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Noted: What Does a Conductor Do?

Jan 6, 2012

by Chappell Ellison

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One of the greatest Looney Tunes shorts of all time features Bugs Bunny as an orchestra conductor, seeking revenge on an unsuspecting opera singer. Clad in a tuxedo and white powdered wig, Bugs wields the baton like a weapon, leading the singer through an outlandish aria that ends in total destruction of the theater. Created in 1949, the cartoon is actually a satirical send up of Leopold Stowkowski, the conductor who famously established the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. As a kid, Bugs provided my only insight into the job of an orchestra conductor. While the profession does not actually involve falling anvils and ridiculous sight gags, writer Justin Davis undertook the job for a few weeks, revealing its overlooked challenges.

With outlandish gestures and a baton that swats at the air, I’ve always thought the conductor was just a formality, placed at the head of an orchestra as a sort of musical mascot. As it turns out, all that fancy hand jive is essential in communicating the vast knowledge locked inside the conductor’s brain. “There are a few miles of roadway that I have driven often enough to navigate them faultlessly in my mind,” writes Davidson. “I know every pothole, every deer crossing. A conductor needs similarly detailed recall of an enormous musical terrain.” Like a story with 100 characters, a classical composition is extraordinarily multi-faceted, requiring a leader who knows every detail, right down to how and when the cymbals should be struck. We don’t always have the opportunity to attempt a new profession for a day, but Davidson’s experience demystifies and enlightens while revealing the overlooked responsibilities of the conductor. Davidson adds, “If the entire symphonic tradition were incinerated, a team of conductors could write it all out again.”

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3 Featured Comments

  • IvyVining

    IvyVining said 5 years ago Featured

    I was just talking about this with a friend recently who asked the same question. As a classical oboist for most of my life, I've had the opportunity to work with a vast array of amazing conductors, and waving the baton is almost the least of their responsibilites. A conductor conveys the emotion of every note with their eyes and body. They literally breathe when the orchestra breathes, turning the whole group into one single living organism. Working with or even just watching a great conductor is an experience in itself. Great noted feature.

  • HellYeahISew

    HellYeahISew said 5 years ago Featured

    As a long-time cellist, this article almost hurts me. It's never occurred to me that anyone would think the conductor is a formality. Without one, we'd never be able to play as an esemble -- speeding up and slowing down together. When to start again after a long rest. The enthusiasm in the orchestra perfectly mirrors that in the conductor.

  • serenebean

    serenebean said 5 years ago Featured

    As a conductor, I have to know every single note that every single player in my ensemble sees on their page. I also have to have a strong opinion about every part of the music and decide how I will convey what I want to hear to the players -- no talking allowed! Even in a rehearsal, my hands and facial expressions speak MUCH louder and more clearly than anything I might say; why waste time talking when we can be playing? I have to practice my craft, just as a player does...in front of the mirror, in the shower...I time each breath, each pause, each tempo change. I use equal parts logic and artistry. Without me, my ensemble would be without a leader (or equally problematic, with too many leaders!). Oh, and by the way, because I teach band (as the great majority of conductors do), I also teach your kids how to hold and play their instruments, read and understand a new language, work cooperatively, and appreciate art and history. Formality? If you say so... ;) I hope the blog post inspires some people to take a trip to their local orchestra or community band. :)

97 comments

  • TheBloomingThread

    TheBloomingThread said 5 years ago

    i love that last line! { i must admit though, ive been guilty of wondering the same thing at some point }

  • nomadcraftsetc

    nomadcraftsetc said 5 years ago

    Conductors really have a plateful! I can't imagine how their minds work!

  • FranceGallery

    FranceGallery said 5 years ago

    Interesting insight!

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 5 years ago

    Conducting an orchestra is an ART!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Love =)

  • tina0157h7

    tina0157h7 said 5 years ago

    Like many of the most elegant performances, the masters make a difficult thing look so easy! Tina Chao

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering said 5 years ago

    Thought provoking...facial expressions and movement, it's almost like dancing!

