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Thread: How to Selcet a New Conductor

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    Default How to Selcet a New Conductor

    My (laymen student) orchestra has recently fallen out with our conductor (after more than 25 years), and we are currently in the process of seeking a good replacement. We received about 50 applications and boiled them down to 11 people we invited for a try-out session. (We asked them to prepare Mendelssohn's Italian and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances)

    I'd like to have some input from the knowledgable members of this fine community

    What should I pay attention to? What's important in a conductor?
    (The decision will obviously not be mine alone, but should I dislike one of the candidates, I'd like to have better objections than, "I don'T like his hair!" to convince my fellow orchestra members to not choose that person...)

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    What do you have against hair argument? It's major measurement when you want to learn if the conductor is born man of baton or not.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    What do you have against hair argument? It's major measurement when you want to learn if the conductor is born man of baton or not.
    Noting your current avatar, that is not far short of hilarious.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    I want to keep my status as "most unusual hair" orchestra player (I currently wear it hip-long)!

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    Also "Selcet"???
    I fail at typing...
    But I have an excuse: I'm violist!

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanralotta View Post
    I fail at typing...
    But I have an excuse: I'm violist!
    I'm quite close to taking personal offense at this statement.

    Anyway. How to find a conductor? You've got to try out a bunch of conductors and see which one you like best. Which one communicates with the orchestra best, style of conducting, musicality, etc.

    I'd like to add a special comment about hair. In my high school orchestra, our concertmaster had a full Jew-fro, giving our conductor competition. Do not allow this to happen. If you have orchestra members with distinctive hair, your conductor must trump all of them. If the most radical hair in the orchestra is shoulder-length mousy-brown, there should be no problem. However, if someone has purple highlights, the conductor must have a neon-blue spike mohawk. You get the idea.

    Happy hunting! (something tells me that's the wrong expression...)

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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    I'm quite close to taking personal offense at this statement.
    Ohno! Please don't! Right now, I'm under the delusion that all violists have a sense of humor. I won't allow you to take that away from me
    Anyway. How to find a conductor? You've got to try out a bunch of conductors and see which one you like best. Which one communicates with the orchestra best, style of conducting, musicality, etc.
    My ex (that is, ex-conductor!) teaches conducting at a conservatory and often would send his students our way. As a result, we have developed more tolerance for bad conducting than is healthy (or rather we have learned how to ignore conductors. The most frequent complains we get from guest conductors is that we don't pay any attention to them). The thing is this: after a while, you adjust to anything. I'm a bit worried that we settle for less than we could and/or should.
    I'd like to add a special comment about hair. In my high school orchestra, our concertmaster had a full Jew-fro, giving our conductor competition. Do not allow this to happen. If you have orchestra members with distinctive hair, your conductor must trump all of them. If the most radical hair in the orchestra is shoulder-length mousy-brown, there should be no problem. However, if someone has purple highlights, the conductor must have a neon-blue spike mohawk. You get the idea.
    Oh dear!
    One of our trombonists occassionally has blue (as in azure) highlights, because she's awesome like that. (It totally doesn't count as more unusual than mine because... *I need to think of a good excuse for that. I'll come back to you later*)
    Happy hunting! (something tells me that's the wrong expression...)
    Naw! That's totally the correct term for it.
    Last edited by Zanralotta; Jul-06-2011 at 00:12. Reason: Spelling, Spe-he-lling! *cries*

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    My 2 cents - coming from a non-musician, probably only worth half a cent, but here goes...

    For a student orchestra, I'd look at three things:
    1 - Ability to teach and form orchestral players
    2 - What is the "vision" for the orchestra, and hw does the conductor mesh with that vision. Things like repertoire, community outreach, et come to mind
    3 - Commitment to the position and to the community (does the candidate have other commitments that will distract from the job at hand, ambitions that may clash, etc.)

    If your orchestra is going after Rachmaninoff's Sym dances, then it's probably not as "layman" an outfit as you claim, IMHO...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanralotta View Post
    One of our trombonists occassionally has blue (as in azure) highlights, because she's awesome like that. (It totally doesn't count as more unusual than mine because... *I need to think of a good excuse for that. I'll come back to you later*)
    Yes. Yes we are.


    And also, I would say that when going conductor hunting, choose one with a clear vision for the orchestra (hopefully a vision shared with the orchestra at large). He should know what he's doing and be able to express what he wants to young, non-professional musicians. Also, pay attention to him and see if he follows Richard Strauss' commandments of conducting especially number four (and I say that as an orchestra member, and not a trombonist). We can manage ourselves, thankyouverymuch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanralotta View Post
    My (laymen student) orchestra has recently fallen out with our conductor (after more than 25 years), and we are currently in the process of seeking a good replacement. We received about 50 applications and boiled them down to 11 people we invited for a try-out session. (We asked them to prepare Mendelssohn's Italian and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances)

    I'd like to have some input from the knowledgable members of this fine community

    What should I pay attention to? What's important in a conductor?
    (The decision will obviously not be mine alone, but should I dislike one of the candidates, I'd like to have better objections than, "I don'T like his hair!" to convince my fellow orchestra members to not choose that person...)

