conductor - The W1nners' Club

Really sorry to hear you’re no longer in gainful employment my friend. Everybody knows that working in an office with a whole load of other people isn’t always the easiest thing to do in life. That being said, throwing your keyboard across the room because somebody teased you about your new haircut may also be considered a little excessive behaviour-wise. Nevertheless, as a result of your inability to control your temper you are now unemployed.  It may be quite fun at first being able to go for all day drinking sessions with your mates that are either (a) also unemployed or (b) have never been employed, but at some point you’ll need to get your life back on track.

Have you ever considered becoming conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra? Apparently the job involves lots of hanging out with musicians and waving a little stick at them.

If pulling strange facial expressions whilst making hand gestures to someone that’s struggling to support the weight of a tuba sounds like it could be a hoot, here’s what you’ll need to do to be successful:

1.    Learn to Play an Instrument

 

………of course, because being conductor of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra isn’t just about standing on a podium and being bossy to a group of highly talented musicians. The conductor is responsible for the musical interpretation of a piece and the individuals in the orchestra must subordinate their own interpretation of their small component of the work to that of the conductor. It’ll therefore help if you know that A Major isn’t a senior ranking member of the armed forces.

2.    Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Music

 

This is for similar reasons that were mentioned in number 1. Students that take a music theory program will learn about music composition, arrangement, notation and analysis. It’ll be a bit like being on a very highbrow version of Desert Island Discs but more importantly, you’ll need your bachelor’s degree if you want to progress to do a master’s degree in music conducting.

3.    Get yourself a Master’s Degree

 

You’ll be able to study music conducting programs at the master’s degree level although it may be offered within a larger musical syllabus. At this level you will develop your conducting and rehearsal skills, learn how to score music* and explore a wider ecosystem of musical literature. You will also get the chance to work as an assistant conductor and start to develop your wider conducting experience.

*This does not involve simply giving a figure out of ten to express how much you like a piece of music

 4. Gain Some Vital Experience

 

It’s important that you seek out opportunities to practise your conducting skills in a live situation. Community ensembles and church choirs are several of the ways that you can hone your conducting skills in preparation for leading larger and more professional groups. Failing that, you could always give Gareth Malone a call to see if he needs a helping hand!

5.    Understand the Orchestra

 

It’s no good frightening all your string players by ranting and raving like a lunatic every time one of them hits a bum note. Everybody knows violinists are sensitive and so should you be also. Your aim is to focus the thoughts and ideas of a large group of people and enable them to achieve the desired artistic result. You need to be able to soak up the vibe of an orchestra on a human level and pick up what’s going wrong – then possibly yell at whichever violinist was responsible for the foul-up after the rehearsal.

6.    Stay in Decent Shape

 

Anyone that says conducting an orchestra isn’t physically demanding clearly hasn’t stood with their arms in the air for two hours non-stop at a rave.  Combined with the fact that you’ll spend a lot of time eating out and eating late after concerts, it can feel more like being in the Rolling Stones than the Royal Philharmonic. It’s also as a result, easy to over indulge so it’s important that you manage to stay in shape. A conductor that collapses from a heart attack mid-performance is after all, not going to get a round of applause at the end now are they?

7.    Get Hold of a Decent Stick

 

You might think that your conducting stick is only a bit of wood, but remember you’ll be holding it for hours on end most days of the week so it needs to be comfortable. The conducting stick is an extension of the conductor themselves so it should feel like it’s a part of you. On top of that, if you don’t have a decent stick, the Oboe players might laugh at you!

8.    Develop a Really Dodgy Hairstyle

 

Have you ever seen an orchestra conductor that doesn’t have hair like a mad scientist? No – we haven’t either.

Good Luck!

 

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