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Disappointed at Choral Conducting Workshop

Disappointed at Choral Conducting Workshop
A little food for thought here for anyone planning on attending a choral conducting workshop/symposium in the future. Do you know how much actual conducting time you will spend in front of the clinicians? In front of the host choir? Don’t be afraid to ask! My experience last year, over a 4.5 day, well organized workshop (about 10 hours a day):  we (12 conductors) received about 30 minutes of actual conducting time and 30 minutes of private conversation with one of the master conductors. For me, those 30 minutes of conducting in front of the host choir worked out to about $65 US/minute. I understand the requirement of having enough participants attending a workshop/symposium to make it economical but I was really disappointed. Perhaps you can create your own workshop with a few colleagues. Hire another director in your area and set something up. I have just asked a friend to observe me and my choir a few times this term and I am able to pay them, even with a limited professional development allowance. Just my two cents.
What was your experience at a similar event? I would really like to know if this is the norm.
Replies (13): Threaded | Chronological
on January 27, 2016 5:00am
Thank you for your candor !  
on January 27, 2016 9:41am
I attended the Westminster Conducting Institute with James Jordan and I was able to conduct about 15 minutes each of the 5 days I was there. Other conductors critiqued me and I was under the tutelage of Dr. Gary Graden. I also received a private lesson with Dr. Jordan. It was phenomenal. It changed my philosophy of conducting as well as the way I conduct. Very much worth it.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on January 27, 2016 4:31pm
Hi Alan, Glad to hear this! 15 minutes over 5 days… How many conductors participating? I am embarrassed to say that I had Westminster second on my list of options last year. I learned my lesson and going forward I will always ask more questions about any workshop/symposium/institute that I plan to attend. I will save my funds and hope for another conducting workshop in a few years.
on January 28, 2016 6:42am
Alan did sat 15 minutes each day, for a total of 75 minutes, plus a private lesson. Not to mention the value of observing the other participants, and hearing the feedback they received.
on January 28, 2016 2:53pm
Oh yes, sorry my mistake Kate. 75 minutes for the total week. I’d still like to know how many conductors were participating in that week, Alan.
on January 28, 2016 8:37am
My experience with these programs is that those which are affiliated with a college or university and take place on campus tend to offer a bit more bang for your buck than the vacation-type workshops (i.e., come study with a prominent conductor while spending a week in the south of France in August). That said, every program is different and the amount of one-on-one time you get has a lot to do with the number of faculty and the number of active participants. I have had personal experience with the summer workshops at Temple, Michigan, and the Oregon Bach Festival. I've also heard good things about the workshops at Eastman and Westminster, but I haven't participated in those. I'd recommend any of these, and with all of them you're paying much more for the teaching than for the location. 
One final thought - podium time isn't everything. Obviously it's always great to have someone critique your own conducting, but you should still be able to get a lot out of watching a great teacher work with another student. 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 28, 2016 3:13pm
Thanks Nathan. I agree the college/university events probably have more bang for your buck than the vacation-type events. I will consider myself warned.
I’m still curious about the math and even at 15 minutes a day it seems like a small amount. I can calculate that being 16 conductors over two 2-hour rehearsals. I have been challenging a few friends to see if we can double that and give 8 conductors 30 minutes of podium time a day.  We will keep you posted.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 2, 2016 1:18pm
An exception to your characteriztion of the "vacation-type" workshop is the Choral Symposium in France, with Paul Head and other faculty. (See Facebook page). All conductors get conducting time every day, plus performances, regular - almost daily - private lessons and seminars. The atmosphere is serious and cooperative musically, and combines cultural experiences of the country. Good repertoire, good singers. 