  • finegreeneyes

    finegreeneyes said 5 years ago

    Fascinating! LOVE the comparison between conducting a song and driving a familiar road.

  • Walkingquail

    Walkingquail said 5 years ago

    I have observed my brother-in-law, the conductor, studying before a performance so I now have an idea about how all encapsulating their work is. Such an interesting artform to think about.

  • feyzayazar

    feyzayazar said 5 years ago

    Just this past week I was thinking to myself 'What does a conductor do?'!!!! Thanks for demystifying this beautiful art!

  • sizzlestrapz

    sizzlestrapz said 5 years ago

    wow! fascinating

  • PrincesaAnastasia

    PrincesaAnastasia said 5 years ago

    lovely story, but his name was Stokowski, you just put w before k. By the way it is different meaning of conductor in Spanish. When you ask Spaniar - What does a conductor do? He will answer you - he is driving car.

  • adessojewelry

    adessojewelry said 5 years ago

    Hey, is that Arthur Fiedler in the photo? He was a well-known, and quite outstanding conductor of the Boston Pops orchestra many years ago (too bad I'm old enough to know that!). Nevertheless, this is a great post. Thanks for the info, and a good laugh....remembering Bugs Bunny's "Leopold" gig!

  • AlisaDesign

    AlisaDesign said 5 years ago

    Interesting!!!

  • KimberlyEstrada

    KimberlyEstrada said 5 years ago

    I've been fortunate enough to stand in front of a couple of amazing conductors in my high school years. We would've been lost without one! Choirs/singers have it good as they can give a 100% focus to the conductor. Instrumentalist on the other hand have to divide their attention to the sheet music and conductor, but if you've memorized the notes, then it's smooth sailing. As an audience, I also love watching them, each has their own style, some more lively than others :)

  • LeesBeesNJ

    LeesBeesNJ said 5 years ago

    A long (looooonnnnggg) time ago, I played in my HS band - we were pretty good. But you would know, just KNOW when you were playing excellently because our band teacher - our conductor - would close his eyes and practically levitate off the platform. I was never able to hear the music like that. He was lucky! Wow. I need to go watch "Mr. Holland's Opus" now.

  • IvyVining

    IvyVining said 5 years ago Featured

    I was just talking about this with a friend recently who asked the same question. As a classical oboist for most of my life, I've had the opportunity to work with a vast array of amazing conductors, and waving the baton is almost the least of their responsibilites. A conductor conveys the emotion of every note with their eyes and body. They literally breathe when the orchestra breathes, turning the whole group into one single living organism. Working with or even just watching a great conductor is an experience in itself. Great noted feature.

  • peaseblossomstudio

    peaseblossomstudio said 5 years ago

    Fun article! I learned how to conduct in music theory in high school.

  • ThomasHaskettArtist

    ThomasHaskettArtist said 5 years ago

    Great insight, thank you for sharing it :)

  • VintageChinchilla

    VintageChinchilla said 5 years ago

    “There are a few miles of roadway that I have driven often enough to navigate them faultlessly in my mind,” writes Davidson. “I know every pothole, every deer crossing. A conductor needs similarly detailed recall of an enormous musical terrain.” Love that line :)

  • cinthyacr

    cinthyacr said 5 years ago

    I guess it makes sense if you think about it this way.. give the same project, instructions and same materials to 10 different artist.. none of the pieces that they make will be the same.. every piece will have the artists' flavor, taste and personality... Or at least that's how I see it.. so marvelous!

  • ydscollectibles

    ydscollectibles said 5 years ago

    Very informative article. Thank you for this!

