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8/28/96: I am a school orchestra conductor. Although I’ve been teaching ensemble music for nearly 20 years, I still haven’t become comfortable with the idea of performing simplified and watered-down versions of the masterworks. The alternative though is to teach what is usually second rate music. Your opinion?

I agree that planning repertory for student orchestras is a challenge. But also remember that there is a lot of un-famous music that is not so second-rate. There are some lovely pieces that you, the players, and the audiences will enjoy discovering. Based on my experience, I’d suggest that you take a look, if you haven’t already, at Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suite, the works of Gluck, and some early Mozart (except where the horn parts are very high). Other colleagues will know works I am unfamiliar with. You might check on opportunities to meet other high school or college orchestra conductors or to join relevant professional associations.

I also have to admit that I was fortunate when I conducted secondary school students because I was at a conservatory. Therefore, I could consult with students’ individual teachers at will, and the teachers used their lesson time to help students with the works we were working on. (I also learned a great deal that has served me very well since then.) If you have any opportunity to work with instrumental teachers, you should find that gratifying.

Happy programming.

©1996 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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