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3/12/2007: Is conducting an art for only those with talent or is it an accumulation of skills? Is conducting something that should come naturally, or is it something that can be acquired, perhaps in the same way that a language is acquired? I am a student of conducting and would be very interested and grateful to hear your opinion on the matter.

As in almost any field of endeavor, conducting may be studied theoretically as well as practically. Like any skill, it can be pursued on an amateur level or one’s goal can be to make it a career. In any case, it requires knowledge of score reading (reading all clefs and transposing instruments). It requires a thorough knowledge of “form and analysis”and principles of orchestration as well as a theoretical knowledge of how the orchestral instruments are played.

For too many people, conducting means only the ability to beat time. This is completely backward. Conducting is 10 percent movement and 90 percent mental and aural.

As you would expect with any skill, it is in very large measure the result of diligent study and practice. At the same time, the difference between the competent practitioner and the brilliant performer is probably present from birth. Some will show aptitude early and that usually suggests some innate gifts. And, to turn to your example, while virtually anyone can acquire a language, few will turn out to be poets in any language.

Remember, though, that conducting is the sum of many acquired skills and a great deal of knowledge and hard work


2007 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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