Chan Foresman

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As a conductor or musician, how do we in practical ways instill this sense of trust and collaboration in young musicians?

Conductors, young and old, can so easily get wrapped up in this idea of control. "It's my podium, and you WILL do as I say!" How do we get away from this attitude of control, and move to an understanding of trust and respect between the conductor and young musician?

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    Oct 8 2011: Conducting is certainly no easy task!

    Usually, the most laid back professionals know their subject so well that they are not phased by chaos or dissent around them. Their three-dimensional view of their subject allows them to solve problems as they arise and re-arise.
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      Oct 13 2011: we can talk here if i haven't apply for the membership of THE FACEBOOK.
  • Oct 11 2011: As a composer, I work with whole different levels of trust. I trust that the musicians have the competence to perform my music with authority, and they trust that whatever sounds that emerge, were the intentional product of my hard work. I trust the conductor to be capable of understanding the gaps that written music can't communicate. There is no way of knowing that my forte will be the same as his, or that his crescendo will be as dramatic as I had in mind, and yet I trust him to execute this and all other ambiguities with passion and grace. And I have to do this, often without meeting the artists in question. Trust is not something that CAN be taught, only bred by example. My favorite conductor that I've had the opportunity to work with is a high school band director. I was amazed to learn that he never pointed out technical errors to his students, only pointing out that the horns drown out the solo flute, or other acoustic problems the students couldn't possibly be. And in turn, the band responds with some of the most beautiful Holsinger interpretations I've heard.
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      Oct 11 2011: Well said.
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    Oct 12 2011: Creating an atmosphere of respect should start with the things that are easy: beginning and ending rehearsals on time, being prepared by knowing the part or score, recognizing that certain instruments in an orchestra often sit for long passages w/o playing and may feel neglected, applying the Golden Rule, etc. Really effective conductors know how to bring the best out of the players, often recognizing that they are capable of achieving more than than they believe is possible.
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    Oct 10 2011: I totally agree with Charles Hazewood's "Trusting the Ensemble. In my career I have worked for all types of conductors, and find that the finest performances have ben the result of a sharing of music between the conductor and the musicians. The basis of a a good performance is a caring, and charismatic conductor and a group of first class musicians who enjoy making music together. i played for Charles a few years ago and he brought out the best in everyone. Thank you for voicing my own opinions so aptly.
  • Oct 9 2011: Two lines of research shed light on the power struggle on the podium. First is my music teaching style research since 1991, which demonstrates the roles of asserting directions, maintaining efficiency, motivating attention, and even positive reinforcement in keeping the focus on the conductor/music-teacher, as compared to the roles of conceptual questions, collaborative group dynamics, artistic imagery activities, and free discussion of musicians' viewpoints in shifting the focus to interdependent and independent relationships among the ensemble. In a nutshell, how to shift power and leadership from conductor-control to one of trust--ask rather that tell, proceed with care rather than with haste, and collaborate rather than dictate. My second and more recent line of research narrows down to how we function in conducting, whether to display the music or connect with musicians making the music. The first study along these lines, available online for free very soon at, reveals that conductors can either dictate to musicians the mechanical and expressive properties of music in the score, or connect with musicians' physical technique, motivational, unrestrained tonal, and psychosocial needs. Another way to see it is that conductors can either control beat/tempo/meter, attention, and technique or help release musical expression, tension restrictions on tone, and social constraints around the ensemble. Combined, the music teaching style and conducting functions research provide a wide range of clear and specific suggestions for shifting the focus from conductor control to shared and trustworthy leadership.
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    Oct 8 2011: Genuinely acknowledge the young person's gift and special expression, although raw, as their unique talent. Respect the student. Teach by being the best example yourself.
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    Oct 8 2011: While I am more of an electronic musician, I do find it useful to talk to people regardless of age, who are more experienced than me.

    I have observed that people who are interested in enriching themselves view enriching others as valuable.


    Give constructive criticism.
    Be open to questions.
    Encourage experimentation and creativity.
    Learn along with the person who you are teaching/sharing with.

    We all have so much to learn.

    None of us can ever know enough.
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    Oct 13 2011: I wonder if these two resources might be helpful: "Why should anyone be led by you?", a book by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, and "Crucial Conversations", a book by Kerry Patterson et al. They are not specific to music, but come from research into workplace communication. I've found them very useful in a business context, and feel their advice might be relevant on "how to get away from [an] attitude of control".
  • Oct 9 2011: Make mistakes regularily and be seen to do so..and apologise publically and regard each apology as a triumph for all. In other words let yourself die in public without self conciousness. Be a bungi jumper, an xfactor wannabee...die for your greater love hath a composer...
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    Oct 7 2011: Respects needs to be earned, trust is based on honesty and integrity but most important it all starts with a shared vision. Leonard Bernstein made the following qoute " Technique is communication: the two words are synonymous in conductors" As a conductor taking in young musicians in a orchestra you must make clear from the start what your expectations are. The culture and structure of the orchestra should promote the constant transfer of knowledge in order to reach perfection as a team. For inspiration you should look up the TED speech of Jose Antonio Abreu who founded an national program, The foundation for the National Netwok of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela.
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    Oct 7 2011: I guess you are referring to the classical sphere here ? I havent seen this problem at the regular musician level any more than any other creative field (in scotland anyway). Even with current computer based music technology musicians often come in to our outdoor rigs with their laptops and control interfaces. Mostly the first they want to do is plug into the main mixer and go for an off the cuff live experiment and jam with who-ever is on. Even some of the more adventurous control freaks enjoy it. Perhaps the fact that beer is flowing contributes to this !! But just a little. I think the explosive proliferation of many varieties of new portable music technology is probably attracting more adventurous types anyway.