My short bio: Hi Reddit! I've been a professional orchestra conductor for over fifteen years, and I am the Music Director of the Grand Junction (CO) Symphony Orchestra and the Flagstaff (AZ) Symphony Orchestra. I've worked with orchestras at all budget sizes and ability levels, from youth orchestras to the Vienna Philharmonic. My full bio is available on my website.

My Proof: https://i.imgur.com/XWX0g3O.jpg

It's Nutcracker season! I just finished a run of Nutcracker performances with the Flagstaff Symphony, and have another run of performances with the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

Have you ever wondered what a conductor is doing up there? AMA!

Comments: 177 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

cubnole15 karma

Hello! Do you ever pretend you are casting spells?

AeroMaestro33 karma

Yes

InfernalWedgie3 karma

What's your favorite spell to pretend-cast? Do you like Harry Potter, et al?

AeroMaestro11 karma

Like, one of those pseudo-latin Harry Potter spells? Couldn't tell ya. I listened to the audio books and don't have any idea how they're spelled. How about "accio greatificus musika?"

There may have been a time or two when I've wanted an "avada kadavra" for a double bass who pizzed too soon at the end of a phrase.

I also think there have been a few HADOUKEN fireballs I've thrown at musicians, and maybe a few spiderman wrist webs.

coryrenton10 karma

What is the smallest size of an orchestra where a conductor would still be considered necessary, and how does conducting work for non-traditional instruments, like laptops, or turntables?

AeroMaestro14 karma

It really depends on the piece. Sometimes a composer will write something so complicated for 4 or 5 people that it really helps to have a conductor there who can manage things. Lots of contemporary orchestral music uses smaller ensembles but still needs a conductor. Here's one of my favorite new pieces for a small-ish ensemble, that still definitely needs a conductor.

The smallest ensemble I've conducted, in a situation that actually needed a conductor, was 4 musicians. The largest had well over 300.

But older pieces by Mozart, for example, are less likely to need a conductor. The rhythms are less complicated, and the orchestra plays more "homophonic" (everybody's playing the same rhythm) material.

Non traditional instruments and conductors depends on the instrument, of course. But a great example is the way Mason Bates uses a drum machine in "Mothership." He's actually got a drum machine player in the orchestra, who's working with the conductor just like all the other musicians.

Groezy2 karma

wow I love ubran sprawl, that was great

AeroMaestro1 karma

Isn’t it? Check out Needham’s Suburban grooves, too.

iamprivate6 karma

How well do you think that players of various levels are able to tune by ear and is that level sufficient for amateur orchestras? Why doesn't everyone just get their instrument warm and tune with an electronic tuner before coming on stage? Our conductor has been spot checking instruments at certain points and very rarely is anyone in tune. Mostly people are 10-20 cents off. Good enough?

AeroMaestro14 karma

OH BOY. I could go on for a LONG time about this subject. But the very short version is this: A tuner does not train your ears to hear intonation. And a tuner cannot tell you if you're in tune with the ensemble. I don't know how much you know about equal temperament, but the way a tuner tunes individual notes will never get a full chord to sound beautiful and ring true, because true intonation is different from equal temperament. I'm going to copy/paste a long thing that I wrote about ensemble intonation below:

Regarding orchestral intonation: I've been drafting, and re-writing, and revising, and not finishing a little treatise on orchestral intonation for several years. I'm going to try to write up a very short version with just some bullet points here. For some of you this may seem basic; for others I hope this may be helpful.

1. DO NOT PRACTICE INTONATION WITH A TUNER!

Look--a tuner won't train your ears. It only trains your eyes and body to follow the tuner. Also, a tuner is a flawed tool for orchestral intonation because it's working on the premise that there's an absolute "correct" frequency for each note. That just isn't true. Well, it's true for equal-temperament tunings like a piano, but an orchestra doesn't operate on equal temperament. We operate on a just intonation that requires every chord and interval to be tuned so it rings at its very best. I grew up with a long line of band directors and trumpet teachers who told me to go home and practice playing chromatic scales with the tuner, placing every note right in the center of the pitch. That exercise did a decent job of teaching me where the wonky notes were on my instruments and how to adjust my playing to fix them, but it did absolutely nothing to train my ears to actually hear my intonation when playing in an ensemble.

2. PRACTICE WITH A DRONE

The best way I've found to practice intonation is to work with a drone. My favorite drones are an album, available on Spotify, just called "Cello Drones."

If you want just the 12 drones by themselves, they're here: https://open.spotify.com/user/1220191686/playlist/3HJBplRw53EalPYJIUfN2o

I like these drones because they have a fairly full and rich timbre with plenty of overtones. Many tuners and tuner apps can give a long pitch, but it's often a thin sine wave or square wave that doesn't give a whole lot to work with.

If Spotify doesn't work for you, there are plenty of resources elsewhere online. This one is OK, but probably has too much vibrato to be of much use: http://www.dronetonetool.com/

Here's a YouTube playlist with 12 drones, but I find these rather unpleasant after a few seconds. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL89F14447A668A805

3. HOW TO PRACTICE WITH A DRONE

  • Pick a pitch. Start the drone. (I usually play the drone very loud on my stereo, but headphones work, too. It's important you can hear the drone as well as you can hear yourself.)
  • First just play in unison with the drone. Just mp long tones. Listen carefully to the interaction of your sound with the drone. Experiment until you can get a clean, pure unison without waves or bumps in the sound.
  • Then move to the fifth. Play and listen until you find a fifth that rings true and sweet and beautifully. (If you were using a tuner right now, it would tell you you're a tiny bit sharp. TRUST YOUR EARS. True fifths are just a tiny bit wider than equal-temperament fifths.)
  • Then move to the third. Find the place where a third sounds true and clean and clear and without waves or bumps. (Here, a tuner would tell you you're playing very flat. LIES! TRUST YOUR EARS! A true major third is narrower than an equal-temperament third.)
  • When you're comfortable with the fifth and third, work on the whole major scale, one pitch at a time. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN UN-TUNABLE INTERVAL! 2nds and 7ths can sound just as beautiful and clear as 5ths and 4ths and 3rds. I usually have trouble with 6ths, but you may find other intervals to be more challenging.
  • If you feel like you can make each note of the major scale sound beautiful against the drone, go ahead and try a chromatic scale. Again, there is no such thing as an un-tunable interval. Minor 2nds and major 7ths are totally tunable. Trust your ears. Find the sweet place where each interval rings true.
  • I usually like to play a melody against the drone. The Star-Spangled Banner works very well, since it has lots of 3rds and 5ths and octaves, but also gets the occasional tritone in there. But start with whatever simple melody you like. The point is to get a sense for how a truly in-tune melody will sound with the drone keeping you grounded.
  • Then play whatever it is you're practicing against the drone. It works best with movements that stay in one key from beginning to end, but shouldn't be limited to only pieces that stay in one key. When you find a modulation, then switch drones! No biggie. If there's a movement or key you're uncomfortable with, use that drone and practice the movement on top of it.

4. DON'T PRACTICE BEYOND WHAT YOUR EARS CAN HANDLE

If you're practicing for intonation like this, there will come a point in your practice session at which you'll suddenly find yourself unable to tell at all anymore whether you're in tune or not. Your brain and ears just give up. That's OK. STOP PRACTICING. I find I can only do this kind of thoughtful, focused intonation work for only about 20 minutes at a time. It's better to do a short session with good focus than a long session with weak focus.

5. WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

  • If you're interested in learning more about equal temperament vs just intonation and the development of the theory of intonation, I highly recommend the book Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization, by Stuart Isacoff. It's a pretty quick read, but it's chock-full of great info on the physics and history of playing in tune.

  • If you really want to test your intonation abilities and you have an iOS phone or tablet, I recommend the free app tuneUp Lite. It goes from pretty darn easy to insanely tough.

mozartbond3 karma

Eheh, I wish I knew all of this many years ago, before I started playing in orchestras. Are you ever going to publish your book about intonation? There's not a lot of material about this subject to be found (or that I know of) and it would be really useful to have some written reference to use when I teach. I'd like to send a copy to my current chief conductor :-P

AeroMaestro3 karma

Maybe. Someday. But the title would definitely be "Turn off your damn tuner, turn on your ears."

iamprivate3 karma

I totally agree with what you said but that is talking about being in tune while playing, either with just yourself or with others. So, if we are expected to make fine adjustments to pitch as we play and listen, then is the purpose of the tuning note at the beginning of the session to just get us close enough so that we have the ability to adjust up or down enough to get to just intonation? How close do we need to get for the various instruments to have that ability and can amateurs get close enough by ear? The tuning note to me seems like a bit of an anachronism. Before a session, I see a lot of people in my orchestra tuning with a tuner and then once the tuning note is played, I see very few people making adjustments. I can't help but think we're just wasting a few minutes of rehearsal time.

Is this ability to listen and adjust pitch to fit the chord a key differentiator between amateurs and pros?

AeroMaestro4 karma

The tuning note is just to get your instrument adjusted so that it's likely to be in tune when you start playing. Think about singing in the shower. Have you ever found a note that when you hummed it, it suddenly rings really loudly in your bathroom? That's because you and your instrument (in this case, the bathroom is your instrument) are in tune. When you tune your instrument with the tuning pitch at the beginning of rehearsal or performance, it's to get it ready to vibrate along most powerfully when you're playing in tune with the rest of the ensemble. If your instrument isn't tuned properly, you'll end up fighting against it when you need to make adjustments to be in tune with the rest of the ensemble.

I'm guessing you play a wind instrument. Many beginner wind players think that if they tuned their instrument at the beginning of the show, and if they push down the right buttons, they must be in tune. That's just fundamentally not true. It's so easy to adjust the pitch of any wind/brass/string instrument while we're playing. Every note must be examined while it's being played. And whether that note should be pushed up or down depends not on some absolute frequency, but rather the note's position in context. As a quick example, in a C major chord, the third (E) should be played 14 cents flat in order for the chord to sound in tune. Take three players, and have one play a C, another play an E, and another play a G. If you get the chord in tune so that it rings true and beautiful, when you checked the tuner it would show the person playing the E is "flat" and the person playing the G is very slightly "sharp." There's a lot of theory that goes into intonation, but again, a tuner cannot make you sound in tune, and it definitely won't train your ears to hear what in tune playing sounds like.

