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Orchestral conducting pedagogy : a case of participants' perceptions of teaching and learning in the Symphony Australia conductor development programme

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Postema, DA 2008 , 'Orchestral conducting pedagogy : a case of participants' perceptions of teaching and learning in the Symphony Australia conductor development programme', EdD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the phenomenon of orchestral conducting pedagogy through a case study investigation of one module of Symphony Australia's year-long conducting development programme. Much has been written about the characteristics of conducting practice and the role of the conductor with significant research into gesture, leadership and the relationship between conductor and orchestra. However, research that investigates the ways in which orchestral conducting is taught, particularly within the context of a conducting master-class workshop, is scarce. For this reason, two questions were formulated to underpin this case study investigation;
1. What does orchestral conducting pedagogy look like?
2. How does teaching and learning occur within a conducting master-class workshop environment?
The study investigated orchestral conducting pedagogy by exploring workshop participants' perceptions of teaching and learning through interview and intensive observations. The participants included student conductors (6), auditors (2), ensemble musicians, (3) the artistic administrator (1) and the maestro (1). The aspiring young experienced student conductors were required to rehearse specific repertoire with a live semi-professional ensemble over five consecutive days in preparation for a public performance with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Interview and observation data were generated with participants throughout the period of the workshop.
This study found that orchestral conducting pedagogy (within this workshop environment) is a highly intense activity that placed enormous stress upon participants' (musicians, auditors, student conductors and maestro) emotional, physical and musical capabilities. The workshop environment fostered numerous opportunities for student conductors to participate as instrumentalists with the accompanying instrumental ensemble, review each other's performances, implement advice from the maestro, experience independence in making musical decisions, rectify performance mistakes, make demands upon musicians, refine rehearsal skills, ask appropriate questions, and develop a disposition that could tolerate personal criticism.
Mentoring was the dominant intentional teaching approach used in the workshop although coaching was used frequently through the critical feedback and demonstrations given by the maestro during the rehearsals. A key teaching strategy adopted by this maestro was to create an intense environment that simulated a professional performance experience and compelled a style of participation, which placed responsibility and decisionmaking, predominately in the hands and voice of the student. Although most participants expressed the view that their expectations about the value of the learning experiences within the workshop had been satisfied, disparities were evident between student participants' perceptions and those of the maestro. The latter expressed disappointment that students were not sufficiently self-regulated and independent to take advantage of the rehearsal opportunities.
Orchestral conducting is a complex role requmng competence in both musical and non-musical skills. The practical performance experience offered by such workshops forms a highly relevant component of pedagogical practice and offers significant opportunities for students to increase their knowledge of the orchestral repertoire, refine technique, and develop leadership and communication skills. This study recommends further investigation into the process of acquiring expertise through such master-class workshops and apprenticeships. This study also recommends additional research into the implications for pedagogy of having greater discussion and analysis of theoretical/musical issues relating to the repertoire and the process of learning to conduct, within the conducting master-class workshop environment.

Item Type: Thesis - EdD
Authors/Creators:Postema, DA
Keywords: Conducting, Conductors (Music)
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2008 the author

Additional Information:

Thesis (EDD)--University of Tasmania, 2008. Includes bibliographical references

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