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Preeminent Pedagogues of Conducting

This is a simple question whose responses will hopefully lead me to a fun research project.  Who do you consider to be the pre-eminent pedagogues of choral conducting in the United States today?  All responses public and private accepted.
Many thanks,
G. Britt Cooper
Associate Professor and
Director of Choral Activities, Walsh University
Director, Canton Symphony Chorus
North Canton, OH
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on January 29, 2013 4:32pm
By "pre-eminent pedagogues," are you referencing writers or mentors? Because, in my view, the lists are different, and there is not as much cross-over in the lists as you might think (i.e., those who write about the teaching of conducting, vs. those who teach conductors).
on January 29, 2013 5:51pm
Mike:  An excellent question, although by definition a pedagogue is a teacher.  And there are many more teachers, including truly outstanding ones, than there are people who have the time or inclination to write ABOUT teaching.
My nomination would be Fiora Contino, with whom I studied at Indiana, although she is now largely retired. And of course Julius Herford, who did not teach hand waving but was a master at teaching score study.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 30, 2013 8:22am
I'm focusing primarily on pedagogues of the physical techniques of conducting, regardless of whether they write or "mentor". 
on January 29, 2013 6:39pm
If I had to create a list of all the conductors I have seen, in action, and conductors who have written, and some conductors whom I've read about. My list would be as follows, keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list:
Teaching Conducting:
Rodney Eichenberger - UWashington, USC, FLORIDA STATE U. (He has taught many of the now greatest conductors and his videos developed new avenues for conducitng)
Dr. Jerry Blackstone - University of Michigan (He has had several students win the national conducting competition, and his program has been ranked #1 by US NEWS)
Dr. André Thomas - Florida State University (His program is incredible and he pairs the research of music education and the performance of conducting into a great PHD program)
Margarette Brooks - Yale University (Her program has garnered many graduate students winning or placing in the top three for the national conducting competition)
Dr. Jerry McCoy - University of North Texas (His program is one of the hottest in the past decade and his graduates come out of his program with incredible skills and techniques)
Dr.Jo-Michael Scheibe - USC (He has produced great graduates from his programs and the quality of his work is incredible)
Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt - Westminster Choir College (During his tenure at WCC he produced top quality conductors from his program and garnered national attention.)
Dr. Giselle Wyers - University of Washington (She is incredible at teaching Laban techniques within choral conducting and she has written a book with James Jordan)
Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt - University of Toronto (?) (She is a great example of a pedagogue, I saw her in workshops a few times, her conducting techniques are incredible)
Henry Leck - Butler University (He is a great pedagogue of conducting with speciality in childrens choirs and the boys changing voice, but his rehearsal technique is amazing)
Dr. Sandra Snow - Michigan State University (She is a prominent pedagogue with her techniques and her DVD is a great tool for all choral conductors)
There are more books about choral techniques than choral conducting (where one uses gestures), keep this in mind.
Writing about choral conducting NOT choral rehearsal techniques:
Dr. James Jordan - Westminster Choir College (I have never seen him teach, but from his books I get a sense that he would be an effective teacher. My only reservation is that his books seem to be like 65-75% philosophical and 25-35% practical information) (He does produce more books than any other individual within the choral field)
Dr. Kevin Fenton - Florida State University (He has written a great book on choral conducting and his program at FSU with Andre Thomas produces great choral conductors)
Dr. Giselle Wyers - University of Washington (for reasons listed previously)
Dr. Dennis Shrock - Texas Christian University (He has produced a book on conducting and his is a well known pedagogue and choral literature expert)
These are all that I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure I could come up with 10 more names for each category if I consulted my library and my notes. Hope this is helpful to you. 
All the best, 
Alan Davis
Bachelor of Musical Arts (Choral Conducting) - May 2013 - Pacific Lutheran University
Founder -
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 29, 2013 10:07pm
John, yes, pedagogue does imply teacher, but different people have different ideas of what constitutes teacher....
