Carefully Crafting the Choral Rehearsal II: Conductors Matter

“Students will be as motivated, enthusiastic, and skillful as their teachers.” — David Brunner

The success of a choral rehearsal depends largely upon the conductor’s skills, preparation, understanding, organization, and imagination.

The dynamic teacher/conductor:

  • Is a thoroughly trained musician, possessing excellent musicianship
  • Has developed the ability to hear
  • Understands the workings of the voice and is able to model healthy vocal technique
  • Is versed in style, historical and cultural perspectives, and performance practice
  • Knows the score thoroughly
  • Speaks clearly, precisely, imaginatively, and inspirationally
  • Knows how people learn, and asks for specific tasks and measurable skills
  • Reinforces a positive response for students
  • Is physically coordinated
  • Conducts clearly and expressively
  • Plays the piano comfortably and confidently
  • Is organized
  • Possesses musical imagination
  • Has a sincere enthusiasm for music, children, and teaching.

“While personality may play a part in group dynamics and motivation, many other aspects of effective rehearsal technique can be incorporated by any director, regardless of charismatic gift, teaching style, or experience.”–David Brunner

The conductor must choose repertoire not only for its entertainment value, but also for its potential in terms of education and growth. He or she must then thoughtfully plan each rehearsal to ensure that sequential learning takes place, and that healthy vocal technique is reinforced. Singers then begin to think, feel, and sing musically.

Bill Fordice of Clarke College, Iowa shares: “For too long choral directors focused on teaching students how to sing choral music. The goal of a choral director should be to teach students how to learn choral music. The focus should be on developing in students the tools necessary to discover musical meaning independently and in a group.”

Mary Jennings, MENC Choral Mentor believes a choral conductor should be “adaptable, resourceful, a good motivator, successful with public relations, and outwardly calm and nonplussed. Conductors need to understand what their singers’ voices can do (physiological abilities/limitations), and also have age-appropriate expectations.”

DISCUSS: What are the characteristics of a good conductor?

Summarized from “Carefully Crafting the Choral Rehearsal” by David L. Brunner (director of choral activities, University of Central Florida, Orlando); published in entirety in Music Educators Journal, November, 1996.

–Sue Rarus, August 13, 2008, © National Association for Music Education