YES, amateurs can play in tune as well as professionals. But it requires constant listening and adjustment. Go practice with a drone, and turn off your tuner! You'll start to hear what I'm talking about.

psycotica02 karma

Doesn't this mean an instrument like a piano, where the player can't adjust the pitch on the fly, will always be out of tune with the rest of the orchestra? Wouldn't that drive everyone crazy?

AeroMaestro1 karma

Technically, yes. Percussion instruments like the piano, xylophone, marimba, etc can't have their intonation adjusted during the performance. Sometimes that means the orchestra will adjust some notes to match the instrument that can't be retuned.

Let's be clear --- the difference is small, but it does exist. An equal-temperament piano is never technically 100% "in tune." But that doesn't mean the orchestra can't adjust our intonation to match important notes in the piano's part.

thedude372 karma

Would such a regimen help with vocal intonation?

AeroMaestro3 karma

Absolutely. I spend plenty of time singing with a drone, just like I do with my trumpet. It's also good for training better control of your vibrato -- since you'll need to be able to sing straight-tone in order to get a sense of true intonation before you add the vibrato back in. And it can help develop a better sense for how your vibrato affects your pitch.

becomingabird6 karma

What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during conducting?

AeroMaestro18 karma

Lots of audience members like to share this cartoon with me:
https://i.pinimg.com/564x/9e/98/ff/9e98ffb6278ba99161fa0f2e73c646b3--music-jokes-music-humor.jpg

Only once did this happen to me. I was conducting a new piece (that I'll admit probably wasn't all that great) and it had so many repeated measures that I lost track at the very end of how many measures we had left. So I just stood up straight and kept a steady beat until the ensemble stopped. I was personally embarrassed, and felt like I'd failed, but I doubt anybody else had noticed.

protocol__droid4 karma

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRSZQiuPhTs

How much more work than normal is that act?

AeroMaestro2 karma

More work for the orchestra? Not really. Just needs to be written out and rehearsed because orchestra musicians aren't, by nature, spontaneously-minded comedians. For Borge? LOTS of work. His comedic timing and understanding of the room come from decades of careful study and practice. After all, look how surprised and amused the musicians are.

A more extreme example of planning out a comedy routine is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFltd2838gc

phishman15 karma

Have you ever fallen off the podium, or dropped your baton? What's your most embarrassing moment in front of an audience?

AeroMaestro16 karma

I've never fallen off the podium. Or, at least, I've never fallen off the back of the podium. At lot of time I conduct from memory, and sometimes I take away the music stand in front of me. A few times I've nearly stepped off the front of the podium. Now, when I'm conducting from memory, I usually leave the stand there in front of me for two reasons.
1. When the orchestra sees a conductor isn't using a music stand, it sometimes causes them stress, because they feel like the conductor's showing off. 2. I like to have that physical barrier in front of me to prevent me from walking off the front of the podium in my desire to get closer to the musicians.

I've dropped my baton a few times, and always have a spare stick on the music stand for that reason. The best story was a concert I conducted in Washington DC about ten years ago. Somewhere in the middle of the first movement of Beethoven 7, I felt my baton clip the bottom of the music stand while my arm was on the way up, and the stick left my hand. I thought the baton had just fallen below my stand, so I grabbed my spare and kept going. But when I looked up to give a cue to the horns, I saw the principal horn looking aghast and staring up at the ceiling --- the baton had flipped out of my hand and was flying way high up in the rafters and it landed in the back of the orchestra by the horns. At the end of the first movement I had to stand and wait while they made a big show of passing it all the way back up to me. I didn't really feel embarrassed --- it was a lighthearted moment. It's little goofs like that that make live performance so much fun.

AbnormalPopPunk3 karma

how did the orchestra work when you dropped the baton/mess up in general? do you work with musicians that are able to keep time without a conductor for more than a few bars?

AeroMaestro5 karma

Dropping a baton isn't a big deal. I can keep conducting with my hands, after all. They usually just pick it up and hand it back and there's no interruption at all.

And there are lots of times in performance when I deliberately don't conduct for a while! If the orchestra's doing wonderfully on their own, and they don't need me, then in those moments it's best for me to just get out of the way and let them do their jobs!

There's a very famous example from Leonard Bernstein. Lots of people say "oooh! He's conducting with just his eyes!" But really, he's just standing out of the orchestra's way and enjoying himself while they do their thing. The orchestra doesn't need him in this movement and there's nothing he's going to do up there that's going to make the performance any better than they're doing it already. He also can't resist smiling and making eyes at the musicians because that's just who he is.

Also, sometimes getting out of the way like this makes the orchestra play BETTER. It forces them to do it for themselves, and to support one another in ways they wouldn't if they're all following the conductor instead of playing with each other.

garrettmcqueen5 karma

Professional bassoonist here. I'm seeing more and more conductors who came through the ranks as simply that - a conductor. Do you think there would be any benefit to "graduating" conductors from years of experience as orchestral players, instead of there being an actual conducting path? Why is it beneficial to have a conductor who has focused on that alone throughout schooling/training?

AeroMaestro13 karma

First of all, thank you for your musicianship.

It's hard to generalize here. Examples and counter-examples exist of any archetype we could come up with. There are lots of great conductors (many of them are pianists) who come to conducting with little to no experience of playing in an orchestra, except maybe as soloists, and do wonderfully. Bernstein, Solti, Muti, Slatkin, etc etc.

And many others came from a background as orchestral musicians who "graduated," as you say: Toscanini, Jaap van Sweden, Gerard Schwarz, Franz Welser Most, etc.

Is one way better than another? I don't think so. I think the reality is some conductors are great and some are less great, and that's more a reflection of who they are than it is a reflection of where they came from. I've worked with plenty of pianist conductors who were great and plenty who were terrible, and the same is true of conductors who'd had a history playing in orchestras. Often, the skill of being a great instrumentalist doesn't transfer to being a great leader of the orchestra, or the other way 'round. It's a different experience in front than it is in back, so to speak.

In general, though, European (particularly German) conductors are still coming up through the ranks of the opera hall, and that's very piano-focused. (Coach->Chorus master->Assistant Conductor->Conductor) In America and Asia, though, where the tradition of Western opera isn't so well-established, conductors are coming from music schools where they are trained up as conductors without other performance experience.

In my own experience, I've spent time as an orchestral musician, jazz musician, actor, singer, and many other things, and every one of those things influences and affects the way I see my role as a conductor.

Duke_Paul5 karma

Yes! I have always wondered what a conductor is really for! I'm not a musician (obviously). But the music is written down, and there's got to be somebody--first chair violin, the soloist, piano, or maybe percussion--from whom the orchestra can take their cues. Compounding this, I heard someone on NPR tackle this same issue and, when the reporter "guest conducted" a few bars, it sounded fine--until the orchestra revealed that they were ignoring him. When they actually took his cues, it sounded awful. So a bad conductor is a no-no, but with no conductor it seemed fine. What gives?

Also, thanks for doing an AMA, especially since this is a question that has been bugging me for years.

AeroMaestro13 karma

I don't expect that the orchestra musicians are watching me 100% of the time in a performance. They're too busy playing all the notes! Great orchestras know how to watch and listen to each other as much as they watch the conductor, or sometimes even more.

Here's a great video example --- the conductor's downbeat is completely inscrutable. But watch the concertmaster, who's sitting just under his left arm. You can see the orchestra takes their cue from her. That's an orchestra in survival mode --- they're working together to save themselves from the conductor. I'm not saying this man is a terrible conductor, but his beat is unclear. Some conductors are great at managing the "big picture," getting a fantastic overall sound without necessarily being clear on every beat.

Other conductors are great at being clean and clear and precise, but leave the emotional content up to the musicians. The best example is Pierre Boulez.

One of my favorite orchestral rules is this:

When a bad conductor makes a mistake, nobody notices. When a good conductor makes a mistake, it's a disaster.

That's because orchestras intuitively sense what they can get from a conductor. If it's an amateur, like the reporter in your example, they quickly figure out to rely on each other. If it's somebody they respect and trust, they really rely on the conductor.

vagabond94 karma

Yes I actually do wonder. I thought the conducter is the person who organises the orchestra, basically a teacher or choreographer. On the stage then, the conducter is pretty useless because everybody now its part since they've rehearsed that for weeks. Therefore the swinging in front of the orchestra is nothing but show. Am I right? Please correct me.

AeroMaestro22 karma

Thanks for your question, /u/vagabond9.
You're partially correct. Most of the work I do happens before the concert. How much organizing and teaching I do depends on the orchestra. A professional orchestra has other staff who do the organizing -- planning out venues, distributing sheet music, contracting musicians, etc.

If I'm working with an inexperienced orchestra, then most of what I do with them is teaching -- how to make a great sound together, how to produce an appropriate style to the composers' music we're working on, etc.

If I'm working with a professional orchestra, my job is a little different. My job is more of a "decision maker." Sheet music isn't always 100% precise. Sometimes somebody needs to make a decision. How loud is forte? How fast is Allegro con brio, ma non troppo? How long should we hold this fermata? Orchestras can make some of these decisions democratically without a conductor, but it's so much more efficient to have a conductor who plans all that stuff out and helps coordinate it with the orchestra in rehearsal.

When it comes to the actual performance, my job is to give the musicians the information they need to be at their best, but also to manage the whole show. Think about when you're driving a car -- you already know the roads to take, and when to turn left or right. But you also need to check in every once in a while with the speed limit signs, the traffic lights, and the stop signs. That's me in the show. I'm giving the musicians what they need to keep themselves organized. But I'm also in a privileged position relative to the orchestra. I'm able to hear what they're all doing and I can help them do it together in a way that leads to the best possible performance. While I'm conducting, I'm thinking about what the orchestra is playing right now, and how it sounds and how it's going. And I'm also thinking about what's coming up next and how to best help the ensemble navigate the turns and changes. And I'm also thinking about the whole piece --- is this the strongest point of the piece? How much louder, or faster, or whatever do we need to be playing to get to the most important place at exactly the right volume or speed or emotion? I'm working on pacing out the movement, the piece, the whole concert all at once.

vagabond93 karma

Thanks for the explanation!

