Conducting is Good for Your Health!
Expanding Your Conducting Vocabulary
By NAfME Member Dr. Andrea Strauss
Have you ever wanted to improve your conducting? Many of us would like to be more expressive to reveal the connection between the music and the players. Conducting is our unique way of interpreting the music and the composer’s intent, yet many times our physical motions limit our ability to best express what the music is trying to convey. Since any gesture over time loses effectiveness, ways to expand our conducting vocabulary are necessary to improve and enhance our students’ performance.
Ways to expand our conducting vocabulary are necessary to improve and enhance our students’ performance.
As directors of ensembles and leaders of instrumental music programs, we wear many hats and are pulled in many different directions every day. As a result, improving our musical gestures to best interpret the music takes a backseat to the numerous other obligations that we have. Consequently, we tend to use the most comfortable conducting movement possible and concentrate more on the individual players and less on how we appear as musical interpreters. Nonetheless, research shows that more expressive conducting leads to more expressive performance.
In this participatory clinic, you will be introduced to fundamental movements of tai chi, yoga poses, and basic concepts in Laban movement all of which can enhance your physical motion and gain insight into the flow of energy in your body to better interpret the music.
In this session, we will combine basic movements such as “painting the wall” and “brushing the air” to expand motion and create a deeper awareness of our sagittal planes. The size of the movement and flow direction will vary to create a deeper sense of our left and right sides for independence and control.
Breathing effectively while conducting can improve how you feel on the podium. Pranayama or yoga breathing will be introduced to help you manipulate your vital energy. Yoga breathing creates relaxation and reduces stress. Various standing poses such as “sun salutation”, “tree” and “chair” pose will be introduced to help with balance and spatial awareness. Hand mantras will also be presented to awaken the sensitivity to the fingers as means of expression.
Just a “flick-float-dab and punch” will allow you to incorporate “weight,” “space,” “time,” and “effort” into your conducting technique. These concepts applied to conducting will help you focus on the action and feeling rather than on a set pattern or meter.
By customizing short daily exercises using these concepts and techniques, you will naturally develop your range of physical motion, balance and flexibility, and expand your ability to incorporate different gestures for a variety of musical nuances. Moving in harmony within yourself will result in a more expressive performance and a natural way to a healthier you!
About the author:
NAfME member Andrea DeRenzis Strauss is the Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tara Winds Community Band. She is the former Director of Bands at Georgia Tech, and Associate Professor of Music at Shorter University. Dr. Strauss has conducted in Japan and Italy, adjudicated in Canada and Ireland, and has conducted all-state and honor bands across the United States. She has served as Rehearsal Lab Clinician for the Midwest Clinic and articles by Dr. Strauss have been published in the Music Educators Journal and the National Band Association Journal. Dr. Strauss is currently the Education Director for the Georgia Music Partners.
Andrea Strauss presented on her topic “Conducting is Good for Your Health! Practical Application of Tai Chi, Yoga, and Body Movement To Bring Innovative Approaches to Conducting Technique That Enhance The Creative Response to Music Making” at the 2017 NAfME National Conference last November in Dallas, TX. Register today for the 2019 NAfME National Conference!
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