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Why Conducting Is One Of The Most Difficult Jobs in Existence

   Oh to be the conductor of an orchestra ! What a glamorous profession ! You stand  on stage, front and center
in your tuxedo ,  and wave your hands around ,usually with a baton , and all of a sudden , a hundred musicians
begin to produce  magnificent sounds .  People love and adore you (not always) , and you have  limitless
power . 

   But the job is much,much more complex than that .  It requires years of rigorous training in  harmony,counterpoint , composition , learning to play at least one instrument proficiently , and so much more .
You have to have a mind-boggling amount of knowledge and technical skill .  You have to be a born leader ,
a  coach , psychologist ,  have the skill of a diplomat and often to be a kind of musical politician .  The job is physically  very tiring , and you get an enormous amount of aerobic exercise beating time , and this is very tiring  .  You have to  be as observant as a hawk  and have incredibly sharp ears .  You have to be a master at dealing with people tactfully .

   You have to be able to decipher orchestral and operatic scores , which  can often have twenty or thirty or more different lines of music going on simultaneously .  The individual musicians  are responsible for their individual parts , but you have to  know every one's part from the score !   And you must constantly be learning new works .  It's necessary to have a thorough knowledge of the many different instruments in the orchestra , strings,wood wind,brass, percussion etc ,  and to be able to  detect  when anything is wrong at a rehearsal ,such as problems with intonation (playing in tune) ,  to be able to balance the different sections of the orchestras so that everything can be heard clearly ,  and be able to win the
musician's respect , which is far from easy .

   You see , the musicians don't worship you the way audiences might .  They are very hard to please ,
and if you don't know what you're doing , they will see through you instantly , and give you a very hard time at rehearsals .  They have been known to make deliberate mistakes , such as playing wrong notes
to  see if you can detect them and deliberately play some notes out of tune ,etc if you're new to them .

   If you come across as incompetent at rehearsals, you're not going to be invited back to conduct them again .  Conducting opera is in many ways even tougher than orchestral  conducting . Here, you have to deal  with often tempermental singers , a chorus ,sometimes a ballet , plus  the director of the opera, who has the same job as the director of a stage play .  It's like controlling a three ring circus !  Anything can go wrong during a performance , and you have to be able to deal with whatever happens .

   You have to keep up with the latest developments in musicological research ,  and  constantly  study and restudy the scores .   You are often under constant attack by music critics who may be hostile to your conceptions of this or that work or disapprove of your choice of repertoire.   No wonder an eminent   musicologist once described conductors as "Generals on the battlefield of music " !


Posted: Nov 19 2011, 04:39 PM by the horn | with no comments
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