AeroMaestro3 karma

No problem. Happy listening!

Kougeru2 karma

I learned a lot of this from Nodame Cantabile.

AeroMaestro1 karma

Nodame Cantabile is great. My favorite anime. And a lot of it is very real, or at least close to reality.
And James DePreist, who appears a few times in the anime, was a real conductor and a wonderful guy who got a big kick out of showing up in the series.

That being said, I greatly prefer the animated version over the two Japanese movies, the Japanese live-action series, or the Korean live-action series.

Gemmabeta4 karma

Have you ever made a on-the-fly adjustment to direction in the middle a live concert because something does not quite sound right?

If you have a small stroke on stage and starts directing off-tempo/pointing to random people/adding-subtracting movements, will that actually change the tempo/volume etc of the orchestra or as they well rehearsed enough to carry on in spite of you?

AeroMaestro5 karma

Have you ever made a on-the-fly adjustment to direction in the middle a live concert because something does not quite sound right?

Absolutely. That's part of why I'm there -- to constantly listen while I'm leading, and make adjustments where they can be helpful.

If you have a small stroke on stage and starts directing off-tempo/pointing to random people/adding-subtracting movements, will that actually change the tempo/volume etc of the orchestra or as they well rehearsed enough to carry on in spite of you?

It's a truism that when a bad conductor makes a mistake nobody notices, and when a good conductor makes a mistake it's a disaster. I went into more detail on this in another answer.

But the reality is that if I walked off the stage in the middle of the performance, the orchestra could carry on with most of the music without me. The performance would be different in many ways, and probably rougher, but wouldn't always be a trainwreck. But if I started conducting completely counter to what we rehearsed, yes, I could do a lot of damage.

StepYaGameUp4 karma

What is your favorite song to conduct?

The one where you feel you are just bringing the ruckus.

AeroMaestro8 karma

Every conductor has their own list of "Party Pieces" -- works where we feel like we can really get down and jam with the orchestra, and pieces we feel like we do particularly well. My list of party pieces, in no particular order:

  • Beethoven - Symphony No. 7
  • Tchaikvosky - Symphony No. 4
  • Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique
  • Bernstein - Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

But my favorite composers to work on, that really give me joy, are Brahms and Ravel.

samdajellybeenie3 karma

A party piece for me that, as an orchestra musician (bass player), I LOVE to play is Ravel - La Valse. <3

AeroMaestro3 karma

Awwwwww, YISSSSSS.

TNUGS3 karma

Tchaik 4 is a banger! how fast do you take the finale and how much do the double basses hate you for it?

AeroMaestro4 karma

Fast enough to get your heart racing, loud enough to scare all the snoozing audience after the third movement.

Theandric4 karma

Do you think being a conductor is a heathy way to sublimate feelings of wanting to control people? Asking for a friend.

AeroMaestro7 karma

Healthy? I don't know. Effective? Yes.

Honestly, though, I do not feel my role is to "control" anybody. Instead I find it much more gratifying when I'm working with the ensemble. My very favorite moments in performance are when I catch a musician with eye contact and we share a moment of happily working together. Because, really, aren't we damn lucky to get to do what we're doing?

puppykittenstarwars4 karma

Do you choose what songs the orchestra plays?What’s your favorite song/movement/piece to conduct?

AeroMaestro12 karma

Yes, for the most part, my job as Music Director means that I'm in charge of selecting what we play and when we play it. (And selecting guest artists/soloists, as well.) The major orchestras also have Artistic Administrators, who do a lot of this work, but ultimately it's the Music Director who has the final say.

But I don't do it 100% on my own. I have Artistic Advisory committees that make suggestions and help me balance out the season.

The thing that makes concert programming so difficult is that there is SO MUCH GREAT ORCHESTRAL MUSIC in the world and too few concerts to play it all.

So when I'm working on concert programming, I work to balance out lots of things:

  • Can we prepare the music to a very high level in the amount of rehearsal time we have scheduled?

  • Has the orchestra played these pieces recently? I go through lots of archives to see what the orchestra has played, and just as importantly, what they haven't played. I work to make sure the orchestra has a good mix and fills in gaps in our performance history.

  • Will the audience like these pieces? (This matters for ticket sales, and it matters for the orchestra's relevance in a crowded market.) But I also want the audience to enjoy themselves! That doesn't mean I avoid pieces that are more challenging -- it just means I balance them with things that are more approachable. For every Philip Glass piece, we need one Dvorak. :)

  • Are we balancing old/new composers? Are we continuing to develop the repertoire for the future? I work to make sure there's a piece by a living composer in EVERY concert. I also work to make sure we perform music by minorities, women, and other underrepresented composers.

  • Will this music develop the orchestra productively? If we play an entire season of Tchaikovsky, we'll get very good at playing Tchaikovsky, but that won't help us play Debussy. I'm always thinking about where a piece fits in this season, and what skills it will develop in the orchestra in the future.

  • Can we afford these pieces? Some works are more expensive to get the performance rights to than others. Pieces that require bigger orchestras are more expensive to present. etc. I've got to work within the orchestra's budget to balance out Mozart and Mahler.

What's my favorite piece to conduct? The glib answer, that still is mostly true, is "My favorite piece is whatever I'm working on right now." Right now I'm in the middle of conducting the Nutcracker for two weeks. And so right now the Nutcracker really is my favorite piece in the whole world, because I'm immersed in its subtleties and greatness. (And the Nutcracker really is a great piece!)

But my favorite piece in the whole world is Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. Here's a video of Gergiev conducting the most famous part, but there's much more to this piece, and I recommend you check it out.

PompeyJon823 karma

What is your favourite brass instrument?

AeroMaestro5 karma

As a conductor, I get the biggest grin when I hear a great Bass Trombone player just lettin' loose.

But there's also a pretty famous musicians' saying:

The better the bass trombone part, the worse the piece.

s0xmonstr3 karma

Thanks for doing this! Couple of quick questions!

Who is your favorite composer and what is your favorite piece at the moment?

Most difficult work to conduct in your experience?

Any contemporary composers you'd recommend us check out?

Lastly who's a soloist that you've worked with that you'd love to work with again and who's a famous soloist that you'd love to work with someday?

AeroMaestro5 karma

Thanks for doing this! Couple of quick questions! Who is your favorite composer and what is your favorite piece at the moment?

Two favorite composers, for opposite reasons: BRAHMS, because his music is so profoundly deep and emotionally complicated. Nothing is ever 100% joyful, and nothing is ever 100% sad. I think Brahms understands and translates the human condition better than any other composer. Also, he deliberately leaves his instructions to musicians vague, so we have to make decisions about tempos and dynamics and articulations that really make the performance personal and meaningful to us. I think Brahms loved to hear a variety of performances of his works.

RAVEL, because he has thought through every single note, and marking in the score, and when we just take care to play everything he's put on the page, the piece reveals itself in such a glorious way, that never sounds as meticulous and detailed as the notes on the page.

My favorite piece right now? Tchaikovksy's Nutcracker. When I'm conducting a piece it's my job to fall in love with it and to share that love with the musicians and the audience.

Most difficult work to conduct in your experience?

There is no such thing as easy music! EVERY piece is difficult to conduct well. Of course, some pieces have technical challenges, and others have musical/emotional challenges. But the one piece that scares the absolute bejeebers out of me? The third movement of Berio's Sinfonia. If you ever get a chance to sit with the full score of this piece and listen in a dark room with good headphones, I highly recommend it. Mind=BLOWN.

Any contemporary composers you'd recommend us check out?

There are so many good ones! Here's a quick list of people just floating around my mind right now, whose works I've performed recently or will perform soon:

Will C White (who also does the great "Ask A Maestro" YouTube channel)

Clint Needham

Mason Bates

Elisabetta Brusa

Kevin Puts

... and so many more.

Lastly who's a soloist that you've worked with that you'd love to work with again and who's a famous soloist that you'd love to work with someday?

Check out Rachel Lee Priday, violinist, if you ever get a chance. We did the Brahms concerto last year and I've never encountered somebody who could relate to an orchestra and adjust her playing to fit the situation perfectly as quickly as Rachel does. She's absolutely wonderful. Same for Andres Cardenes -- just a magical presence in the room who understands his role so well that it's like a warm comforting hug just standing next to him.

As for "famous" soloists I'd love to work with--my favorite collaborations are with musicians who are both extraordinary performers and great people who have a genuine love for what they do and the people they do it with. So the three I'd put right at the top of the list are Gil Shaham, Yo Yo Ma, and Emmanuel Ax.

M_O_O_S_T_A_R_D3 karma

How much of conducting is just waving your hands until the music stops?

AeroMaestro3 karma

The older the music, the more true that is. Baroque ensembles don’t really need a conductor all that much. I find myself thinking about this every time I’m conducting The Messiah.

M_O_O_S_T_A_R_D3 karma

I knew it

AeroMaestro6 karma

But my paycheck is still the same. ;)

Icy_Dice3 karma

my mom's a conductor too! but she's in navy so no fame for her. do you also have to travel everywhere? or perhaps you stay in one spot and everyone comes to you. maybe you have a set territory similar to my mom?

AeroMaestro3 karma

I do get to travel a lot, and that's one of my favorite things about the job. Many conductors, like myself, have full-time positions with more than one orchestra and travel back and forth. And guest conducting somewhere else is the greatest job there is --- I get to show up and focus very seriously on my job as the conductor, and then when the show's over I leave! If it went great, I'll be invited back and I'm happy about that. And if it went terribly, I won't be invited back, and that's OK too because it wasn't a great fit.

Please thank your mom for her service -- both to our country, and to music.

davethecomposer3 karma

There was some controversy on a particular Youtube channel some time back about conductors keeping the beat or being ahead of the orchestra (or the orchestra playing behind -- however you want to look at it). Do you conduct the beat ahead of the performers or are all of you in time together? Any comments in general about this?

