hand, IMHO, Bands should offer development opportunities to their players in any and every way possible. Conductors are, I believe, in too short supply so having a positive attitude about developing that talent within your own band will almost certainly be for the good.

    Conducting isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ - so don’t force it on people - and yes it will have costs but so does anything else worth while doing and the costs can be managed. Not everyone will have what it takes so let them have a go with the training band and then let them off of further conducting. Those that don’t go on to conduct (so nearly all the band) will have gained a better idea of what’s involved with the task, how they and sections fit together and how they can work better with their MD and section mates. They might also be ready to conduct small groups elsewhere, which is socially valuable if not immediately of value to their Band. Those that do go on to Conduct more regularly will be an asset to the band.

    I think that it’s also worth noting that Conducting does require a broad skill range including good interpersonal skills. To my mind those interpersonal skills and strength of character sit slightly ahead of musical ones, musical skills guide an MD in the way to point a band but the other skills ensure that they follow and deliver. I can think of a couple of musically able Conductors who’s weak (and sometimes appalling) people skills had players underperforming and others heading for the Bandroom door.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
  9. *me*

    *me* New Member

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    To be honest if I were forced to conduct as I sit on a solo seat I would have to give up my seat. There is no way I wish to conduct the band. We have a fabulous conductor who gets the best out of us but I just do not have those skills nor do I wish to acquire them.

    If you were to force this on people I know some of our solo players would leave. They are good players but are actually quite shy as people and are happy to hide behind their instrument and produce great music but would die at the thought that they had to stand in front of the band and lead it. It takes a different sort of confidence that not everyone has.
     
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  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    There lies the problem or atleast part of it. If Bands don’t promote Conducting within them then at some point or other they’ll either not have one when needed or end up with someone who isn’t that good.

    Some Conductors are certainly well worth respecting, sad to say I’ve come across another variety too.

    There have been lots of things I didn’t want to be in life but when a job needs doing then there’s a time or necessity to step forward and get on with it.

    I wouldn’t want to force Conducting experience on anyone, encourage but never force. To me it seems strange that any Contesting Player would shy away from having a go with a Baton, I’d have thought the stress level of Contesting was many times higher than that of beating time to a Training Band.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
  11. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    My thoughts, exactly, 2nd Tenor - and what happens if your own conductor is off sick just before a contest or a concert that you really can't cancel? Yes, you might be able to borrow a conductor from another band - but that sub may not know a lot of your music, and might not even be familiar with the genre of some of your pieces at all; how many brass band conductors have done Meatloaf's 'Bat Out of Hell'? (a very complex number!)
    The bit that puzzles me the most is that, if a player goes to a workshop or to a private tutor to improve their playing, nobody would be the least surprised - even if they didn't want to do that themselves; so why, I wonder, do so many conductors seemingly think it's not worth them doing likewise?

    I recall in the film, 'The Glenn Miller Story', that even when Miller was very successful, and was regularly playing to packed houses, he signed up for a course of lessons on music arrangement.
     
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I recall in the film, 'The Glenn Miller Story', that even when Miller was very successful, and was regularly playing to packed houses, he signed up for a course of lessons on music arrangement.

    To my mind such attitudes separate winners from the rest, winners tend to be those people who go the extra mile.

    I wouldn’t want to be judgemental in any ways ‘cause I’m neither qualified or have that full facts within my knowledge, but I’ve noticed that those Bands that work have within them members who both work as a team and are willing to take on any task that needs doing. I only want to play (say) Cornet and don’t want to help with the other stuff or move to another instrument isn’t a recipe for success. In a way that brings us back to conducting skills, having folk within the band who can be bothered to acquire them is (IMHO) important.

    We are happy enough to understand that not everyone in the band is actually capable of or wants to hold the principal seats in a band, but nearly all the competent players I know will step up to the mark and have a go at the next seat up if needed. So, to me, it makes sense that the Principal players should be ready to step up to the MD’s slot. Indeed, at one point, I thought that the natural progression was Principal Cornet to MD.

    Who can actually progress to being a Conductor? Well it seems to me that now anyone can and they can make a good job of it too. By chance I watched a documentary about recent banding in the Yorkshire area, one of the Bands had an MD who used to be a Percussionist and he dragged the band up two sections. He came from a top class Championship Band, his (Percussion) skills were transferable to Conducting and his experience at the top tier of Banding helped too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2018
  13. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    My personal ambition may be different to some. Maybe even unique, but I really wouldn't want a principal seat. Having had some experience of conducting when I was much younger, it's something I would enjoy doing again on a regular basis.

    I would say there is far more pressure on a soloist than there is on a conductor, especially if the band is up to scratch on a piece. A good band could cover for a conductor having an off day. I've seen a conductor accidentally turn two pages over of a score and get lost, then end up following the band rather than the band follow him until he found his place. No one was any the wiser until afterwards.

