Conducting workshop - why so little interest?

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

  1. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Well-Known Member

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    I think that if Queeg2000 means 'beating time' when saying 'conducting' then I probably have been misguided in some of my comments. I would suggest that encouraging someone to 'beat time' as preparation to stand in and deputise for the MD / conductor is highly flawed.
     
  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    If you feel that there is much more than beating time to Conducting then I’d have to agree, but I did say it was a simplistic description. However being able to beat time for others is a start point on which to build and even doing that simple act has value to the players in front of the less skilled Conductor. He or she is giving an indication to all the band of a common beat to which they should be adhering. After that it’s all down to experience and training, and hence the virtue in Conducting Workshops.
     
  3. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    I am talking of giving beginners an introduction to conducting. This would start with beating time. We all have to start somewhere, you wouldn't give a beginner their first instrument and a test piece any more than I am suggesting giving a seven year old a baton and sending them to the Albert Hall.

    A basic grounding in beating time and building up to the more advanced aspects as and when they are ready would also help them as players. I wonder how many of us were actually taught how a conductor would indicate to play in staccato for instance and how many would play staccato because everyone else did before realizing why the band were doing that.

    I look at the number of youth bands around, but none have a conductor under 30, and none of the three junior or youth bands my son has played for have offered any kind of instruction on conducting.
     
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  4. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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  5. David Broad

    David Broad Member

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    Ouch! I wouldn't want to have to follow that conducting and my wrists certainly wouldn't stand up to that amount of abuse. To a large extent any B fool can beat time, but that's not the point it is the conveyance of that timing to the Band that matters. Where the advanced conducting diverges from the basic in that advanced conducting is about getting the last nuances from an ensemble who could probably play the piece extremely well without a conductor, and basic conducting is getting a rabble to at least all start together. To be fair some conductors are about as much use as a performing penguin, but its when things go wrong that sorts the wheat from the other stuff and I don't see how this can be taught in a seminar scenario. To me Conducting is an extension of arranging rather than a progression of performing, you need to literally know the score to be effective, but then everyone has a different approach. This evening I was conducting "Skaters Waltz," 3 and in one bit I beat a down beat in one bar and an up beat in the next. I have never seen this suggested anywhere but it works for me.
     
  6. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    I don't think anyone is suggesting all player be trained as conductors, though personally I think a basic introduction into beating time should be an important part of any band training.

    Some will struggle, some will have a natural talent, those that find they have a talent and enjoy the experience could go on to be a future conductor or MD. Without the opportunity to try it where are the future conductors coming from?

    Look how many bands struggle to fill seats with players, despite the youth and training bands teaching new players.

    If no one is giving the opportunity to conduct, the future holds much bigger problems for banding than the current shortage of players, we already have cases where multiple bands have the same MD.
     
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  7. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    To my mind you have usefully captured a scope of ability and applicability here. The ‘rabble’ basically need someone to start them together, keep them roughly in unison and stop them together. The more expert player needs someone who can pull out the detail in a piece. The Band playing in a Contest might well decide to hire someone more skilled or suited to Contest performances than their MD. So different Conducting skill levels for different folk and different situations.

    Come to think of it I’ve played in a group where the conductor had relatively little idea but he was there for the players before him and we guided him about how best to direct us as a group. His presence was invaluable to us and despite what he didn’t yet know and what he couldn’t yet do we as a group couldn’t have managed without him. There comes a time to celebrate what people can do and what they can contribute rather than to say that only perfection is acceptable.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  8. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I find that completely correct. Several groups that I know of really struggle for a Conductor or MD and others effectively stagnate or worse under the rule of a poor one.

