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- April 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm #283155Larry SmithParticipantOK, in the age of Smart Music and Wii kinetic, interactive games, is it possible to create a program that allows studentsto get the experience of conducting an orchestra, chorus, band or other large ensemble in standard repertoire suitablefor Advanced Conducting at the college level? Right now, my Basic Conducting students conduct each other on simplevocal repertoire in the process of learning basic manual technique and this seems to work very well, but once they moveon to Advanced Conducting I have a smaller group of musicians and they need to analyze, prepare, and conduct moreelaborate choral, orchestra, and wind ensemble score excerpts. At this time it can only be accomplished with recordings,which of course means they do not get any real feedback on their tempi, dynamics, and articulations as they are beingshown.Does anyone know if Smart Music and/or Wii and other game producers have anything that might allow a student to holda baton-shaped input device – as they do in Wii sports games – and conduct an ensemble? It would be a great thing forthe training of undergraduate students in a school like mine, where there are limited ensembles and not much opportunityfor conducting live musicians on a daily basis.Grace and peace,Larry SmithMissouri Baptist UniversitySt. Louis, MOApril 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm #283156Hi, Larry. In my opinion, you cannot CONDUCT a recording, regardles of the technology involved. (But I am NOT up on the state of the art by any means, so there may be something that’s actually interactive.) You don’t learn until you make mistakes, but a recording doesn’t care whether you make mistakes! All you learn is how to FOLLOW a recording.My undergrad conducting class was to recordings, and it was a waste of time. I learned a lot more from my father, in terms of patterns and cues, and from standing in front of my high school band as his assistant.Here, we have a lab enemble that meets every Thursday afternoon, and all music ed majors are required to attend and to act as the band and chorus (sometimes playing their secondary instruments). As they progress in their conducting classes, they can accommplish more during their time on the podium.All the best,JohnApril 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm #283157Kentaro (Ken-P) SatoParticipantWell… I thought Wii dose have a conducting game, but that would be my imagination (or available only in Japan?). Some of my clients are game production company. So if there are need and healthy consumer demand, it would be possible to create such a game…Anyway, for the time being, the best program for conducting students is “Notion Conducting.”I think you should check this out.By the way, Finale and other program which has “tap tempo” fuction can do the similar staff.April 17, 2011 at 9:26 am #283167Leonard RatzlaffParticipantKentaro,Thanks for linking to their website. The video is informative and has (understandably) positive endorsements from the students who have used it. I searched for independent reviews of this program online and didn’t find any to date. Are there listers out there who have used this program in their conducting classes and can provide a review of Notion Conducting?April 17, 2011 at 10:50 am #283170Wayne ToewsParticipantGood day Larry,I agree with John Howell.The best device currently available is a piano controlled by a sensitive musician who responds precisely to the conducting gestures.Conducting involves a symbiosis between conductor and performer. Unless and until a device can be programmed to respond to the quality of motion created by acceleration and deceleration it will be of no use.Wayne Toewsconductorschool.comApril 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm #283176Andy BadeParticipantLarry,I have used the Notion program in instrumental conducting classes. I had hoped it would prove to be beneficial, but unfortunately it was not. First, it is an anthology of scores – there is no text on conducting, so if you want that you buy another book from somewhere else, driving up the cost for students, and of course, there are no coordinating examples. Very few of the scores are simple enough for beginning conductors, so it is not very appropriate for true beginners. More problematic is the technology needed to make it work. Everyone has to have their own laptops – plugged in so batteries don’t go down. We also found that computers did not always react in playback at the same rate when the students tapped the tempo. Then there is the speaker issue. Only better quality speakers produced enough sound to be useful. If you have plenty to go around, ok, but if not, you can’t hear all of the instrumental parts. Finally, there is simply no way to replicate the breathing, articulations, etc of a person playing their own instrument in response to a conductor’s gestures. A piano lab would be better, especially if you wanted different instrumental sounds and had keyboards capable of such. Plus, students at least work on keyboard and transposition skills.Sorry for the negative review, I had really hoped it would work better myself.Andy BadeApril 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm #283181Andy: Don’t apologize! Your “negative” review was very useful, and exactly what Larry was asking for.But I did have to smile at your comment, “everyone has to have their own laptops – plugged in so batteries don’t go down.” Here at Virginia Tech, every student DOES have his own computer–it’s a