  • thenakedbird

    thenakedbird said 5 years ago

    i was in an all girls show choir my sophomore year of high school and we'd sing 4 part harmonies. I was a little too focused on drama classes and play rehearsals and definitely didn't give choir the attention I should have which is why that was the first and last year I did it but I will say, that as frantic and silly as conductors look sometimes, this poor, always-lost girl, would constantly look to her "maestro" for direction. (I'm the girl if that wasn't clear...) There's something about the way that he communicates to each section that you know it's for you and he prepares you for what's coming next and instills the passion or subtlety that should fill the next note. It's really quite incredible.

  • flourishingagain

    flourishingagain said 5 years ago

    I know that the skill and talent of my music conductors in high school, I had 3, band, choir, and orchestra, have given me a life long love of music. Even if all I'm doing is singing to the radio, there is some kind of special magic that those 3 started and I have never given up.

  • auntjanecan

    auntjanecan said 5 years ago

    Yay!!! This is a wonderful article. I have played under many amazing conductors in symphonies.

  • edguardodeevinchsski

    edguardodeevinchsski said 5 years ago

    I never really thought about how hard it must be. I can hardly memorize all the lyrics to a song, let alone all the parts and notes!

  • hmmills

    hmmills said 5 years ago

    Wonderful

  • TheVelvetBranch

    TheVelvetBranch said 5 years ago

    A fascinating article and a wonderful perspective to consider. Thank you ofr presenting it.

  • HellYeahISew

    HellYeahISew said 5 years ago Featured

    As a long-time cellist, this article almost hurts me. It's never occurred to me that anyone would think the conductor is a formality. Without one, we'd never be able to play as an esemble -- speeding up and slowing down together. When to start again after a long rest. The enthusiasm in the orchestra perfectly mirrors that in the conductor.

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    KKSimpleRegalJewelry said 5 years ago

    Yep... they have a hard job, or so it seems to us... but I am sure they do enjoy it! ~KK~

  • thedancingoboe

    thedancingoboe said 5 years ago

    ... this is the most disappointing article I've ever read on Etsy. Aside from the brazen admittance of cultural ignorance, it also harkens the question of basic cognition. The comments also bring me physical pain. Where I can understand that the average person may not understand a score precisely, I would hope that people would realize that the conductor's movements coincide with a reaction from the ensemble, and therefore at least understand that the conductor is a type of leader I can't believe people actually think that a conductor just goes up there to wave his/her arms around. Excuse me while I cry in a corner.

  • isewcute

    isewcute said 5 years ago

    A conductor must go through some pretty rigorous training to be able to do what they do. Very impressive!

  • sermengtk

    sermengtk said 5 years ago

    A great reminder for "what shall I do more of in 2012" -- Go out and support your local symphony or chamber orchestras! Even if you just go once a year for Christmas or summer concerts. The key is to go.

  • sandboxcastle

    sandboxcastle said 5 years ago

    I have to admit...not ever having been part of an Orchestra...I've always wondered what the conductors waves actually mean XD

  • serenebean

    serenebean said 5 years ago Featured

    As a conductor, I have to know every single note that every single player in my ensemble sees on their page. I also have to have a strong opinion about every part of the music and decide how I will convey what I want to hear to the players -- no talking allowed! Even in a rehearsal, my hands and facial expressions speak MUCH louder and more clearly than anything I might say; why waste time talking when we can be playing? I have to practice my craft, just as a player does...in front of the mirror, in the shower...I time each breath, each pause, each tempo change. I use equal parts logic and artistry. Without me, my ensemble would be without a leader (or equally problematic, with too many leaders!). Oh, and by the way, because I teach band (as the great majority of conductors do), I also teach your kids how to hold and play their instruments, read and understand a new language, work cooperatively, and appreciate art and history. Formality? If you say so... ;) I hope the blog post inspires some people to take a trip to their local orchestra or community band. :)

  • EverythingElena

    EverythingElena said 5 years ago

    Interesting blog on another important branch of art - Music. May I humbly add? While the composer designs the DNA, the conductor is the brain and the musicians are the body organs of that elaborate organism we call music. While a really talented, academically trained composer is able to design the kind of music that pleases people for a civilization-long time, a really talented conductor can interpret music in a way that pleases people for the same length of time. And as most brains get to be more experienced and wise with age, so do most conductors. It is sad to see a young, unseasoned conductor like Gustavo Dudamel lead a strong orchestra like LA Phil. But it is a great joy to listen to the Columbia Symphony Orchestra lead by Bruno Walter, who put his ego aside and didn't dare to conduct Mozart's 40th until he was over forty years old. What honor, what consideration, what an artist!