AeroMaestro3 karma

Depends on the orchestra and it depends on the piece! Here's a classicFM article on the subject from October.

It's a really hard subject to explain. But, in general, I find that the really great orchestras who play more together than other ensembles, and have a long history and tradition together, tend to play further behind the beat. That's because the musicians are relying more on each other than they are relying on the conductor. They see so many conductors day in and day out who all have different styles, so they learn to watch and trust each other, and they develop their own center of rhythm.

An interesting thing I've noticed about myself:When I'm conducting with the score, I'm more likely to conduct ahead of the sound of the orchestra. When I'm conducting from memory, we're much more closely lined up. Not saying one is better than another --- as long as the orchestra is together with each other, I don't mind if they're together with me. It's all about how it sounds.

con_moto3 karma

Kind of a silly question, but I always wonder - do you have your own batons that you take with you to guest conduct, or does each symphony have a collection of batons that you choose from? Is baton choice personal or is one baton as good as another?

AeroMaestro6 karma

I'll tell you a secret. They're just sticks. There's no magic to them.

But, yes, I do carry my own with me, and I do have personal preferences for what's comfortable. Every conductor has their own ideas of what's good. We all carry our own batons around, and I've never heard of an orchestra having a "house stick" for guest conductors to use. But maybe the next time I guest conduct I'll ask and see what they come up with. :)

Here's a photo of my baton case that I carry everywhere.

I've got six batons in there, and use some different ones for different types of performances. But the one I use often is on top, with the handle on the right. It's made by CustomBatons.com, has a wooden handle with a fiberglass shaft, and it's balanced with a brass weight in the end of the handle.

But I recently met a colleague whose baton handle was the cork from a champagne bottle he'd enjoyed at a happy event. He just jammed the cork on the end of a stick and enjoys using it for its sentimental value.

But they're really just sticks. No magic.

animrast3 karma

Where did you purchase your baton case?

AeroMaestro2 karma

It's nothing special. I got it from Mollard Batons.

animrast2 karma

Thanks.

AeroMaestro2 karma

Sure. Just beware that that case will eventually warp all your wooden batons into bananas. But I switched to fiberglass about six years ago and I'm very happy I did.

animrast2 karma

Good to know—was planning on purchasing one for a gift.

AeroMaestro2 karma

I've had mine nearly 20 years and it's still in good condition, for what that's worth.

Icy_Dice3 karma

my mom(who's also a conductor) has a special baton(got it as a gift and I'm not sure why she always keeps it in the car. emergency baton?) and then her work baton she keeps in her bag or at work.

as for the rest of the question, I would have to ask her...

AeroMaestro2 karma

I always keep a tuxedo in my trunk for emergencies.

ben1752 karma

What do you love most about your job?

AeroMaestro3 karma

I thank my lucky stars every day to have this job. Very few people get to do what I do for a living, and it keeps me motivated to think about how desperately I wanted to get here when I wasn’t working.

Some things that give me great satisfaction:

  • A good, productive rehearsal. I love to dig into the details of a piece together with the orchestra, to discover things they’ve found that I haven’t, and to share what I know and love about the piece. I like rehearsals better than performances.

  • I get a lasting feeling of euphoria after a long day studying a score. That process of digging into a masterpiece and making discoveries about its details feels like I’m having a great chat with the composer. When I’ve had a good day of score study, I feel happy and content and cheerful the rest of the day.

  • The best moments in performance are when I catch a musician’s eyes and we share a moment of enjoyment together. Sometimes it’s when they play a great solo and I’m showing my appreciation. Sometimes it’s when they’re playing a simple, repetitive figure and they’re really working to make it great and they glance up and see me enjoying their work and we smile together. I mean, geez! We’re so lucky to be musicians!

Mantisbog2 karma

Why do the conductors get all the spotlight when the instrumentalists are doing all the hard work?

AeroMaestro2 karma

It's a valid question without a clear answer. But conductors became much more important and necessary to performances with pieces composed from about 1830 onward. By the 1890s-1960s, we had some major superstar conductors who really built up a cult of the conductor, as the most important person in the room. Think of the old Looney Toons cartoon where Bugs pretends to be Leopold Stokowski, and the outlandish reverence the musicians give to him. Huge personalities like Leopold Stokowski, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, and Herbert von Karajan built up their own image to a status, perhaps, beyond where it should've been. The closest we have now to a superstar conductor is Gustavo Dudamel.

And some old-school conductors, like Toscanini, Reiner, and Szell, were famous for their tempers---screaming at musicians, throwing things, and generally beating/berating/whipping their ensembles into the world-class orchestras they are today. (Modern conductors don't get away with this behavior, except maybe Jaap van Sweden or Christian Thielemann.)

Which is not to say that these guys aren't/weren't terrific musicians. It's just that they built up a huge following of fans who thought that they were magical gurus who shaped great concerts.

That being said, it's something I think about a lot, and I do my best to make sure the musicians get the credit they deserve, since, as you say, they're the ones doing the work. If we use a football team as a metaphor, I think of the conductor as the coach, the concertmaster as the quarterback, and the rest of the musicians as the team. Yes, the coach gets the gatorade thrown on him, and he and the quarterback usually do the post-game interviews, but hopefully we recognize that a football win or a great concert is a team effort.

jednorazowa2 karma

Do professional orchestra musicians practice individually on their own time in addition to formal rehearsals? Or are the orchestra rehearsals that are part of their job all they need?

AeroMaestro2 karma

Absolutely, they practice on their own!
As musicians become better and get older, we become our own best teachers. We learn how to analyze and diagnose our own strengths and weaknesses, and practice much more effectively and efficiently.

How many hours a day a person practices is unique to the individual, but every professional musician has certain things they need to practice before they get to the first rehearsal, and often have some things they need to practice to improve in between rehearsals.

TNUGS2 karma

1) what are you listening for in a double bass audition, especially the typical Beethoven, Mozart, and Strauss excerpts?

2) will you ever program a full performance of Gliere's massive third symphony?

AeroMaestro2 karma

1) what are you listening for in a double bass audition, especially the typical Beethoven, Mozart, and Strauss excerpts?

For Beethoven, I'm looking for an evenness of sound from top to bottom, a clear control of the bow, and a sense of style and technique.

For Mozart I'm listening for sound quality, intonation, and phrasing.

For Strauss I'm listening for strength, tone quality, expression, and understanding of context.

2) will you ever program a full performance of Gliere's massive third symphony?

Maybe! I don't think I've ever heard it -- so I'll add it to my listening queue.

Wulfyrn2 karma

If you've ever conducted Mahler's Fifth Symphony, do you prefer the original, faster interpretation of the Adagietto movement (Walter, Mengelberg, etc) or the modern slower interpretation such as in Leonard Bernstein's recordings?

AeroMaestro2 karma

Mahler tempos can be debated forever and ever and ever. And Mahler didn't help, since he changed his own mind lots of times, including in the fifth symphony.

So the very real answer is that tempi need to work for the ensemble, the venue, the conductor, and the audience. And that needs to be balanced with the instructions the composer put down on the page. So Lenny, with his heart on his sleeve and deep passion for Mahler, can pull off a super-slow tempo of the Adagietto that I couldn't do even if I wanted to. And if you tried to play that slow tempo in a room with no reverb vs a room with lots of ring to it, you get different results.

Many people believe there's a precise and "correct" tempo to pieces, and often it's the tempo they've heard in their favorite recording. But I adjust tempos all the time. Sometimes the appropriate tempo for a Saturday night performance is different even from the appropriate tempo for Sunday afternoon!

ANITIX872 karma

How do you find/discover/get new works from new composers? What determines whether a work is worthy of your consideration for programming? As a composer whose just finished my first full orchestral work, I'm struggling to find the correct network and avenues to getting my music critiqued and [eventually] performed. The stuff I've written to this point is for solo, duet, or ensemble and I don't have an academic vein to tap into since I didn't go to school for anything musical (though I've been playing piano and violin my whole life).

AeroMaestro1 karma

Composers send me their materials all the time! It's a good skill for you to develop --- you've got to become your own greatest advocate until there's enough momentum behind your work that it's getting performed without your involvement.

Some quick advice --- and it's from personal experience; others may have different opinions.

If you're going to send a score to me, I'd prefer a PDF over a printed score. Printed scores get put in a pile on my desk, and they're pretty much forgotten there until the next time I clean up, when they get thrown away. But I put PDFs in my "Composer perusal scores" folder on my computer, and I go through them every year when I'm looking for new works to program.

My other advice is that composers also need to have at least some basic conducting skills. The quickest way to get your piece examined by others is to have a recording already. So put together your own ensemble, conduct it yourself, and record it. It's much easier to "sell" your piece to somebody when they can see it's already been played (and therefore it's play-able) and can hear its merits right away.

Also, the Internet makes it easier than ever to self-publish. Make a website. Put up some sample scores, some recordings, etc. Make a little online store where people can buy the performance materials directly from you in PDF form, and bam -- you can sell your music without having to do any further work.

spainguy2 karma

I remember seeing, on TV several decades ago, a politician attempting to conduct a small orchestra, I cringed. Could you conduct a political party succesfully?

AeroMaestro1 karma

We had an audience member come into the orchestra office today and he said “I’d love to play in the orchestra but I’m not a musician. What instrument should I pick up to ensure my admission to the group?”

My answer?

“Your checkbook.”

So... maybe I’d do OK in US politics.

Kierkegaardensalad2 karma

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions!

I've always found it interesting to observe the interpersonal dynamics between conductor and orchestra. In my understanding the orchestra is the conductor's instrument, and should be incredibly responsive to their conducting. Is this a correct way of understanding it? And, if so, have you ever had to deal with musicians who don't see it this way? Or, if not, how do you understand your relationship to the orchestra you're working with?

AeroMaestro3 karma

I'm happiest when I'm working together with the musicians of the orchestra. I love it when they have ideas of their own, especially when they have different ideas from what I'd prepared! The best moments in performance are when things are going great and the musicians see me enjoying myself and I see them enjoying themselves. We're so lucky to get to do what we do!