    You do not say what was the problem between your orchestra and the ex-conductor, and why it popped out after 25 years (quite a long time, isn't it?). Whatever that problem was, make sure it is not repeated in your next conductor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    I'm quite close to taking personal offense at this statement.

    Anyway. How to find a conductor? You've got to try out a bunch of conductors and see which one you like best. Which one communicates with the orchestra best, style of conducting, musicality, etc.

    I'd like to add a special comment about hair. In my high school orchestra, our concertmaster had a full Jew-fro, giving our conductor competition. Do not allow this to happen. If you have orchestra members with distinctive hair, your conductor must trump all of them. If the most radical hair in the orchestra is shoulder-length mousy-brown, there should be no problem. However, if someone has purple highlights, the conductor must have a neon-blue spike mohawk. You get the idea.

    Happy hunting! (something tells me that's the wrong expression...)
    @World Violist, Pray tell, what exactly is a Jew-fro. As a person of the Jewish faith, I must say that I find that phrase quite offensive and demeaning.And so, unlike you--who merely came close to taking offense--I take offense at your language. Why don't you let all of us know what your religion or nationality is, so we can make up a descriptive term for your hair? I grew up getting into fights with people who made fun of my best friend, who happened to be a red-haired kid with glasses who loved to play violin and wore glasses and also happened to be Jewish . I guess he had a Jew-fro too, huh. You should be ashamed of yourself--we're supposed to be better than that. If nobody else sees fit to object to this overtly anti-semitic and hurtful description as posted above by wv, then I'm out of this forum. If this was back in the day and you--or anybody else--used that language trying to be funny at my friend's or my expense, I'd knock his teeth down his throat. Come to think of it, maybe you were one of those guys back then? You got any teeth? Look in the mirror, and SHAME ON YOU! { that's assuming, of course, that you even have a clue as to what that concept means}.
    Last edited by samurai; Jul-08-2011 at 01:28.
    Whatever floats your boat

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    I have no idea what type of hairstyle World Violist is referring to in his post. All I can think of is James Levine's bushy crop. But I don't see what a persons appearance, ethnic background or religious choice has to do with anything. World Violists comments were very ill advised. The only considerations in selecting a conductor should the candidates musical abilities, leadership qualities and rapport with the musicians in the orchestra.

    It would be unfortunate if any member of the forum,and especially a solid contributor felt it necessary to leave because of another members thoughtlessness and inconsideration.

    For the record, I am not of the Jewish faith although I have many good friends who are.

    Rob

    He who does not punish evil commands it to be done. - Leonardo DaVinci

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    Okay, I'm sorry about the whole comment. I was joking about the hair thing (as per the other hair jokes above) and I stepped over a line that I didn't realize existed, and I apologize for that. The concertmaster to whom I was referring would joke about his hair along with everyone else, and nobody found it offensive, so I could not have expected it to be, and I'll try to be more selective in my comments from now on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    My 2 cents - coming from a non-musician, probably only worth half a cent, but here goes...

    For a student orchestra, I'd look at three things:
    1 - Ability to teach and form orchestral players
    2 - What is the "vision" for the orchestra, and hw does the conductor mesh with that vision. Things like repertoire, community outreach, et come to mind
    3 - Commitment to the position and to the community (does the candidate have other commitments that will distract from the job at hand, ambitions that may clash, etc.)
    Good point about other commitments (one of the things that lead to quite some tensions with our ex-conductor), I definitely will keep that in mind.
    If your orchestra is going after Rachmaninoff's Sym dances, then it's probably not as "layman" an outfit as you claim, IMHO...
    I don't think it would be honest to claim anything but "layman" status for my orchestra. Most of our players fall into one of four categories: future MDs; future lawyers; future teachers; future scientists. There aren't a lot of "future musicians" in our ranks, though most probably could have made it. We have an entry test for a reason...
    In short: we're pretty good. The Symphonic Dances are the utmost of what we can do, which is certainly a thing I'm proud of. You should have seen the looks of utter terror we sported right before we played the things!
    It was glorious!
    After every Rach rehearsal, you could see at least 3 first violins silently crying into their beers...

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmateurComposer View Post
    You do not say what was the problem between your orchestra and the ex-conductor, and why it popped out after 25 years (quite a long time, isn't it?). Whatever that problem was, make sure it is not repeated in your next conductor.
    Good question. Tensions were running high before I became a member. If I can trust the tales of ex-members, there has been strife between conductor and our elected representatives in the managing board of the orchestra for at leat 10 years. In my first semester, the entire board stepped down, and we had to elect all new members. I'm still a bit puzzled about what happened and was too scared to ask too many questions back then (I was a newbie, after all).
    I had to drop out for a semester due to health reasons, and when I came back, all the kerfuffle had already happened. I was rather surprised by it, really. From what people involved in this mess told me, it seems that a series of unrelated incidents that happened roughly at the same time were taken as some kind of "coup" or "grand scheme" to "over-throw his authority" by my ex-conductor (his words, not mine). In short: because of previous ill-will, perfectly innocent stuff was interpreted in a rather paranoid fashion, which triggered the diva in my ex-conductor.

    The consequences have already been drawn, and the orchestra made sure that the same thing won't happen again: we made it easier to fire our conductor.

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