  • jmayoriginals

    jmayoriginals said 5 years ago

    thedancingoboe said it best with this: "... this is the most disappointing article I've ever read on Etsy. Aside from the brazen admittance of cultural ignorance, it also harkens the question of basic cognition." i concur.

  • DuettaDesigns

    DuettaDesigns said 5 years ago

    As a professional singer who has sung under the batton of many great maestros, I find the blog to be shallow read, but the comments very inspiring to me. It is always very interesting to see the different styles of these leaders - including Gustavo Dudamel. (One of the most interesting was Bramwell Tovey on the Hollywood Bowl stage - he is a real character.) Sad to say there are many people who have never been to see a classical performance with a conductor. I am soooooo happy that there are fellow Etsy-ans who have enough passion for the arts to write about thier experience with orchestral and choral music. Here's to all of you who have had their curiosity peaked by this blog enough to go out and attend a live orchestral or choral performance.

  • CopperheadCreations

    CopperheadCreations said 5 years ago

    Totally! I've played music all my life, and for most of that time I was part of an ensemble. Not only are conductors a pivotal part of the way the music is being played; their energy transfers to all of the musicians, big time. I was lucky - I had great ones, who were extremely expressive and energetic, and took their work very seriously. We didn't get away with anything, even as high school students! I can't imagine not having them there.

  • TheEnchantedBride

    TheEnchantedBride said 5 years ago

    It is so true... A conductors energy does transfer to the musicians... In a way they are "Musical Mascots"... and as a musician you feed off of the energy and passion they convey to interpret the music as a whole orchestra. As a Highschool student, my particular band was among the best and as we were judged at competitions, so was our conductor... He would always be judged the highest scores. It brought so much pride to all of us in the band... knowing those judges saw what we saw... Passion, professionalism, and a true love for the art of music. I suppose you could only know the true importance of a conductor if you had the opportunity to be a member of an orchestra or band.

  • TheEnchantedBride

    TheEnchantedBride said 5 years ago

    BTW Thank you for posting a link to the old cartoon!! I LOVE IT!

  • Elaine0421

    Elaine0421 said 5 years ago

    I have been a classical violinist for almost 50 years. A conductor could be considered the equivalent of a coach for a sports team...what would a team be like without a coach?? I doubt most people would consider a coach a "formality" but the heart and soul of a team...that just goes to show how little society knows about and understands classical music....but perhaps putting it in sports terms would help the layman to understand...it's kind of sad we have to go that far.... :(

  • OfAnEra

    OfAnEra said 5 years ago

    Do people really think conductors are superficial? Wow. I'm a little sad now.

  • pasin

    pasin said 5 years ago

    lovely story

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 5 years ago

    I remember learning what a conductor was in kindergarten. Bring music back to all of the public schools !!!

  • auntmarthasattic

    auntmarthasattic said 5 years ago

    Each Conductors interpretation of a musical score is as individual as the conductor themselves. It is facinating to hear different orchestral arrangments and how they very... that is due to the conductor! As a Cellist and Music Educator who had to spend the better part of a year learning to conduct the college ensemble in the Music Ed class... I appreciate the words of many other musicians here. Simply there waving their arms about... may be what most see on the surface... but I can assure you, there is much more to the art than that.

  • expressyourself

    expressyourself said 5 years ago

    Great store!

