Thursday, March 21, 2013

Conductors: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In Aubrie Dione's Playing The Maestro, Wolf Braun, the new guest conductor of the Easthampton Civic Symphony comes across as a big time jerk. He’s arrogant, haughty, way too talented for his own good, and makes sour faces when the violinists play out of tune.

Just the prickily, leading man we swoon over. I had the pleasure of reading an early version of this story and I loved it for two reasons: 1. Because I was a band-o growing up so I'll always have a soft spot for stories about music; and 2. Because the Maestro, Wolf Braun, is dreamy.

Those of you who know Audbrie (follow her on Twitter) know that she's a musician. I just had to know:

Are conductors really like that?

Some of them are, and some of them aren’t. To tell you the truth, I’ve played for both. I’ve played for conductors that have stared me down, made my fingers shake, and shouted. And, I’ve played for conductors that smile when they cue me in, encourage me with compliments, and hang out with the orchestra after the concert. Sure, you always want to play for the nice ones, but if you really want to make orchestral playing your career, you have to play for them all.

I have this one memory of a time when I came in to sub for the principal flutist just for a rehearsal last minute. They were playing Night on the Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky. There’s this big flute solo at the end. Well, I played the solo just fine, but I guess I took too much rubato, or slowed the tempo, because when I looked up, the conductor-who-shall-remain-nameless was beet red and pounding his downbeats, staring at me like I was an idiot. Note to self- look up more.

Only when I became a conductor myself did I realize the things that really annoy conductors and how much they really can see up there on the podium- which is A LOT. When I conduct, I can see every single conversation going on, even if I don’t address all of them. I can see the person texting, the one hiding a book up on the stand, the people goofing off in the back, and the one who relies on their stand partner to come in. It’s actually pretty funny. But, it makes me wonder just how much my youth orchestra conductors saw of me!


Thanks for sharing Aubrie, and thank you for stopping by the blog today. I see a lot of similarities between a career in music performance and a career publishing.

To learn more about Aubrie, visit her on twitter or on her blog.

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