Yes, an orchestra is a conductor's instrument, but I don't take that to mean that they're my servants. Instead it's my job to be the best conductor I can in order to allow my instrument to sound its very best.

That's also the hard thing about learning to be a conductor -- if you don't have an ensemble to actually conduct, it's hard to improve. It'd be like learning to play the violin without actually having a violin to play.

LabyrinthConvention2 karma

Hi, thanks for coming! Howdy from Texas! Since I have no knowledge of classical music outside of being a lifelong listener (oh, and I've seen "Mozart), it is both fun and edifying to be able to stream classical radio stations from all over the US and the world, particularly programs that discuss the music such as Exploring Music WFMT and the BBC's Composer of the Week.

Does the online world affect your job or orchestra in any way, or do you have any other comment?

(edit: meant to comment on the wonderful Youtube links you've provided in your replies as an example of how profoundly the internet has made access to information and classical music readily available)

AeroMaestro4 karma

Howdy Howdy Howdy!

Of course the online world affects my job, just like it affects everybody! I'm so grateful to have a world of music and repertoire and examples of what other orchestras are doing at my fingertips. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music and Naxos Music Library are so extraordinary --- dozens of recordings of almost any repertoire you can think of!

We also now have resources like IMSLP.org, that provide public domain sheet music for free. Need to perform a Mozart aria next week? It's online in PDF format, ready to go. It's OK. Mozart isn't collecting royalties on it anymore. (And IMSLP does make a good-faith effort to respect copyright law wherever applicable.)

Something listeners might not have thought about is that the Internet has greatly changed the audition process for musicians. Many music festivals, competitions, job applications, etc allow musicians to send links to recordings or videos of their performances for review. The old days of dubbing cassettes, burning DVDs, copying CDs, etc are gone. Now we can just drop a performance on youtube as an unlisted link and email it away.

animrast2 karma

What direction do you see orchestras going in the next 50-100 years? What are your pet peeves of conductors or orchestral musicians?

AeroMaestro3 karma

Onward and upward! Getting better all the time. And I'm very happy that regional professional orchestras are growing more quickly than other types of ensembles. Go hear your local orchestra, wherever you are. I'll bet they're pretty darn good.

My biggest pet peeve isn't specifically related to conductors or orchestral musicians, but to presenters of all types. I absolutely LOATHE the phrase "sit back and relax..." Unless I were a massage therapist or hypnotist, I'd definitely prefer my audience to "sit up and engage and get hyped for" what we're about to present.

animrast3 karma

Glad to see that you’re optimistic. Our local orchestra is the Portland (ME) Symphony Orchestra.

AeroMaestro3 karma

They're a fantastic orchestra! I guest conducted there in 2009, I think. It was a pops show called "Radio Days" with a group called Five by Design. Maybe you were there! And Robert Moody has been a good friend and colleague for years.

urbanstrata2 karma

  1. Taking into account ticket sales, CD/streaming sales, and other means by which the market for classical music supports itself, are you generally more optimistic or pessimistic about the future of classical music in America?

  2. What do you think are some of the best ways for classical music organizations to create new fans in younger generations? For example, is the answer programming more Star Wars or Final Fantasy concerts vs. teaching younger fans to love Beethoven or Mahler? Is the answer relaxing the environment, like casual dress and alcoholic beverages in the concert hall?

AeroMaestro5 karma

Taking into account ticket sales, CD/streaming sales, and other means by which the market for classical music supports itself, are you generally more optimistic or pessimistic about the future of classical music in America?

Optimistic. Orchestras keep getting better, and we're churning out great musicians faster than ever. As technology has made it easier for more niche groups of fandom to find each other, relatively obscure interests (like orchestral music, for example) are much easier to cultivate and dig into.

And ticket sales aren't slumping everywhere, despite what media headlines would have you believe. In Grand Junction, for example, our subscription sales are up 50% this year over last year! Many other orchestras have their own similar success stories. The orchestral world has figured out, just like the pop music world, that record sales aren't the only barometer of success, and that live performances provide an experience one can't get anywhere else.

What do you think are some of the best ways for classical music organizations to create new fans in younger generations? For example, is the answer programming more Star Wars or Final Fantasy concerts vs. teaching younger fans to love Beethoven or Mahler? Is the answer relaxing the environment, like casual dress and alcoholic beverages in the concert hall?

This is debated in every orchestra board room around the world, and probably has been for the past 80 years. Look, our audiences tend to be older people. That doesn't bother/scare me. We're making more old people all the time! Chances are pretty good that you are an old person yourself, or that you eventually will be. Some young people enjoy orchestral music, and I'm super happy about that and love them for it, but some others don't, and I'm OK with that. The percentage of old people who like orchestral music is higher than the percentage of young people who like orchestral music. And not every old person likes orchestral music. I'm OK with that.

How many kids do you know who like broccoli and Brussels sprouts? I happen to love broccoli and Brussels sprouts, but I'm 38. When I was 10, I wouldn't touch them. So I think orchestras should continue to serve "healthy food" and young people will have the opportunity to taste it. If they like it, GREAT! If they don't, then I'm pretty confident that many will eventually develop a taste for it with repeated exposure.

(Yes, of course, we can serve chocolate and ice cream sometimes --- I love a good ice cream, just as much as I love the music of Final Fantasy and Zelda and Star Wars. Some people like a caramel latte, and some people like a black coffee. I think we can continue to serve both and reach as many people as possible.)

Did I mix up too many metaphors here?

urbanstrata2 karma

Thanks for the reply! Glad to see you're optimistic. :)

AeroMaestro2 karma

Happy listening!

SubwayPizzaRat2 karma

How does one go from being a regular musician to conducting an orchestra? Also what skills does a conductor have that an ordinary musician doesn't?

AeroMaestro1 karma

The glib answer is that to be a conductor, all you need to do is start conducting. But that's also the serious answer. If you're thinking about starting conducting, then create projects for yourself to conduct. People want conductors with experience, and when you're starting out, very few people will give you the opportunity to conduct unless you create it for yourself.

Skills that a conductor needs that not every musician needs are:

  • Score reading, clefs, and transpositions. When I'm looking at a page from the Nutcracker, I see every instrument's line at once. And I need to have the skills to understand the relationship from one instrument to another, and to be able to read every one of those lines. In front of me right now, I have a page with Flutes, Piccolo, Oboe, English Horn (in F), Clarinets in A, Bass clarinet in Bb, Bassoons, Horns (in F), Trumpets in A, First trombone in Tenor Clef, Second/Third Trombones/Tuba in Bass Clef, Timpani, Celeste, Harp, Violin I, Violin II, Viola (In alto clef), Cello (in bass clef, but often also in tenor clef), and Basses. That's a huge pile of things to keep track of, and individual musicians don't necessarily need to know how to transpose in A or Bb or F, or read Alto or Tenor clefs.

  • Interpersonal skills--schmoozing/politics. Individual musicians don't necessarily need to be great schmoozers, but it can help. I need to be able to "read a room" and manage peoples' egos and emotions. I have to do a lot of handshaking and fundraising. I serve as "the face of the orchestra" and that means I spend a lot of time talking to lots of people who the other musicians don't need to talk to.

  • Business/organizational skills. I have to plan and manage rehearsals, collaborate with personnel manager, librarian, administration, board members, etc etc etc. (One of the most satisfying experiences for me is when I've spent a lot of time planning out a rehearsal, and we get everything done that I'd planned, and finish at exactly the right time.) In all cases, I need to be not only the Artistic leader of the room, but I also have to have a thorough understanding of the organizational and financial costs of the performances we put on.

There are lots of other skills it's important for a conductor to have, but many of those overlap with what it takes to be a good musician in general. Discipline/Work Ethic, Understanding of History and Context, etc etc etc.

niachantilly2 karma

When did you take your first music class? Or are you self-taught?

AeroMaestro3 karma

I'm what I call a "first generation musician." Nobody else in my family is a musician. My mother made her three kids take piano lessons because she felt as if she'd missed out on something by not learning herself. So I started piano lessons at age 6, and went from there. I started playing trumpet in band in 5th grade. Then I earned a Bachelor's in Music Education, and a Master's and Doctorate in Orchestral Conducting.

Full-Of-Regrets2 karma

[deleted]

AeroMaestro1 karma

Depends. Are you a musician of some type? That helps. ;)

If you're not a musician, do you have a pile of spare cash? That helps, too.

Look into your local orchestra. Lots of orchestras have a cute auction to conduct the ensemble as a fundraiser. (Boston pops has had an unwritten rule for decades that $10,000 gets you on the podium for Stars and Stripes Forever.) When I was Director of Orchestras at Kent State University, we had an annual auction to conduct the orchestra, and that usually went for around $3,500.

Heck, Leonard Bernstein got his first opportunity as a teenager with the Boston Pops by winning a trivia contest from a local radio station!

Or if you've got piles of cash, you can rent the hall and the orchestra and program whatever you like.

Examples:

And there are companies that specialize in connecting eastern European orchestras with American aspiring conductors. They have a pretty much set price list. Want 2 rehearsals? Want 3 rehearsals? Want a review in the local paper? It's all available as a package.

(If you ever see a conductor's bio and it says something like "has recently made his European conducting debut with ____" in Romania or Bulgaria, it's pretty likely an orchestra for hire.)

Multidroideka2 karma

Aren't conductors mostly needed when preparing the piece? They're always at the performance because they have led the orchestra (of course they are needed as you said in the more difficult performances).

AeroMaestro1 karma

Most of the work happens in rehearsals. That's where conductors and orchestras have some back and forth and really work out the details. But the performance is a different process.

In a rehearsal, I'm constantly analyzing what's being played and making a mental list of what needs to be fixed and how much time we have left to get it all done. I'm thinking about where to stop so we can go back and work things out. I'm thinking about what's working and what isn't.

But in a performance my mindset has to change. In the concert I'm thinking only about the NOW and the future. Where are we in the piece? What's coming up next? How can I be the most helpful? What do we need to add/remove/adjust right now to best set up what's coming in a moment? I have to forget about the past. Any note that's gone by is gone and my job is all about the next note.