  • Bmbyx

    Bmbyx said 5 years ago

    Ah, Conductors. No orchestra can ever survive without them, just like no sport’s team can ever survive without a coach....musicians are heavily relying on their Conductors. I take my hat off to all Conductors and pay much respect for their talent and hard work. Try to read 22 different pages of the book at once, that’s what Conductors have to do. Read 20+ lines of sheet music, listen to 20+ musicians, and keep it all together all at once... Much respect, always :o)

  • Bmbyx

    Bmbyx said 5 years ago

    Ah, Conductors. No orchestra can ever survive without them, just like no sport’s team can ever survive without a coach...musicians are heavily relying on their Conductors. I take my hat off to all Conductors and pay much respect for their talent and hard work. Try to read 22 different pages of the book at once, that’s what Conductors have to do. Read 20+ lines of sheet music, listen to 20+ musicians, and keep it all together all at once... Much respect, always :o)

  • adrianaallenllc

    adrianaallenllc said 5 years ago

    The blog is as interesting as some of the comments after that. It was great to read how many conductors and musicians were intrigued by it and have contributed great insights. Thank you, all.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    Interesting!

  • destroymodernart

    destroymodernart said 5 years ago

    yesterday i read a youtube comment that said 'are conductors just telling the orchestra what notes to play and shouldn't they know that already?'... I guess those of us that got to play in an orchestra are lucky to know that apparent secret... altho i was horrified by that level ignorance. But then again when i tell people i studied fine art they seem to think that means miniature paintings with a tiny brush...

  • fetishforethics

    fetishforethics said 5 years ago

    Uffda. Although I appreciate the fact that this article might inspire people to look more deeply into the creation of music, I still find it pretty heartbreaking. The most creative, intelligent, and open people in the world are on etsy! If etsy-ers think that conductors are frivolous, I don't have much hope for what the general public believes. I can't even imagine their opinion on the third chair hornist! :)

  • NicoAndMooMoo

    NicoAndMooMoo said 5 years ago

    my grandfather passed on to me the passion for classical music his favorite conductor, Herbert von Karajan!

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    Enjoying the comments as much as the article. Agree - conducting is an art.

  • atouchofpaisley

    atouchofpaisley said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article! I am a harpist in a local community orchestra . . . and knew nothing about conducting when I first came in. But I can now say, the conductor holds a very important part in our symphony and I do not know what we would do without him. He holds us together, and helps each of us out during those pesky solo parts! It is an art. For those who have not been in one of the musicians seats on stage, there's even more conducting then you can see from the audience. . . many, many facial expressions! :-D Thanks for writing this nice article, -Toni Chanelle a Touch of Paisley Photography

  • NutfieldWeaver

    NutfieldWeaver said 5 years ago

    The "outlandish gestures" are entirely necessary. As a cellist in the New Hampshire Philharmonic, it is my responsibility to pay attention to and to interpret those "outlandish gestures." The conductor aligns our individual interpretations of each part of the score (which may or may not be accurate) into one so that a piece is delivered with authenticity, musicality, and beauty. The conductor has the additional task of remaining true to a composer's intention, often requiring him/her to research the story behind each piece (i.e. historical context, biography, etc...). The number of years of serious, difficult study that is required to land an orchestra conducting position is positively mindblowing and demands our respect. You cannot expect to "take on this job" for a few weeks, as this makes it seem that conducting is nothing beyond puppetry, requiring a baton and the ability to count to four (or maybe 6). I've heard it said that there is no cultural imperative for continuing a classical music tradition in this country, which is incredibly sad. I hope that as a society we can eventually get past the Bugs Bunny references; if not, we will have missed out on something special.

  • MaJentaDesigns

    MaJentaDesigns said 5 years ago

    interesting article, I used to play in orchestras in hs, and at first thought a conductor's job was so simple with just keeping the beat...but eventually realized just how complicated it was to keep track of all the different parts, and what to emphasize and bring out, etc.

