AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

An examination of conductors’ leadership skills

by Tiffany Hsu Han Chang

Institution: Oberlin College Masters Theses
Department: Music Education
Degree: MM
Year: 2009
Keywords: Music; conductor; leadership; orchestra; musicianship; rehearsal organization; instructional strategies; ensemble; rehearsal
Record ID: 1859956
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=obgrad1272475425


Through my experiences as a member of various large orchestral ensembles, I have been intrigued by how diverse my musical experiences were with different conductors. Some of these experiences have been thoroughly inspiring; I felt compelled to achieve higher levels of performance and convinced that I was a crucial part of creating something much larger than the notes on the page. Other experiences have been less musically fulfilling for me; I became disinterested and bored and felt little affective connection with the music. Reflecting on these different personal responses, I realized that the conductors in these experiences, in part, influenced such reactions. I trusted and admired these conductors for their confidence, musicality, and ability to lead a large group of people. In essence, these musical leaders possessed various leadership skills that contributed to their success, effectiveness, and appeal as conductors in my eyes. First, the successful conductors in my past experiences all possessed excellent musicianship in offering meaningful and powerful interpretations of the music and demonstrating complete knowledge of the score and its background. Second, these effective conductors maintained a sense of energy and momentum throughout their rehearsals that allowed me to stay focused and interested in music-making. They also presented musical concepts and ideas in ways that increased my understanding of the music. Lastly, I realized that these conductors’ verbal comments provided me with specific feedback and understandable instructions on how to improve my performance. These conductors were futher able to depict their musical interpretations through conducting gestures, facial expressions, and physical demeanors. Therefore, I identified musicianship, organization, and instructional strategies—both verbal and nonverbal—as three significant leadership skills that has improved the quality of my orchestral experiences. Reflections on my own experiences as a member of orchestral ensembles fueled my interest in honing my work as a developing conductor through an exploration of these three leadership skills. I am fully aware that the successes of the conductors in my past experiences also were attributed to other leadership skills. However, in this project, I sought an opportunity, as a developing conductor, to examine and self-reflect on these three specific leadership skills in order to generate my own style as a musician and leader. The purpose of this project was to examine how conductors’ leadership skills—musicianship, organization, and instructional strategies—impact the musical development of my project’s orchestral ensemble. This project involved my conducting of a volunteer, collegiate orchestra that I recruited. I conducted this orchestra for five rehearsals and a concert performance at my graduate recital. A crucial part of this project included my personal reflections on my leadership skills and their effects on the musical development of the orchestra I rehearsed.