Trial, Error, and the Gray Space

The ambition of control, though at times a tool, is my greatest artistic flaw. Though it was true that some aspects of my project could be imagined from a distance, there was only so much I could prepare in advance. I realized the most important lesson: a conductor isn’t a puppeteer of the music, but rather a catalyst through which the music thrives – pull too many strings, and you’ll get a handful of creative knots. I had to find the balance, or what I call the “gray space”, between preparation and adaptation. 

I knew I had to establish a score study regimen. When I first sat down and brainstormed methods for studying my scores, I wasn’t quite sure where to start. What was score study, anyway? After a great deal of reflection, I decided to take the term into my own hands: not only was I going to go music theory-nerd extreme, but I was going to incorporate as many of the five senses as possible. Coloring, doodling, taking an idea to the piano, or just writing lists works wonders – different angles such as these allow me to come back to the score with a crisper understanding of how to best communicate the piece (alas, I have yet to configure methods that surround taste and smell, but I have hope!). 

My first (and messy!) brainstorming session
My color-coded “cheat sheet” for basic conducting patterns

How these plans manifest in the rehearsal room is the eternal question – how can I cater the experience to what my singers present to me in real time? After all, no rehearsal is the same – there will be days where my ensemble gets the rhythmic quality of a piece right on the button (at the cost of intonation), and there will be days where the pitch is dead center (at the cost of rhythmic accuracy). Foreseeing and reacting to these circumstances is the most invigorating puzzle – the best approach I can offer is one of vulnerability. After several moments of letting myself stumble, I can attest that acknowledging those moments will break stagnant creative energy. From what I’ve gathered, true confidence in one’s ability to succeed should not deter one’s ability to grow. 

Rehearsal plan, upon rehearsal plan, upon rehearsal plan…

This mindset took a long time to come to life, and it still has a long way to go. That being said, I hope to establish this further within my academic work, as I know that such a state of being will only behoove my studies. Stay tuned for more!

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