  • cottonbirddesigns

    cottonbirddesigns said 5 years ago

    Interesting article!

  • FastSlowFast

    FastSlowFast said 5 years ago

    Thank you for reminding the etsy world of the existence of orchestral music! However... I'm a professional clarinetist, and I'm sorry, but I'm going to agree that this is a very short, shallow article. I'm flummoxed! It seems like it's written from the perspective of children. There is a lifetime of work that goes into every single position in the orchestra. The whole orchestra is the brains of the orchestra. Please make yourselves aware of these very obvious things by experiencing them first-hand! Go see your local orchestra immediately!

  • drumchick99

    drumchick99 said 5 years ago

    Just goes to show the state of music education in the public school system, wow! How do you think the orchestra stays together during tempo changes? I have a masters degree in music and had many friends who were conducting majors. Each conductor is different and can conduct a piece differently than the next. With their own style and personality, they are able to pull a unique version of any piece depending on different subtleties. I had to take conducting in college, and you'd be surprised at how difficult it is even for musicians who have played for many years to keep steady tempo and not let the ensemble lead you, but to lead it. It would be nice to have a little more about the depth of education and actual examples of what they do in this very short article. Maybe they should have had someone that's a little bit familiar with music to do the study.

  • cinthyacr

    cinthyacr said 5 years ago

    I would give this blog post a break and a chance... For us who have studied music or have been lucky enough to be exposed on a regular basis to the wonderful world of music and music making it's easy to ditch it as a very superfluous piece of writing... However, let's be happy that at least we're talking about it, other people are reading and hopefully old and newcomers will feel instigated to explore it even further... Like many musicians here said it takes a life time to learn and be able to be part of such an elite wonderful group of talented people, so it would take books and books to be able to fully explain the inner working of such world.

  • dasheesgarden

    dasheesgarden said 5 years ago

    It was so fun to read an article here about conductors! Thank-you for addressing the subject. I am a violist who has played in orchestras for almost 50 years. My two cents... An orchestral conductor must have a thorough knowledge of the music he conducts, including the message he wants to convey to both the orchestra and the audience. This requires intensive study of the music, decisions about how he wants to interpret it, and practice. Lots of work! Conductors have years of musical training, but they also need good people skills to lead musicians (not always an easy task!).

  • CaptainNoid

    CaptainNoid said 5 years ago

    I am in a Concert Band and for the longest time I thought that the conductor was more a mascot too! After a while though I realized that he wasn't swatting away flies, but instead, actually telling us to go faster. Who knew?!

  • larimeloom

    larimeloom said 5 years ago

    the orchestra is to the conductor what the instrument is to the musician... an orchestra cannot function without a conductor, just as an instrument cannot function without someone to play it!

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle said 5 years ago

    I was in the orchestra in school. We would have fell apart without the conductor!

  • littlebrightstudio

    littlebrightstudio said 5 years ago

    Like a film, every director has a distinct style, and will apply it to every script or classic piece of literature. I didn't witness a live orchestra until I was, perhaps, 25, and my school had no music program whatsoever. It was a very emotional moment witnessing how all the players formed one entity: music. Educate those who may have not been fortunate to learn of these arts at a young age. Don't be disgusted at someone's lack of knowledge. Thank you for this little article (and yes, that Bugs short is my favorite!)

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 5 years ago

    Great food for thought. Most people don't know how much is really involved in being a conductor.

  • ItalianViolinist

    ItalianViolinist said 5 years ago

    I'm so happy to see this blog post and discussion! As a professional classical violinist, I sometimes wonder if classical music and its surrounding discussions are ever on peoples' minds. I wonder this because classical music seems to be a dying art, so coming across this blog really made my day and gave me hope. Thank you!!!

  • goddessofthecosmos

    goddessofthecosmos said 5 years ago

    haha! That's actually my day job. Never thought the general populace would be mystified by what a conductor does. I'll tell you what though, most people don;t know that it is a work out up there! Physically and mentally. You have to be on the ball at all times, a step ahead of the whole group you are conducting, multitasking while listening to everything at once.

