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One of the questions I asked most frequently in the beginning of my conducting study was, “How do I study a score?”  I never got a straight answer (because there isn’t one), and my question morphed into many more:

  • What edition of the score should I buy?
  • Is it OK to listen to recordings?
  • How do I mark a score?
  • Should I do a full Roman numeral analysis?
  • Bowings?
  • “Hier ist das Zeitmaß durch die vorangegangene unmerkliche Steigerung bereits “Energisch bewegt” (ohne zu eilen) geworden; dasselbe ist noch immer weiter zu steigern bis zum Eintritt des a tempo (Più mosso)” …do I need to know German?

The beautiful part of this is the more you learn, the less you realize you know.

While searching for answers is the way we learn, I decided to draft up something a little more practical – a one page document that doesn’t give all the answers, but it does offer a good place for a young conductor to start.


orch-recording-titleWhether you’re applying for a conducting position with a professional ensemble, a graduate program or a summer festival you’re going to need to produce a high-quality video recording.  You can Google “how to make a good conducting video” but the results are…well, you know, not that helpful.

Let’s start with the end goal:  You need 20-30 minutes of total footage, at least 10-15 minutes of rehearsal footage, and  15-20+ minutes of performance footage. The application verbiage goes on with the attributes the ideal candidate should possess, but no one tells us how to make this video.  It’s like we should just know…so here it goes:


Do you remember the first time you encountered a quintuplet?  I was practicing a solo in high school that was far too difficult for me, and I encountered this passage:


I remember feeling so proud of myself, wiggling my fingers and aiming for the next beat.  “Wow – listen to all those notes I just played…sort of…”

Fast forward almost twenty years: I found myself working with a student orchestra on Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, and we got to this passage:


Now, these were very bright college students I was working with, but what do you think they did?  They wiggled their fingers and aimed for the next beat.

Things elsewhere in the overture were going well, so I chose to dig into the details and spend some time on this passage so we could hear the each tuplet cleary, and once we achieved that clarity, we could then hear the resulting polyrhythm.

The root of the problem was that there was a lack of evenness within each tuplet, resulting in the next measure arriving asynchronously.  My first instinct was to give students words with syllables that corresponded to the 5s and 7s: I taught university for 5s and barbeque potato chip for 7s.

Well, hooray it worked.  We achieved evenness, but did I actually teach the students how tuplets are structured?  Not at that moment, but that’s what I’m going to do now…


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So you want to be a conductor?  You’re crazy – stop now, and go on enjoying your life.  Psshh, conducting…why would you want to do that?

Oh, you’re still here?  Good for you.  You must love music as much as life, itself.  You’ve probably played under the batons of great conductors and been inspired by their musicianship, imagination, aural acuity and artistic vision.  Or perhaps you’ve played under the baton of too many poor conductors – those that waste time, talk too much, are inefficient and uninspiring.


Hartmann_ExhibitionModest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) for solo piano is widely known to audiences through Ravel’s orchestration, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky in 1922. Ravel’s version is, however, only one of 38 published orchestrations for the symphony orchestra (and one of over 300 hundred arrangements for various ensembles).

In a lecture recital I will discuss the complicated history of this orchestral pillar and Eastman’s Philharmonia will bring these Pictures to life with performance examples from orchestrations by Maurice Ravel (1922), Sergei Gorchakov (1954) and Leonard Lawrence (1977), along with excerpts from the original piano score.

Add the event to your Google calendar  or add the see the details through your Facebook events here.



My favorite part about being a musician is being surrounded by some of the most wonderful, creative and thoughtful people on the planet.  Tubacus Galacticus shatters the ‘norm’ of what one would expect from a tuba-euphonium quartet, and pushes the ceiling higher on what we can expect as chamber music moves forward in the 21st century.

From their inception in 2004, Off Bass Brass has taken the idiom of Tuba/Euphonium Quartet in a different direction. By incorporating a rhythm section from the outset, the quartet has transformed into a septet. This collaboration has widened the available palette for many new original compositions as well as jazz, rock, fusion, latin, and big band arrangements that the members of Off Bass Brass have done in-house. This album features world premiere performances as well as some greatest hits from the past decade. The rhythm section has been an integral part of this effort, and is featured prominently throughout the project. The last 10 years have been a fruitful musical journey for Off Bass Brass, and Tubacus Galacticus is the embodiment of that journey.

Here’s more information about each track from the liner notes:   (more…)

French composer Nicolas Bacri (b. 1961) is no stranger to Eastman, nor Eastman’s world-renown viola studio. In 2012, Eastman hosted the International Viola Congress and performed Bacri’s music. Bacri was in attendance, and was so impressed with what he heard that he approached The Eastman Viola Ensemble and asked if they would be interested in collaborating on a work for viola solo and viola ensemble. The Piccolo Concerto Notturno is the result of a co-commission between Eastman and the Paris Conservatory.


Alex McLaughlin, a sophomore student of Professor Carol Rodland, was the featured soloist alongside yours truly as the conductor.

Hear from soloist Alex McLaughlin:

“When I first started work on the Bacri, I had a sort of “musician’s block”; I didn’t exactly know where to even begin, or even what to begin with. I had experience on learning new pieces of music, but all of them had been freshly composed short pieces with the guidance of their composers for a world premier of around thirty or forty people. Until I met back up with Prof. Rodland and Prof. Irvine at the Bowdoin International Music Festival this past summer, I was totally on my own with essentially only the tools and techniques I’ve learned over the years.

The amount of freedom I had with the piece was actually paralyzing me from getting any quality work done on it. Leading up to Bowdoin, the concerto was essentially small, related fragments that weren’t really all that well held together. It was at Bowdoin that I truly began to develop the fragments into something more convincing: more like a full work of art.

In my lessons, the relationship between teacher and student became less of me getting directions on how to approach the concerto and more of my teachers providing suggestions and ideas and working me directly and arguably more as a professional.

Those six weeks of intensive work on the Bacri not only helped me really develop my interpretation of the concerto but also my mindset as a musician. Musically, I had reached a higher plane of understanding: my mind was constantly in motion while playing, continuously searching for things in the music to bring out; melodies, intervals, phrases, everything. I was now able to fully embrace the freedom that previously constricted me and play the concerto for what it was: a complex work for viola.

The last couple weeks leading up to the competition were both an incredible learning experience and a time of stress. Being able to listen to all the different (and I do emphasize “different”) yet equally convincing renditions of the concerto immersed me into the piece once again, hearing new aspects of the piece I had studied so hard that were previously unknown to me.

Unfortunately as a result of this, I became more doubtful of my own interpretation, making me feel as though I was still so far from reaching the true potential I knew the concerto had. So, I was inspired to really take a fine-tooth comb to the work and give it the final touches that made it that much more complete.

In all honesty, winning the competition was trivial in comparison to the journey this piece was. As a musician, I have matured so much in a relatively short amount of time and have been given a new fire that is motivating to really give the Bacri everything I have to offer and more.

I am truly excited to share this magnificent work to the American audience.”

Click here to read the article on Eastman’s blog.