I would add to Alan's list Janet Galvan of Ithaca College. This school regularly produces finalists in ACDA conducting competitions (if that is your measure of successful teaching) at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, under both her and Larry Doebler's shared tutilage (Larry is retiring this year). Many go on to the DMA programs listed above. Given the size of Ithaca's program, given that the school does not confer DMAs or PhDs, this is quite remarkable, particularly when you consider that many of Ithaca's finalists are not "conducting" students per se (i.e., enrolled in a conducting specific program). If you were to poll the people on Alan's list, I suspect she would come up on many of their short lists of great pedagogues.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 30, 2013 7:27am
I would offer another name for your list.
As a teacher, Dr. John Dickson of Mercer U, Texas Tech, and LSU has had great and successful students who have gone out from under his teaching to develop legitimate, award winning programs and ensembles at schools across the country. Two of his former students are (or were?) assistant conductors for the US Navy Sea Chanters.
Carter L. Collins
Undergraduate Music Education Student, Mississippi College.
on January 30, 2013 7:27am
I would certainly put Sandra Willetts in this category although she has retired.  She has had students win the national conducting competition and now their students are excelling in the field.  I would also mention Ann Howard Jones as an exceptional conductor and teacher.
Julia Thorn, DMA
Director of Choral Activities
Susquehanna University
Selinsgrove, PA
on January 30, 2013 8:49am
I would include William Dehning of USC.  His conducting books are fabulous
on January 30, 2013 11:11am
I would add my mentor, Dennis Shrock, who was at the University of Oklahoma for many years, and now is teaching and conducting at Texas Christian University.
Marilyn Carver, DMA
Oral Robert University
on January 31, 2013 6:56am
For sure....
Margaret Hillis, founder and conductor of Chicago Symphony Chorus
Robert Shaw, conductror of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Julius Herford, professor of music history / conductor   Indiana University
Otto Werner Mueller, professor of conducting, Yale University
Each of these (and those mentioned above) "live on" in the conducting and teaching of their students.  
Bing Vick
on January 31, 2013 8:58am
Bing and colleagues:  Most influential musicians have done more than one thing, and one must be careful in one's descriptions.  In the case of Dr. Herford, he was actually a professor on the choral conducting faculty at Indiana, not on the music history faculty, even though he was an historian with a broader knowledge than many of the music history specialists and a more practical knowledge of music theory and analysis than many of the theory specialists.  And during my time at Indiana I never knew him to actually conduct, although he may have done so when he was younger.  His work and his inspiration were done behind the scenes, teaching the kind of score study he had devoted most of his life to developing, and were realized in the performances of those who had the privilege of working with him.  His invitation to "look once into the score" was the beginning of an assignment that would last the rest of your life.
All the best,
on January 31, 2013 9:33am
Axel Theimer, DMA, is an excellent and leading-edge conductor, teacher of choral conducting, and voice educator. His country of origin is Austria, and since 1969, he has conducted men's choir and mixed choir at Saint John's University and College of Saint Benedict in Collegeville, Minnesota 56321, (320-363-3374). Siince 1988, he has been a primary teacher of choral conducting and voice for the 7.5-day summer courses at The VoiceCare Network on the beautiful Saint John's University campus (  And, he is conductor of a semi-pro choir, Kantorei, in the Twin Cities of Minnesota (, the National Catholic Youth Choir, and the Amadeus Chamber Symphony in central Minnesota. He has presented on topics listed below at some national-state-local conferences, conducted some all-state and festival choirs in the U.S., and has taught choral conducting in Canada and Europe.
A major reason why Dr. Theimer is a leading-edge conductor and teacher of choral conducting is that he has a deep, voice-science-based and expressive-based knowledge of voice and choral music, and of the conscious and other-than-conscious effects of conducting gestures, conductor 'body language,' and conductor rehearsal talk on vocal efficiency/inefficiency and expressivity in choral singers and thus on the voice qualities that singers produce when they sing together ('choral sounds'). In addition, he is conversant with the learning neurosciences and what kind of experiences result in singers wanting to sing in choirs for a lifetime (and the kind of experiences that dscourage lifelong singing).
MANY high school and college/university choral conductors ask him, "How do you get that beautiful, free choral sound from the singers?" The answer in words is rather complex, isn't it?
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