And... it is always good to ask the questions about conducting and mentoring time.
on February 22, 2016 3:37pm
I had a great experience at the Sarteano workshop where every conductor gets at least 30 minutes, every day, for 8 days, and the option of private lessons for an additional fee. I also had an exceptional experience at the University of Michigan workshop where I got 30 minutes every day for five days in small groups (about 8 - 10) and then two or three 20 minute sessions with the full group over the week. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 28, 2016 6:38am
Dear friend,
my name is César and I conduct a choir en Burgos (Spain). My experience with these type of workshop is not too much but enough for sharing it. My first experience was at 2004, a course organised by the Burgos Choirs Association's. As it was the first time, there were some problems with timing scheduling, pieces selection (basically difficulty) and students practise's time. In next workshopt all there problems were solved, but only one week-end was not enough. Next step was a three week-end workshop, much better. Even time assigned to each student was enough for practising. In my case I can practise with the choir I conduct in between all classes. But the best is the workshop that I am attending now. It is organised by the spanish university Carlos III, under the technical resposability of Nuria Fernandez, helped in the organization by Félix Marquez. The workshop includes seven saturdays, combining gesture's theory and practise. There are two level (beginners and medium / high). There are two types of practice: gesture and choir's work. It is not only a matter of gesture, also, time distribution, warm up, and final result choir performance. Usual practise time is 15 minutes. I ussually practise two times each saturday. Included in the workshopt there are important recognised masters lessons. In this case with Patrick Freer and Antonio Abreu Lechado. I highly recomend this type of workshop, it has a lot of experience behind, many people working and improving it year by year. I must ensure that it is the best workshop that I have attended.
I hope this is usefull for all of you,
on February 29, 2016 3:50am
I understand you are looking for an evaluation of your conducting by a clinician.  You might get more out singing with a major orchestra chorus and observing the maestro on the podium.  My blessing was the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Severance Hall and Blossom Music Center.  I sang with many Orchestral and Choral directors during my 38 years on the stage.  Every person was delightfully different, and in many ways, the same.  I applied what I observed to my own rehearsals and performances.  Do a self-evaluation of your choir's response, what you hear on the performance recording, and possibly what some close choral directing friends offer in constructive comment.  I know that doesn't answer your question, and you may not be blessed with a major choir/orchestra situation such as mine.  Just a thought - join an outstanding choir - observe - imitate what you like - apply - evaluate for your own growth.  Best wishes!
Applauded by an audience of 6
on February 29, 2016 12:52pm
Hello! I attended the DCINY's Complete Conductor Workshop this January in NY.  This is my first conducting workshop.  Needless to say I had significant podium time over four days in a group of 16 conductors (not including the people who were auditing the worshop).  This included two 30-minute private lessons with Rene Clausen, rehearsal time with the DCINY String Quartet, various lab session podium lessons, Q and A with the fabulous DCINY Concertmaster Jorge Avila, tickets to all DCINY's weekend concerts while in town, and numerous opportunities to to observe Carnegie Hall's concert rehearsals.  Not to mention, there are three levels of enrollment in this workshop and I was on the middle tier.  The highest level received at least an hour of private lessons, and hour of podium time with the String Quartet and Chamber Orchestra in addition to the fact that everyone, including auditees, essentially conducted everyday.  
I think I'm trying to say that it was amazing and I can't wait to do it again!!!  This is my first year out of graduate school and second year teaching and the whole experience was simply exhilarating!  Every level of expertise was represented (college seniors to long-time professors with Ph.D's) and we all had ample opportunity to observe and interact not only with each other and the DCINY professionals but also the visiting composer (Sir Karl Jenkins) and clincian (Rene Clausen).
I have to brag a little because my major conducting professor, Dr. Meaders, is the one who introduced me to this great network of mentoring conductors and it's changed my life!  You should check it out!!!
on March 12, 2016 8:17am
So it sounds like some conducting workshops/symposiums offer a significant amount of time actually conducting. Camille getting 30 minutes every day! I will be more aware the next time I sign up for one of these events and ask a lot more details around the conducting time offered each participant.
Michael, thanks for the wise words. I sing under a celebrated conductor every week. I agree, it is a like a masterclass for so many things at every rehearsal. Also, the reason I signed up for a choir tour this year and became part of a much smaller group within the community choir. It will be invaluable to me as a church choir conductor.
Christian, the DCINY's Complete Conductor Workshop sounds amazing!
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