So, yes, the conductor is still useful in the performance. But the job is different.

endercoaster2 karma

Do you think there's room for works more modern and avant garde composers like Penderecki and Stockhausen in the programs of major symphonies, or will the whims of an older donor base keep these relegated to more niche performances?

AeroMaestro1 karma

Yes.
But it requires a music director to be a champion for these pieces. Donors tend to support projects that the orchestra’s leaders are passionate about and dedicated to.

death_ship2 karma

Best obscure orchestral work?

AeroMaestro2 karma

Victor Herbert - Serenade for Strings, Op. 12

shitsouttitsout2 karma

i already know about conducting because ive done it! yaaaaaaay!

you making any good money?

AeroMaestro1 karma

Congratulations!

I make enough money that I don't have to do any outside work to make ends meet, and I don't worry about paying my bills. I'd consider that to be "good money."

TopsyTurnip2 karma

Hello! Aspiring conductor here, still yet to enter grad school. I have two questions, if that's alright:

1) If you could send words of advice to your younger self on how to be successful doing this as a career, what would you say?

2) When you are preparing to conduct a new piece, whether that be established repertoire that you haven't yet learned, or a new modern compositions, what is your general score study process? What do you prioritize before the first rehearsal, and what (if anything) do you allow yourself to pick up or work out as you go?

Thank you for your time Maestro!

AeroMaestro2 karma

1) If you could send words of advice to your younger self on how to be successful doing this as a career, what would you say?

Networking is an extremely important part of this business, especially when you're starting out. Go to every rehearsal/concert you possibly can. Learn what to do and what not to do from every conductor you observe. And then go tell that conductor that you learned a great deal and you think they're great. That might sometimes feel disingenuous, but conductors are mostly in need of a kind word from somebody, and the more time you spend showing a conductor your interest in their work, the more likely they are to give you an opportunity. I didn't start making a concerted effort to network until I was in my 30s, and I'm sure it slowed my progress.

2) When you are preparing to conduct a new piece, whether that be established repertoire that you haven't yet learned, or a new modern compositions, what is your general score study process? What do you prioritize before the first rehearsal, and what (if anything) do you allow yourself to pick up or work out as you go?

Score study is a long process, and it's a little bit specific to the individual, but the more scores you study, the better you'll become at figuring out your own best process.

Here's a very abridged version of how it works for me, when I'm starting a score completely from scratch. The process is the same whether it's a new composition or an established masterwork.

  • Sit in a comfy chair and read through the whole score cover to cover. That includes any preface material, instrumentation lists, editor's notes, etc, before the actual notes. I do my best to just read through without stopping. Tempo isn't necessarily a concern, and I know I gloss over a lot of things in this first step. But the important part of this step is to get a sense of the overall size and scope of the piece. To get a feeling for how it's put together. To find unusual instruments or meters or strange foreign terms. Just go through the whole thing and try to imagine its sound as best as possible, but make sure you look at every page.

  • Then I break the piece into sections and examine how much time I have to study. For example, I just went through the Nutcracker for the first time. It's got over 20 different movements. I looked at my calendar (I had 6 weeks before the first rehearsal) and made a plan for which movements I'd study on which days, and added in some "catch up" days for times when I was sure I'd get behind.

  • Then I go through each movement one at a time, and I start analyzing. The first thing I do is a harmonic analysis. I go one note at a time and look vertically up and down the whole page and work out what chord the orchestra is playing. I write the chords out in quasi-jazz notation, because I have a jazz background and those chord symbols make sense to me. If I see a chord like C, E, G, A# (which comes up all the time in the Nutracker) I'll usually write it as a C7 chord, even though I know it's a German augmented sixth. I write C7 because that's what the chord sounds like, even if it isn't the chord's function. That's what works for me. I slowly and carefully go through the whole movement. This process forces me to examine every single note in the score. This is where I figure out transpositions and clefs, where I look at discrepancies in articulations between one instrument and another, and where I find typos in the score. It's the longest part of score study, but for me it's the most valuable.

  • After I've done a harmonic analysis of the whole movement, then I go back and mark in phrases. I like to draw big black lines down the page, but it isn't always necessary. I do this step after the harmonic analysis because sometimes having the chords worked out can help me figure out where the cadences are, especially if the harmony is moving differently from the melody. At the top of the score I mark out phrase patterns. So if a phrase repeats 4 times in a sequence, I'll write (1/4), 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 at the top of each phrase, so when I'm conducting I can see the first marking, know that it's a sequence that's played four times, and then spend my energy pacing the longer form of the piece without looking at every note underneath.

  • After I've done the phraseology, I work out the form of the movement. I'll write in things like Intro, Exposition, Primary Theme, Secondary Theme, etc etc etc. If it's a last-movement rondo, it's really helpful to me to mark in a map to show me where I am in the movement at any one time. Abacaba, aBacaba, abAcaba, etc. I write out a formal analysis of the movement so I can understand the big picture of the piece's form, and develop a sense for how to pace the movement.

  • THEN I start practicing how I'll actually conduct the movement. I look for the important changes first -- tempo/meter changes, accels, rits, and fermatas. I'll make decisions about fermatas---do we cutoff after? Do we pause before going on? Do we play through without a break? And I'll work out a general plan for how to get through the piece physically. At this stage I write a lot of "artsy" notes to myself in the score. What do I want the music to sound like in this measure? I write in adjectives and reminders to myself. I won't usually see those when I'm performing, but the act of writing the down solidifies them in my mind. This part of the score study, the "figuring out how to move my arms" is now the shortest part of my process, but when I was younger I spent a lot more time on it. I used to get a notebook and write down one phrase at a time, everything I could think of that was important to the performance. For example: "m1-4, Violin I melody. No pressure on the strings, long line. Allow a slight crescendo the the high point on m. 3. Violas have rhythm -- maintain clarity without volume." And I'd write that out for the whole movement.

  • And then I go on to the next movement!

  • After I've done this process for every section of the piece, then I start thinking long-form and big picture. I test my memory by playing through the whole piece in my mind while I'm in the shower. (In fast-forward. I don't take symphony-length showers.) I might listen to a recording or two at this point to discover some things that I missed or hadn't considered while I was doing my own study. But I don't want to listen to a recording more than once. By this time I've already formed my own opinions about the music and they're informed by my study. But recordings can teach us about traditions we didn't know about, and they can challenge our ideas. Sometimes I've got a tempo in mind and find a recording with a similar tempo and discover that it just doesn't work. So I rework my thoughts.

So there's an overall Big Picture-Harmonies-Melodies-Form-Big Picture shape to the process. I'd estimate that, when I really put the work into a piece, I spend roughly one hour of score study time for each minute of performance time.

And that's ALL before the first rehearsal. I want to be 100% prepared to perform the piece before the first rehearsal. My personal motto is "Prepare to perform with the Berlin Phil. Every time. You might not get Berlin Phil's sound, but at least you can be prepared for it if you do."

Of course there are things that come up in rehearsal that I'd planned one way and I discover they don't work with the ensemble. Sometimes we need to adjust. On the other hand, sometimes there are things that I have planned for a piece that never quite work in rehearsal, but I keep doing them exactly the same way, and they suddenly work when the orchestra "turns it on" for the performance. It takes a lot of experience to know in a rehearsal what is going to work on Saturday night, even when it isn't working on Thursday afternoon.

brownsquared2 karma

Going to preface that I have zero musical abilities or background - but I've always wondered this:

In church when we sing hymns, they're always some lady up front waving her arms, presumably conducting, except I have no idea how to 'read' her, and I'm not sure the organ player even looks at her, so I'm not sure she's really leading anyone? Is she necessary by any degree? Am I the only one who has no idea?

Obviously in a fancy orchestra with many many parts, it's very good to have a conductor keeping everyone together and such. Or even in a church choir when you're putting together different voices and pieces.

When the entire congregation sings a simple hymn during regular Sunday services however? Not in a performance capacity or anything like that. Is a conductor necessary?

AeroMaestro1 karma

Maybe not. But for those people in the congregation who do watch her, she might be helping. I doubt she's hurting anything.

DontTreadOnMe7777772 karma

Hi, French horn player for ~8 years here, represented Colorado in Europe as part of a band/orchestra.

When you get a piece, do you ever decide to give it your own personal flourishes (say, emphasize the dynamic contrast more, take a non-written tempo)? Do you think that conductors have their own personal styles that end up influencing the way their bands play the music?

AeroMaestro2 karma

Sure I do! Of course, it's my job to honor and respect and do my best to bring out what the composer has written. But that doesn't mean we can't add subtle things that make a difference, and often I try to add things that I think can help bring out what the composer intended but didn't necessarily write out. It depends on the composer.

DontTreadOnMe7777772 karma

Is there any particular things you like adding the most? Or does it really just depend on the piece?

AeroMaestro1 karma

Really depends. I'm hard-pressed to think of a specific example right now.

OK -- well, in The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky has written a gorgeous scene for the Snow Queen near the end of Act I. It has these huge, long buildups that just crash over you. But sometimes they're just... toooo long. It's hard for the orchestra to manage a very long crescendo when it's going from forte to triple forte at a slow tempo over 32 measures. So I go a bit faster. I add in a gradual accelerando throughout the crescendo and I pull it back just before the peak, so we can return to the original tempo before the next phrase. Tchaikovsky didn't write in that rubato, but I very much doubt he'd object to it, and my whole goal is to more effectively bring out the extraordinary crescendo he's composed.

flynnacus2 karma

How do conductors get noticed? How did you manage to land two conducting jobs? I'm studying music education currently, and will then study orchestral conducting after that. But how do I set myself apart from other conductors who want the same job?

I'm also a composer for concert band works. I already have a few pieces about to be published. Is their anyway I could use this to my advantage of getting a good conducting job in the future?

AeroMaestro2 karma

I wish I had a magical answer for you. But the best policy is perseverance. I have well over 200 rejection letters in my stack.

If you know exactly what you want, go after it. And try again and again if you don't get there at first. If you don't know what you want, then apply for and participate in everything you possibly can. As you gain experiences you'll develop a better sense for what kind of gig works for you and what kind of gig turns out to be different from what you'd expected.