university requirement, along with a recommended set of general software and Department-specific software in most Departments. (We require Sibelius music notation software, having previously used Finale and before that Composer’s Mosaic going back to the early ’90s.)And students routinely bring their computers to class, and often do run them just fine without having to plug them in, although some do and I imagine that if you had several classes in a row it could be a problem. (And of course there’s no way to know whether they’re taking notes, reading email, or playing video games silently!) But our former Computer Lab was long ago converted to a Keyboard Lab, once all students were required to have their own computers. In fact Music was one of the first to embrace that requirement (after Engineering, of course!), because our Department Head was a confirmed Geek and pushed us into using labptops and using them regularly in classes (both the students and the faculty). I often use my computer for PowerPoint presentations in class, runnng on battery power.We’re also fortunate that the university provides computers for faculty, and runs a Faculty Development Institute to try to keep us up with the latest things. (Which essentially means keeping up with our students, which will NEVER happen!!!) On the other hand, almost all university documents are now only available on line and are never printed, and finding them can be a challenge for those of us in the older generation. But the “paperless office” we were all promised long ago still isn’t here, and probably never will be!All the best,JohnApril 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm #283187Larry SmithParticipantThanks for the input. Of course I would love to have the resources available for students to conduct live musicians but in the class setting at small liberal arts college with no orchestra program and currently 50 majors it cannot be done. Even ensuring a pianist in the class has proven difficult. I have been able to give students opportunities with the choir once they complete Advanced Conducting but in the class setting we use Kenneth Phillips’ book for the Basic Conducting class and follow the format of videotaping every experience. STudents must evaluate their own work and then submit their evaluation to me before I give a final grade for each project. As I stated, in that class they simply conduct one another singing unison on simple hymns, carols (its a Fall class and those tend to be songs everyone knows without looking at the music).It is the Advanced Conducting class in which the issue arises. We still video every conducting experience and the students evaluate. I feel it is essential that they prepare and conduct works from different repertoire, styles, etc. Typically they conduct the following pieces – Cum sancto spiritu from Vivaldi Gloria, Mozart Ave verum corpus, Richte mich, Gott by Mendelssohn, Sure on This Shining Night by Barber, Sonata pian e forte by Gabrieli, Horkstow Grange by Grainger, Overture or Pifa from Messiah, Variations on a Theme by Haydn (first 3 movements) and Quem vidistis pastores from Christmas Cantata by Pinkham. I no longer use a text for Advanced Conducting, just the scores and some collected wisdom from many sources (Green, DEmaree & Moses, etc.). This is a class with both instrumental and choral students.Here is what I have discovered about working with recordings. Because they observe themselves (as do I) on video they can tell if they are being reactive or pro-active. Are they showing changes in advance or simply following the recording. They have learned to anticipate and be ahead of things. I know it is not ideal but I still think it is better than nothing and in our situation it is not likely to change any time soon. I fully understand the disadvantages but I found other choices even less satisfactory, so until Smart Music or someone else comes up with a truly interactive program, this will remain my plan.Two years ago I divided up Part One of Messiah among 7 students who had completed Advanced Conducting. Each student got to conduct a recit, aria, and chorus. Each one rehearsed the choir and then rehearsed the soloists (even helped in selecting the soloists in auditions), then rehearsed with the paid orchestra, soloists and chorus twice. This turned out to be a great experience and allows me to provide that kind of real-world experience for the most outstanding and deserving students through a course we call Conducting Seminar. It gives me a third option for those who have proven themselves in the classes. I also have student conductors in the choir and I know our Band Director also employs student conductors when possible, but recreating that in a class that meets two hours per week is simply not possible for us at this time.April 18, 2011 at 10:16 am #283229Glen McCuneParticipantLarry, I think you’re doing an admirable job giving your students a good experience within your circumstances.Interactive conducting has been around since the 1990’s, but not very accessible to us common folks. However, I did find the work of Teresa Marrin Nakra really fascinating. She teaches at The College of New Jersey, and has a company called Immersion Music (immersionmusic.org) which designed and built an exhibit of interactive conducting for the Boston Children’s Museum. Here are some links of interest:An article on her in the Sunday Trenton Times: http://t.co/l9LMmvy (not a link, copy and paste into your browser).A video of a Digital Conducting Lab at the Arizona State College (link on immersionmusic.org under Media)Other interesting videos on her websiteI also found