    At the grass roots level we cirtainly need a much better supply of talent and developing talent. Above grass roots level players would be wise to recognise that their next conductor and conductors in their future will all have had to start from a position of knowing nothing and being a nervous nobody. So it really is a case of develop talent today or it will not be there when you need it later.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  9. GER

    GER Active Member

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    As I see it, if a player expresses interest in conducting, he should be encouraged, any band that doesn't do this is incredibly short sighted, and, whilst I personally have never put it to the test, would be very surprised if bands didn't encourage. Having said that, I think we need to recognise that brass banding is our hobby, especially in the lower sections, and our hobby should give us pleasure, so nobody should be made to do something they don't feel comfortable doing, whether it be conducting, contesting or whatever.
    As another poster said, any fool can beat time, but I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that's all a conductor does-even the bad ones!. It would be fair to say that they have an understanding of the theory of music, and the ability to read a score, which to my mind is why most conductors have been above average players, as they have an interest in how music 'works' beyond the ability to read/play their part. It is also fair to say that as a consequence of their ability they have played in the higher sections of banding, and they have, and are prepared to use, good man management skills, so the 'pool' of potential conductors is quite small. I accept this is a generalisation, but think it is the principal reason there is a shortage of conductors. At grass roots level there simply are not enough people who are both interested enough and have the relevant skills to take the step into conducting, they enjoy their hobby of playing in a brass band, but want nothing further.
     
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  10. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    It's all well and good encouraging a player who expressed an interest, but unless they have the opportunity to try it in the first place, how do they express an interest.

    I'm not aware of any bands who have offered their players the opportunity to come along and have a go.

    A lot of the youth bands you see don't even have the MD conducting, usually it's one of the main bands player conducting. The majority of them have clearly had little or no training and only know what they have picked up watching others.
     
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I’ve split/spaced lthe above into six points, but not altered it in any other way. I’ll try to answer them in some sort of order.

    I’ve never been in a band that has even asked any of its members about having a go at Conducting or even learning some basic of the art, very short sighted IMHO.

    Agreed, Banding is a hobby and folk should be free to enjoy it without too much burden.

    Simply beating time is a start point and a valuable one. Having said that some Conductors I’ve had have been dreadful at nearly everything that they did and could not give a clear beat to save their life.

    You’d have thought that Conductors would have much music knowledge and the ability to read a score but in my experience that isn’t so. At one point and for some music there was/is no score and the Conductor used/uses a Solo Cornet copy.

    Some Conductors have played for middle or higher Section Bands and others haven’t, of the haven’t some have the ability to do so and some haven’t. In my experience people skills are slightly more important than the musical ones, I know of one chap who conducts a mid level contesting band and at times wonder how it is that nobody has given him a piece of their mind - or worse.

    It is a generalisation but that’s OK. Each of us expresses our own experience.
     
  12. GER

    GER Active Member

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    Can I ask, have you or anyone you know ever asked? or do you know of anyone that has asked and been turned down? Surely if one is interested in doing something they would ask to have a go

    But it is a small part of the role, if conducting was just a matter of beating time I would suggest there would be 000's of 'conductors'

    We obviously have had very different experiences, I've played for some bad conductors (never for very long) but most have had the basics right, had an interest in theory of music and good levels of musicality. If I'm brutally honest if I continually played in bands with bad conductors I would have difficulty in maintaining interest in my hobby, and feel sure that many others would feel exactly the same. I am sorry you have had such bad experience and can understand why you think everybody should have a go-try enough people and the odds are that one will come good
    I can only give the same reply I have given to 2T above, surely this is one of the basic things in life-you see something you would quite like to do so you ask until you find out how to start doing it

    Isn't that a good thing? It shows the player has an interest in conducting and the band has encouraged this-isn't that your point in the first place?
     
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  13. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    I suppose it could indicate that, or it could indicate that the MD isn't really that interested in the youth band. It also means that any grounding in conducting the youth band gets is from someone who lacks expertise.
     
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  14. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

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    I think it's important to understand that this link is to a site which is aimed specifically at conductors/directors of American-style Marching Band or DCI (Drum Corps) outfits. When these groups perform their large-scale field displays ( - there are plenty to look at on YouTube, some of which are very impressive) the emphasis is on clarity and visibility over large distances (think football field), and the conductor (or conductors - they often have more than one) is concerned only with beating time, not with any form of musical expression. This type of conducting has little to do with the kind of band/orchestra conducting that brass banders are used to seeing, and many of the patterns described on the website are contrary to what would be taught in a more "classical" environment.
     