    If a soloist comes in and splits a note, it's there on display for all and no one can cover it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  14. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Well-Known Member

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    Most of this resonates with me. The only additional thing I'd add is that conductors do feel the pressure and responsibility on behalf of the players, especially in times when it'a not quite going to plan.
     
  15. GER

    GER Active Member

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    Not for me, and I suspect many others. To me contesting is the accumalation of many hours of practice, both inside and outside the band room, after each contest, you should be a better player for the experience, whether you have played well or not, but the overriding factor is that I am responsible for myself, I have minimal effect on other players in the band. I do what the conductor tells me to do-it is his decision on time, tempo and musicality, If I go to bits, it may cost the band a few points, if the conductor gets it all wrong, the whole band goes wrong I understand there are a lot of nerves around when contesting, but that is a different feeling to stress, nowadays IMHO we use the word stress as a casual reference, when it is a pretty debilitating condition
    The conductor, on the other hand, even in a training band, is responsible for getting the best out of all the players, which may well involve re-writing various parts of music, he also has to look at the ensemble he has in front of him, and source music best suited to that ensemble, he has to meet the expectations of players ranging from 8 to 80, with differing levels of ability. All that is before dealing with 'pushy' parents, or parents who look at band as being somewhere to dump the kids for a couple of hours. Decide when Johnny/Joanne is ready to progress to the main band, know which players respond better to soft words, which are better with a firmer approach, arrange help from the senior players-and he has to do this every week-sometimes twice a week!!. If it was just beating time to a training band, then more people may be interested, although I would argue that levels of teaching would drop, but it is far more than that.
    We contest 4-6 times a year, to me a lot easier life than conducting :)
     
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  16. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    This has now come full circle. If little Johnny and her brother Joanne (no gender assumption here) had been taught how to conduct when they learnt to play, they would think nothing of doing it if the regular conductor were taken ill. They would also be better players because they would know what the conductor meant when he was making relevant gestures rather than trying to work it out based on what the rest of the band were doing.
     
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  17. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    Maybe they do feel the pressure, but unless they have made a catastrophic choice of program, when things go wrong, it's more often than not because a small number of players are not putting in the effort.

    There are many reasons why this could happen, and ultimately may be the result of the MD failing to get the best from the band, but there can be many other things in a player's private life effecting their ability to do the required level of work to keep up with the band. The vast majority of us do have families to support, some are lucky enough to have the whole family involved, but others don't have the same level of support at home as perhaps we would like.

    My son used to play but recently stopped, but my wife and other son have no interest in brass bands at all. The only option I have for practice at home is using a mute, though I find using the silent brass and playing a YouTube video through the headphones works well for me.
     
  18. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Well-Known Member

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    In your previous post you assert that players should also be trained in conducting. In this post, you seem to be defending reasons why people may not be playing to their best or even want to play at all. How can you support people not meeting their playing obligations, but insist that we should all take up the baton?
     
  19. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I don’t quite follow what you’re saying here, maybe there is some confusion all round. Of course Queeg2000 can answer for himself but reading the thread through I can’t find the place where he insists that others should take the Baton up - though he had that expectation on him as a youth. Supporting people who aren’t meeting their playing obligations is, to my way of thinking, a pragmatic choice. Not everyone can do as much as the rest of us would like or take advantage of opportunities presented to them, but supporting your Band mates helps keep them in the Band and at some point what they can offer and engage in may improve.

    In other posts it seems to me that the terms Conductor and MD are used to mean the same, I might be guilty of that incorrect use too. As I understand it someone standing in front of a Band and beating time is someone who is conducting - a bit of a simplistic description but it will do. In contrast an MD is someone who besides conducting decides and implements the musical direction of the Band.

    I think Queeg2000’s post on kids learning conducting young and accepting it without stress as just part of Banding is spot-on. There should be nothing to fear about Conducting and the players in any Band that’s worth belonging to should get behind novice and stand-in Conductors and try hard to support them. Come to think of it at a recent rehearsal my own Band’s Conductor (MD) had to disappear for a few minutes, without a moments though up jumped a long established player and took charge of the Baton. He did a good job of it too, and his action is yet another thing that makes me feel glad to belong to that particular Band - it’s a great Team of people who support each other.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  20. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    I was referring to your post about the MD being under pressure. If the band gets a bad result, it's rarely the fault of the MD unless they made a catastrophic choice of music that was beyond the bands ability, or far too easy.

    There are many reasons a bad can get a bad result, some the fault of the players, some due to circumstances beyond anyone's control.

    I think you are taking my post that when I was learning we all got a go at conducting out of context. I'm not suggesting anyone should or could be forced into conducting anymore than they should be forced to play the didgeridoo. I do however think conducting is an area being neglected and that the youth band members should all get the opportunity and encouragement required to try their hand at it though.
     
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