  • ferrijoe

    ferrijoe said 5 years ago

    Your very thought provoking comment: "I’ve always thought the conductor was just a formality, placed at the head of an orchestra as a sort of musical mascot." gave me insight that the orchestra plays the music but it is the conductor who lives the music, and if it wasn't for the conductor, who in the audience would be capable of performing such a wonderful musical repertoire in their own mind. Thank you!

  • GracefullyGirly

    GracefullyGirly said 5 years ago

    I love watching the conductor work about as much as listening to the music created from the orchestra led by them. It's such an intricate interplay between musicians and conductor and not something everyone gets to see or understand so I am glad it's been brought up and explained in these basic terms. There is such a huge world that is not experienced by the majority of people. I used to teach in a a lower socioeconomic school and was often amazed by the lack of knowledge and experience of students and parents alike. I loved sharing everything I could about the arts and music in addition to the basics. Thanks goodness many people, including me, were exposed to beautiful music by Looney Tunes or high school or arts programs. Sometimes we forget that the arts are no longer well funded in schools. Perhaps it should be.

  • secretidentitystudio

    secretidentitystudio said 5 years ago

    In other news: Pilots: not just sitting in the front of the plane! Electricians: not just arranging wires into pretty designs! Etsy bloggers: actually just a dozen monkeys in front of keyboard.

  • MyGrandpasPen

    MyGrandpasPen said 5 years ago

    Actually that Bugs Bunny cartoon is one of my favorite of all time - and yes, I was a musician as well - I loved how Bugs as the conductor pulled and pushed the music into basically a weapon. The conductor is much more than a coach - they are an integral part of the music, without them the orchestra or band is little more than a collection of musicians who are trying to stay on the same page.

  • seule771

    seule771 said 5 years ago

    What does a conductor do? Outlandish gestures with a baton that swats at the air! Anything that he deems pleasing, since truly we know not or care to know.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Having once been part of the school orchestra a conductors job is a really important one, he or she manages to tie together what could potentially be lots of disparate people and instruments into one sound.

  • RJGOriginals

    RJGOriginals said 5 years ago

    Is this the post where we pretend that we don't know that a conductor's job is to conduct the music ensemble? Even the opening example shows that Chappell knew exactly what a conductor's job was. And half of the post is lifted without direct attribution to the New York Times article. A link saying another writer looked into it is not the same as actually crediting that writer for essentially doing Chappell's job for her.

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 5 years ago

    When I was in junior high, many, many years ago, I was in the choir. We had a few really wonderful teachers. Mr. Soo Hoo, a great teacher with a demeanor so strict that the class was always surprised by his frequent smiles. Not only did we learn to sing solfegio but he taught us all some of the basics of conducting. And every so often,my right hand indulges itself in a little air-conducting. Way better than air guitar.

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 5 years ago

    Oh yeah, if you have kids, check out this little book called "The Philharmonic Gets Dressed". It is a riot for all ages.

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 5 years ago

    To be honest, I've never really thought too much about a conductor's job! Thanks for sharing! I feel enlightened :)

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 5 years ago

    The conductor is like the band major. They make the performance.

  • NDMStudios

    NDMStudios said 5 years ago

    Great article. Thank you for the insight.

  • CrystallineDreams

    CrystallineDreams said 5 years ago

    Even if you don't know exactly what a conductor does, you at least have to know that he/she is more than just a mascot who stands there flailing arms around. Seriously. Not impressed.

  • AriaCouture

    AriaCouture said 5 years ago

    "I’ve always thought the conductor was just a formality, placed at the head of an orchestra as a sort of musical mascot." I'm embarrassed for you. Just because YOU don't personally understand what a conductor does doesn't make the conductor a musical mascot any more than not understanding what a brain surgeon is doing means that the surgeon is some sort of medical mascot. It's really sad, and a tad conceited, that you think that your not understanding something means an occupation is pointless and just exists to be cute.