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  15. GER

    GER Active Member

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    or it could indicate that the MD isn't really that interested in the youth band. It also means that any grounding in conducting the youth band gets is from someone who lacks expertise.

    But if he is not interested in the youth band, why would he be interested in holding conducting classes-and would you really want him to?, Both you and 2T mention about poor conductors, I'm sorry but I can't see the advantage of a band with a poor conductor offering conducting classes to it's members- if a good band offers conducting classes to anyone there is a shortage of people attending (see the OP). I think it's very much up to the individual to make the moves, if they're scared to do so I don't think conducting is for them.
     
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  16. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    The problem you have, if the opportunity isn't there for people to see if they like conducting or have a talent in that direction, then how will they know to persue it?

    As I said from the start, when I started playing many years ago, we all had a go during practice sessions. I wouldn't say any of us were any good, I was the only one who enjoyed it, but we all had a go and we all learnt from the experience.

    I didn't choose to persue it, though if the opportunity were to arise now, I probably would, if for no other reason than to help out if we were short.

    I did however find the experience enlightening and went on to write a few scores myself. (Only ever had one played) I'm not going to be worrying any of the famous composers, but the experience of basic conducting and follow the score did spark an interest in the area behind the baton.

    I benefitted from the experience and believe it's an experience that all beginners should have.
     
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  17. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    The discussion doesn’t seem to be resolving much and I sense that fear is at the root of the dispute. Fear that someone (possibly you!) might be asked to do something that is just too far outside of their comfort zone, fear of failing to perform well in front of your peers, fear of the unknown costs of developing Conducting talent, fear that precious time and enjoyment within any rehearsal might be wasted on the development of another (normally) playing member and fear that if talent emerges from within a band that that will present unwanted challenges. I find that rather sad but do understand why people could be concerned.

    The Band that I’m now fortunate enough to play in encourages all its members to perform a Solo. There is no forcing just encouragement and support; Solo pieces (with Band accompaniment) are tried in rehearsals and some are later performed to audiences whilst others don’t take that extra step but they have still had the experience of performing to us. We are a supportive group with a broad range of skills within us including several who can and do Conduct very well. I feel indeed fortunate to play in a Band with that culture and know too well how different other Bands can be. My point here is to try and say that fear of doing something is something that you shouldn’t accept in your Band, either change it or (assuming you can) move on.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  18. GER

    GER Active Member

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    I would love to know where you come to this conclusion, is it not possible to accept that somebody just doesn't want to do something, I recall in a previous post you don't want to go contesting, that's a personal decision, which I totally respect, personally I love contesting and don't really understand what's not to like, but certainly wouldn't accuse people who don't want to participate of running scared.
    I fully support the idea of people who are interested in conducting, but think it's the individual's choice, as stated before, it is a hobby so should be there to give pleasure to all, and give each member the freedom to take their musical involvement as far as they want to. Albeit with a large break I have been in the brass band family from the age of 8, I'm 61 now, have seen many people express an interest in conducting, the path has always been help with the training band, progress to deputy conductor then conductor, whilst undergoing training from a private or band teacher-it's a well trodden path, some make it to the end some don't. I'm not adverse to change, but change should be for the better, and I don't see your way as the way forward.

    That doesn't sound like you have a poor conductor, he sounds excellent and just the type of person who would welcome an interest in his role and would very supportive of any one trying to learn. I notice that you never mention yourself as one of those who conduct the band, if you are, my apologies, if not can you give us your reasons for not doing so?
     
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  19. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Well-Known Member

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    I may have misunderstood your last sentence, but it seems to suggest that if I'm fearful of playing a solo / conducting, I'm not welcome in your band. Is that correct? And if I'm not fearful and instead, I've made the decision that I just don't want to play a solo, you'll assume it's because of fear and use amateur psychology to coach me over it?

    If I was continuously encouraged (aka pestered, shamed for not) to play a solo or try conducting I'd become pretty annoyed over time and probably leave. I'm quite capable of deciding what I want out of banding / life without being questioned several times a year by someone that thinks they know better.
     
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  20. GER

    GER Active Member

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    I understand where you are coming from, but as you say You was the only one who enjoyed it, making people do things they don't enjoy is not encouragement
     
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