How did I land the jobs I have now? I gradually built up experience and a resume that fit what those jobs were looking for. Then I interviewed and auditioned and I was the best fit for the job. There have been other gigs I thought I wanted, but didn't turn out to be the best fit. You can't take that personally. The gigs that work out are the ones that are looking for somebody like you, and the gigs that don't work out are the ones where they want something else.

Being a composer definitely helps. Will it get you a job? Maybe. Maybe not. But composing helps strengthen your musical chops. Depends on the kind of job you're after. People are looking for a certain set of skills when they want a music director, which is different from the skills they'd want for an assistant conductor, which is different from the skills they'd want for a college orchestra director, which is different from the skills they'd want for a high school youth orchestra director.

So, again, if you think you know exactly the kind of conducting job you want, then go for it again and again until you get it! And if you don't think you know exactly what you're after, then apply for everything and take every job that comes your way until you have the experience to go for something more tailored to your skills and ambitions.

NewAgeNeoHipster2 karma

Flagstaff question: favorite brewery and favorite thai place?

Graduated in 2013 and miss it dearly.

AeroMaestro2 karma

Dangerous questions to answer in a public forum! Right now my favorite Thai restaurant is Swaddee, but maybe that's because it's almost next door to the Flagstaff Symphony office. And the only brewery I've been to so far is the Lumberyard, so let's say it's my favorite by default.

Theecats2 karma

Hello! I am a third year music ed major right now(I play the good ole bass bone) but I would really like to become more of a conductor. I've done conducting for marching bands that I've taught but I really want to get more into learning how to conduct wind ensembles and orchestras better. How should I go about learning more? Should I go to a conductor at my school that I admire and ask them if they'd be willing to teach me some stuff? Who are some conductors I should look up to watch and study what they do?

Also, what's your opinion of Holst suites for military band?

AeroMaestro1 karma

Also, what's your opinion of Holst suites for military band?

They're great! They get played all the time because they're masterworks. Also, they're both great training pieces for beginning conductors.

The very first conducting project I put together for myself was a brass quintet arrangement of the Second Suite in F. No, it didn't really need a conductor, but I was already playing in a quintet, so those folks were willing to help me gain some experience by playing while I learned to flap my arms. In any case, the Song of the Blacksmith is a great conducting conundrum to work out for a beginning conductor.

AeroMaestro1 karma

A few points to consider--

Be the best musician you can possibly be, on the trombone or otherwise.

If you want to conduct orchestras you need to know how to talk to string players. Learn to play a string instrument. You don't have to be Joshua Bell, but you need to experience the basics. More than half of anything a conductor says to an orchestra is to the strings. Rent or borrow an instrument and take a few lessons. Or make a string-player friend and trade lessons. Lots of people want to try out the trombone, for some reason.

Being a trombone player won't hurt your chances---if you're a great trombone player. If you're mediocre on your own instrument, you have no credibility. See point #1.

A conductor is only a conductor if he or she is conducting. Otherwise you're just somebody carrying around some scores. Don't wait for somebody to give you an opportunity. Create your own. Put together ensembles to conduct. Start now. You need to develop the interpersonal skills required to put together a group of musicians and lead them. The only way to learn that skill is to do it. You can start simple. Put together a trombone quartet with some friends. Conduct them. Put together something bigger for the next project. Conduct. Learn. Conduct some more.

Is the field competitive? HA! Competitive isn't the word for it. The people who succeed are either insanely skilled and talented, or they're the ones who don't quit through years of hardship. I've been conducting professionally for 15 years. But I have a stack of over 200 reject letters collected in my career. And I'm doing very well now.

Start attending orchestra rehearsals whenever and wherever you can. Learn what works and what doesn't. Discover different leadership and musical styles and traditions. Orchestras operate very differently from bands. And professional orchestras operate very differently from student ensembles. You need to see how it's done at every level.

At this stage in your career, start asking to hang around. If there's a youth orchestra in your town, or at your school, go talk to the conductor. Ask if you can watch. Ask if you can take lessons. Ask if you can get some time with the group. Don't be discouraged if the answer is no. Ask somebody else. Build your own group. Go do it.

(I'm happy to talk more about the career if you want. PM me if you like.)

CrownStarr2 karma

Haven’t read the whole thread, so apologies if you answered this already.

Have you ever realized on the podium that an ensemble is 100% not following you, whether through incompetence or distrust? How did you handle it?

I’m a musician myself who does a fair amount of band/orchestral performing and I’ve definitely been in some situations (especially auditions/clinics) where we all knew the person up there was waving their arms fruitlessly, and I’m always curious how self-aware they are.

EDIT: Do you ever announce/introduce music from the podium? Any thoughts on the topic in general? Doing that and doing it well is a pet cause of mine, though not as a conductor.

AeroMaestro2 karma

Have you ever realized on the podium that an ensemble is 100% not following you, whether through incompetence or distrust? How did you handle it?

Sure, there have been plenty of times when I was aware the orchestra wasn't in sync with me. Most often that's because it's a less-experienced ensemble, and they're working so hard to just play the right notes in the right order that they simply can't spare the extra mental energy and focus to see what I'm doing, or what any of their peers are doing, for that matter. I wouldn't call it "incompetence"; it's more of a lack of experience.

I’m a musician myself who does a fair amount of band/orchestral performing and I’ve definitely been in some situations (especially auditions/clinics) where we all knew the person up there was waving their arms fruitlessly, and I’m always curious how self-aware they are.

An ensemble not working in sync with me out of "distrust"? I don't think it's happened to me. But, then again, if a conductor is so weak that the orchestra has to fight through it despite what he's doing on the podium, then that conductor is unlikely to realize that's the problem at all.

But if you've played for some conductor auditions, you might've seen this: one of my favorite things about watching a beginning conductor when they get in front of the orchestra for the first time --- their tempo tends to get slower and slower. They enjoy the sound of being up front so much, and don't have a strong sense of their place as the leader, so they tend to start listening more than leading, and the orchestra just gets slower and slower and slower. And usually louder, too. It's funny to me every time, and I'm sure I was in that position when I was a beginner, too.

EDIT: Do you ever announce/introduce music from the podium? Any thoughts on the topic in general? Doing that and doing it well is a pet cause of mine, though not as a conductor.

I do talk to the audience, but not between pieces. It interrupts the flow of the show, and irritates the musicians who have to sit through it. I've found the best compromise for me is to talk during intermission. That way I can discuss with the audience the pieces they've just heard and how they relate to what they're about to hear. And I think a lot of audience members appreciate having something to eliminate the awkwardness of waiting around for 15-20 minutes in intermission.

Pops shows, though, really need somebody to be the host/MC, and I'm happy to do that between numbers. But I come from a background as an actor, so I'm more comfortable talking to an audience than many of my peers.

ScarecrowPlayboy2 karma

Hello fellow FPV'r. I had chatted with you briefly from another board when you moved there. I was hoping to get one of my quads, tri, or Skyhunter up and running and head out somewhere with you, but became consumed by the great mountain biking and recently moved away before getting anything up and running. Maybe next year.

I have been really getting into and jamming out to Camille Saint-Saëns pieces at work and starting to appreciate orchestral music in general. Being new to it, I was curious if there are any good orchestras or pieces that have a strong middle eastern sound to them that you know of? I'm not finding much with google.

AeroMaestro1 karma

Hi there, Scarecrow! Sorry you moved away from Junction before we got a chance to fly together. I recently built a racer quad and I've been having a blast shredding around in the desert. And I got myself a new Mavic that I just flew on the bookcliffs yesterday. And I have my skyhunter 90% complete, but now that it's gotten colder out, I've lost the willpower to finish it up and take it out for tests.

Middle eastern stuff in orchestral music? There isn't much --- the two classical traditions don't have a whole lot in common. But for "old-school" pieces influenced by middle eastern culture, check out Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Or, in Mozart's time Turkish culture was in vogue, so lots of his pieces end in a "Turkish march." Beethoven's 9th symphony has a Turkish march in it, too.

If you just want some straight up awesome middle eastern music, google Umm Kulthum. She's amazing.

Balls23232 karma

I am a big Mahler fan, do my question to you is; What is your favorite Mahler symphony?

AeroMaestro1 karma

A quick ranking, with very little thought behind it: 1, 5, 2, 4, 7, 6, 3, 8

I'd probably put Das Lied von der Erde in there between 5 and 2, but Mahler didn't call it a symphony, even though it's as much a symphony as most of the others.

death_ship2 karma

what about the 9th?

AeroMaestro1 karma

Oh. Yeah.
1, 5, DLvdE, 9, 2, 4, 7, 6, 3, 8.

manofsax942 karma

Dr. Latshaw!

Thanks for doing this AMA, your thoughts are always insightful and helpful.

In the pursuit of promoting new music and music of living composers, how do you see the standard orchestral instrumentation changing, if at all, to adapt to this trend?

AeroMaestro1 karma

As a general trend, new music tends to use much more percussion than older music. And there's a pretty standard "new music ensemble" instrumentation with 13-18 players, pretty much one per instrument.

It means that orchestras have to be more flexible with how we plan out concerts and rehearsals in order to accommodate ensembles of varying size and instrumentation.

It doesn't make a lot of financial sense, for example, to program one new piece that requires ten extra wind and percussion players, on a program that is mostly Mozart.

Some composers understand that their pieces are more likely to be performed if they use a more "standard" orchestration, but I think a great piece is worthy of the effort even if it requires a lot of extra players or unusual instruments.

One of the new pieces I'd really like to program is Tan Dun's Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra. But it's going to require a huge number of percussionists, a lot of unusual or unique instruments, and some careful staging to avoid splashing water on the other instruments.

herrschzt2 karma

Do you have a high piano knowledge?

AeroMaestro3 karma

Do you have a high piano knowledge?

Yup. I can play the high keys and the low keys! ;)

Some conductors put a lot of importance on the piano, and others don't. I can play the piano reasonably well if I need to demonstrate how something should sound or the style I'm looking for, but I've never been a serious pianist.

I started piano lessons when I was six, and I've played ever since, but never like a "real" pianist. I played piano in jazz bands, and keyboards in funk bands, and I can improvise in the style of a Mozart sonata, but I couldn't actually play a Mozart sonata worth a darn.