  • heathergillispie

    heathergillispie said 5 years ago

    Geez. All of the musicians commenting on this blog post make me want to avoid classical music more than I already do. Like most of the populace, I don't care about orchestral music. It's dying. Maybe the reason that many people seem so deeply offended by the fact that this blog poster was a little unclear on a conductor's role is that they recognize that most of the world at large is completely indifferent to something that they consider of great importance. I respect musicians and conductors, but this ridiculous attitude of cultural superiority over the "general public" is unwarranted. There's no reason to attack the blogger, who is talking to this "great unwashed public" about something many people might indeed consider mystifying.

  • CrystallineDreams

    CrystallineDreams said 5 years ago

    I am not a musician. Nor is it wrong to not know exactly what a conductor does. What is insulting is that people actually think the conductor doesn't actually do anything but stand there and look pretty.

  • theblondemoose

    theblondemoose said 5 years ago

    I'm pretty sure anyone who has ever taken a basic choir class (almost everyone who went to public elementary school) knows what a conductor does.

  • RJGOriginals

    RJGOriginals said 5 years ago

    heathergillespie, with all due respect, my self esteem in regards to working as a professional musical director has nothing to do with commenting on this post. I found Chappell's approach disingenuous. She clearly knows what a conductor does through her example. If you choose not to listen to classical music because a poor writer who basically stole an article for her job feigned ignorance, then that's your loss.

  • BDHs

    BDHs said 5 years ago

    Heather The rest of the world isn't disinterested in classical music. That may be happening just in your world.

  • rushgirl2112

    rushgirl2112 said 5 years ago

    I expect bloggers to actually know something about their chosen subject matter. And no one who has ever been in a band or orchestra (even in grade school) or who has any interest in classical music whatsoever, could possibly be unclear about the primary role of a conductor. If this wasn't actually written out of genuine ignorance, then it reads in a condescending manner, as if this should actually be news to us. By the way, is it Justin Davis or Davidson?

  • tableclothpad

    tableclothpad said 5 years ago

    Nice story.

  • BBAmazeballs

    BBAmazeballs said 5 years ago

    Orchestral music is everywhere, in movies, television shows, ringtones, video game scores.....anywhere there is music, chances are, it is orchestral and it is being conducted. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it is dying...that means you are oblivious. Much like our blogger.

  • DelilahsAttic

    DelilahsAttic said 5 years ago

    wow, that's very interesting. My thoughts on conductors were always similar to yours, like they were just there for show, so it's cool to find out that they're not!

  • SheEarth

    SheEarth said 5 years ago

    As a Violinist in a past life I have a great Love of Conductors, and it is nice to see their work given the spotlight as they are all too often under appreciated.

  • thevicagirl

    thevicagirl said 5 years ago

    Ah, it reminds me of all my favorite conductors I have had. A lot of times I find myself watching the conductor during a performance instead of those performing. Not so much that they are more fun to watch, but that by watching them I can feel and understand the music more powerfully.

  • lindzmasterson

    lindzmasterson said 5 years ago

    I, too, have been in several orchestras in the past and know the importance of a knowledgeable and good conductor. I've had multiple debates about what exactly a conductor does and their importance.... Many believe that conductors are just for show, or as you said, a "mascot". This simply is not true! I love your blog! Thank you for opening people's eyes to the world of conducting!

  • AnnetteEv0nne

    AnnetteEv0nne said 5 years ago

    This is a great article--I especially enjoyed the inclusion of BuggsB., when he played conductor. Interestingly, today I read an article about the Syrius, and I as I read Ivy's article, I related to the leaders of the dog sled, and their utmost important role of keeping all dogs on the team, motivated, and in control of their own role...However, being a conductor of an orchestra, is a highly visible "art/sport," quite revealing to the observant audience, just how important a position this is!

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