several videos on YouTube searching Wii Conducting Hero.Another thought I had is to explore conducting interships with local church choirs. I have been a successful conductor for 40+ years, currently as Artistic Director of One Voice Chorus in Richmond, VA, a 120+ voice community doing a wide range of literature. (Visit us at onevoicechorus.org). Apart from some meaningful study in my Masters work, pretty much everything I know about conducting I learned working with small church choirs. In this day and age, many churches may be open to an intern program wherein the student gets a stipend (probably small) in return for working with their choir. You (and/or other students) could observe from time to time and critique. A quick survey of local churches, contacting the Pastor with the idea, should produce results.Hope this is helpful. Please feel free to contact me privately if you wish.Glen McCuneApril 18, 2011 at 11:28 am #283239Larry and Glen (and others who are interested): 20 years ago we were in just about the same situation that you are today, Larry, although we were a VERY small department (probably about 50 majors) in a very large state land-grand university. And we did just about what you are now doing, using videotape, having students self-critique, and having professors critique both the students and their critiques. It’s about all you can do, and you’re doing it, but I also have to admit that we were not turning out very good conductors at the time.As I’ve mentioned, that changed when we instituted a Lab Ensemble that meets once a week, with ALL music ed majors required to take part, not just those active in conducting classes. And that’s something you might want to consider as a next step. It has the advantage that the singers get to work with instrumentalists and instrumentalists get to work with singers, and SO many jobs in the so-called Real World do require exactly those skills.And to follow up Glen’s comments, at my undergrad school (again, a small church-afiliated school with about 2,000 students and a rather small music department), we music ed students were required to go out and find, on our own, situations where we could get hand-on experience assisting in various aspects of education. I believe I did find a small church choir that allowed me to assist (although I remember much better that I was able to assiste with a junior high track team!). But that was by no means my FIRST time conducting. In high school I had served as my father’s assistant for band and orchestra, and among other activities had directed (and arranged for) a small church band.I would not hold out the possiblility of an actual PAID internship, knowing how tight most church’s budgets are, but volunteer help is always (or at least usually) welcome, and it’s a great learning experience. And by taking advantage of what is available in the community and not just in your own school ensembles, you broaden the available base of possible activities. Perhaps your local school district would even accept volunteer help, although that depends on the legal requirements for having people in the classrooms and might involve criminal background checks. And I’m not sure that approaching the Pastor is the right way to start out, since the choir director will have to approve a volunteer assistant and perhaps should be the one to approach the Pastor–whose approval is, of course, necessary.But I have to question why you have people singing in unison. We’ve ALL had to learn to teach parts to inexperienced singers, and to teach them to sing those parts in harmony, and even a simple hymnbook has plenty of great material in it. And if that isn’t part of a conductor’s job, I sure don’t know what is!!!All the best,JohnP.S. I did my grad work at Indiana, where the Choral Department assigned around 800 singers to ensembles every semester, and every conducting class had a chorus (even though most of them might have been keyboard players). But Indiana is not the Real World!!! We have to be more creative.April 19, 2011 at 8:37 am #283302Michael BloemParticipantLarry,I am not aware of other interactive conducting training tools, but I would echo John’s challenge to have the other students in class cover the parts of each piece being conducted by students. They should be familiar with the parts already if they have done proper score study, so performing them in class to a student’s cues shouldn’t be that much more work. I admit that this would be a challenge with the instrumental works that you have them conduct. My own undergrad background involved three courses in conducting each completed with a majority of the emphasis on choral literature. We had roughly 20 students in each class, typically with a fairly even split among voice parts.I should also mention that the third conducting course in the section did require each student to form a lab choir of 16-18 people, rehearse them one hour per week for six weeks, and then perform on a conducting recital. We did have requirements about having some non-music majors and freshmen part of those ensembles. This is the experience we couldn’t otherwise get until student teaching or assisting at a local church. I probably got the most out of actually rehearsing them over the course of an hour, not just simply conducting. We had to choose the literature ourselves, typically 3 pieces lasting about 10 minutes combined. Granted, these weren’t elaborate choral works, but we got feedback nonetheless throughout the rehearsal and through written evaluations by each singer at the end of the process.Good luck!Michael
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