Some conductors learn their scores at the piano --- they sit and play all the parts at the piano and learn it that way. I don't. I learn from the score and use my "inner ear" to imagine the sound as I go. When I encounter a chord that I can't imagine, or need to get a better sense for what something is going to sound like, then I go play it at the piano.

alphagardenflamingo2 karma

Hi, My two part question is more about the music than the conductor. Does the sheet music differ substantially for each instrument, and if so, how does anyone ever manage to compose a piece for a large orchestra ?. Sorry if this sounds a little vague.

AeroMaestro2 karma

Good question -- yes, the music differs for each musician. Every musician on stage has a part that shows only their own notes. They don't see all the other notes because they don't need all that clutter on the page in front of them. In the conductor's score, I have all the parts laid out in front of me. That's part of my responsibility as conductor --- to see and know and understand all the parts at once so I can help the orchestra fit them all together.

If you want to see what these look like, here's a PDF of the conductor's score for Beethoven's fifth symphony.

And here's a PDF of what the first violins see for Beethoven's fifth symphony.

How to people compose this stuff? Well, it takes a lot of time to learn how to write well for a full orchestra. But modern software helps make the parts. Programs like Sibelius or Finale let composers write everything into a full score on the screen, and then the program can pull out each part for individual musicians automatically. In "the olden days," all of this stuff had to be copied out by hand. That's why there are still some errors in the orchestra parts for pieces that were written hundreds of years ago! Nobody's taken the time to rewrite all those parts in many, many years.

master_sinfonian1 karma

Are you a Sinfonian?

AeroMaestro1 karma

I am not.

PM-ME-FEMALE-ARMPITS1 karma

do you need/like to use headphones? if yes, what do you use? ty

AeroMaestro2 karma

Sorry to disappoint, I’m not an audiophile nerd. I have two sets I use regularly.

For flying I have a set of Bose QC noise canceling headphones.

For everything else I’ve been using some cheapo Chinese knockoff AirPods.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0721XTRL2/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_JrdkAbSARXQ78

solutionsfirst1 karma

what outside interests do you put a good portion of time into?

how many hours a week do you put into music-related stuff?

liking or disliking music is based on culture and what you were influenced by

what are 3-5 specific ways music can be made better, and reach more users/ppl?

what's your happiest + unique life experience that others have not have?

what's your most memorable experience?

AeroMaestro1 karma

what outside interests do you put a good portion of time into?

I'm bigtime into radio controlled aircraft. I've been building and flying my own drones for years. If you check out my youtube channel, you'll see lots of drone photography among some conducting videos. I also like to get outside and hike or ski as often as possible. Somebody once asked Brahms what the secret was to being a great composer and he said "Spend a lot of time in the woods." I think he meant that literally.

how many hours a week do you put into music-related stuff?

As many as I can! But I don't work a normal 9-5 kind of job, so I'm always studying or thinking about repertoire. I'm never really on vacation, because there's always a pile of scores coming up for me to work on. But a reasonable metric for how much time I spend studying/rehearsing a piece is one hour for every minute of performance. The Nutcracker is about 85 minutes of music. I think saying I've put in 85 hours of score study over the past six weeks is pretty accurate. That's in addition to whatever else I'm studying, and the time I spend in the office being an administrator.

liking or disliking music is based on culture and what you were influenced by

I agree. But that doesn't mean I can't like and appreciate an Indian raga just because I happened to grow up in Ohio!

what are 3-5 specific ways music can be made better, and reach more users/ppl?

Specifically orchestral music? I think concerts need to be less stuffy. We need to worry less about people clapping between movements. We need to make sure concerts are at a time where the most people can attend. We need to really listen to new audience members when they talk about what kept them from coming to concerts in the first place, and make an effort to make it as easy as possible to get to an orchestra concert, and as welcoming and enjoyable an experience as possible. --- without ever sacrificing the quality of our musical performances.

what's your happiest + unique life experience that others have not have?

I get paid to stand in the best place in the concert hall and wave my arms around! That's pretty darn unique, I'd say. And the experience is pure joy for me every time I'm up there.

what's your most memorable experience?

Musical experience? I wasn't conducting. I was singing in a choir. We were on a tour of Europe and stopped at the Cathedral in Prague, not for a concert, but a tour. We were having a good time and were goofing around singing a bunch of songs out in the courtyard. But when we went inside the cathedral to see it, a huge crowd followed us inside, thinking we were singing a concert. So we did an impromptu performance of the Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem. The surprise of that profound concert, and the silence of the crowd and the magic of the sound in that space are things that won't leave me anytime soon.

solutionsfirst1 karma

on a tour of Europe and stopped at the Cathedral in Prague, not for a concert, but a tour. We were having a good time and were goofing around singing a bunch of songs out in the courtyard. But when we went inside the cathedral to see it, a huge crowd followed us inside, thinking we were singing a concert. So we did an impromptu performance of the Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem. The surprise of that profound concert,

sounds like a happy + unique life experience (guess i should ask many variations of this in the future to trigger their memories)

making progress - in the 'arts'

in the future you should do 'outside performances' filmed with drones or what they call 'on-site performances' i believe,

there are youtube videos for dance, as well as music, and those things had always blown my mind, and likely one of the best ever things i've ever seen

could do them for promos, and possibly why some of those things were done, could even be impromptu

amazingness comes from 1) specialisation + 2) luck

some topics are more towards 1 or 2

like olympic ice skating would be more towards 1

but a scientific discovery would have a larger variation between 1 and 2

a noble peace prize winning scientific discovery would be much more towards 2

so when someone from the 1800s with far less education in comparison to what we know today quips they like nature

this has nothing to do with music besides that it's a culturally created connotation (the relationship between music and nature is created by culture, by a person - because they felt like it)

liking & disliking any of the 'arts'

is fully based on culture

for example i dont like non-lyric music (music without lyrics)

i tried to test this out by listening to various music without lyrics but dont like any of them, besides very few, and it's most likely due to sounds i've liked and heard in the past (and thus have been 'made normalised with')

it's simple as to why, i never, like many, been acculturated to music

so this topic is not something that is a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, it is how music and all the of the 'arts' works

w/e is in this book of 'how music works' -- https://www.amazon.com/How-Music-Works-David-Byrne/dp/1936365537

clearly is not accurate, especially considering it doesn't have one of the highest ratings to signal its 'quality'

this overall leads into the large & significant problem of over-specialisation

because it is 'traditionally' difficult to say what is progress in music or the 'arts'

this specialisation leads to a kind black box that only few ppl like, and nobody else can understand, since those ppl in the black box are the ones that were cultured by w/e art it is

this is highlighted in that noteworthy secretly videoed experiment where josh groban or whoever it was playing some instrument with a donation basket in a busy train station, may have been nyc

and nobody noticed, not a damn soul -- and it is the power of music (when in solidarity) that we see when all the presentation and flourish are taken away

except for one person, she donated, but that's only cos she recognised the musician, and felt wonder & pity for how they could've ended up that way

most ppl are not able or equipped with the knowledge to be able to like or dislike informatively the over-specialisation done in the various 'arts'

because like wine, it has a learned 'taste', it is a culturally learned thing to like or dislike

but regardless of what users/ppl like or dislike, there can be still be progress in 'specialisation'

like in the sciences there is

and in the arts, one of those ways of progress is 'on-site performances'

or what i like to call,

on-space, meaningful experiences in real-space that has that 'wow' factor

in real-space

which interestingly & nicely used for my point, is very much akin to your 'most memorable experience' in europe

AeroMaestro1 karma

Thank you for your response. I enjoy thinking about these things.

Maybe, in the case of Joshua Bell playing violin in a Washington DC subway station, the crowd is so accustomed to ignoring street musicians that they ignored him the same way they ignore the terrible saxophonist honking at the next stop.

In any case, the original author of the article about Josh playing in the metro has a followup where he says the Internet response to the experiment got it all wrong.

aledaml1 karma

Hi, 26yo trumpet and French horn player here. What are your thoughts on the "movie with live orchestra" trend? If you've conducted any of these, what are some of the unique challenges that come with conducting a movie score with the movie? I've seen the Lord of the Rings (blew my socks off) and Jurassic Park with the Philadelphia Orchestra and think it just elevates the scores to another level.

AeroMaestro1 karma

It's a great idea, and all the major orchestras are jumping onto that ship for their pops shows.

What I like about it: Movie music is probably the most common way people hear an orchestral sound. These shows remind the audience that there's a real-live orchestra of real people behind those soundtracks, and that's a very good thing. The audience gets super-excited about these shows, and the orchestra is still the featured act. (In many pops shows, the orchestra just becomes background behind a rock band up front.)

What I don't like about it: The performance rights to these shows are very expensive. It means only the largest of professional ensembles can afford to mount these productions, and smaller orchestras (budget-wise) are left out.

Conducting a score with a movie is a very different skillset from conducting, say, a symphony. The conductor has a headset on with a "click track" that keeps the tempo in sync, and also has a video monitor with cues scrolling by underneath. That means the conductor needs to be both a leader of the ensemble and a slave to the technology. That can be a hard thing to balance, and not everybody can do it, or wants to do it.

FunkyTown3130 karma

As a transitional composer which do you prefer? Classical or romantic Beethoven.
Do you hate JS Bach? And why is the correct answer yes?
Favorite composer active anytime after 1900?

AeroMaestro2 karma

As a transitional composer which do you prefer? Classical or romantic Beethoven.

YES to both.

Do you hate JS Bach? And why is the correct answer yes?

Nah, I don't have Bach, but I also don't program him very often. The trouble with Baroque music in the orchestral world is that in the late 80s a group of real specialists arose in Britian who determined that there were "right" and "wrong" ways to perform that music. I think that kind of attitude is alienating to an audience and prefer to steer clear.

That being said, whenever I have an audience member say to me "you should play more Bach and Vivaldi!" I like to ask "what kind of mathematician/scientist/engineer are you?" People who prefer rules and organization over expression just tend to lean that way.

Favorite composer active anytime after 1900?

Maurice Ravel