Last month Peder Karlsson and I (Merel Martens) had an interesting skype session about leadership, group dynamics, and more specifically; the role of the conductor. We all know that ‘being a conductor’ is about so many more aspects then just the conducting itself. A couple of roles that come to mind can be: rehearsal leader, arranger, innovator, planner, motivator, mediator, pianist and so on. In fact, the choir expects you to work magic when it comes to musical decisions, but at the same time you ought to be a good inspirer, be able to work with the social dynamics, have the perfect musical plan, etc.
There are a few aspects that are really interesting to ponder. For example: I learned that the atmosphere during the rehearsal is in fact a reflection of the way the leader is working with the group. Of course this is true. It’s all about giving the group a good vibe! But how about the fact that in between rehearsal items the choir members are so enthusiastic that they start helping each other and talk about the way the piece has to be sung. At first the atmosphere will be positive, because this is something that’s a spontaneous, enthusiastic reaction from the singers. But once the comments and talks begin to bother the rehearsal process, it can also be a bad thing. And is the conductor the only one responsible then? Or think about the rehearsals you’ve had when there was a storm outside. Or the ones where everyone is excited about a gig or about some good news... I think the conductor should mainly be focusing on the musical items, and there should be some clear rules about when you can talk and when you can’t; even if the talking is about the music and the piece. Peder and I came to this conclusion: in the end it should be the responsibility of the singers as well as the conductor to have an inspiring rehearsal.
So maybe you can’t say that the conductor is 100% responsible for the atmosphere during the rehearsal. And how about the musical planning? Should the group decide what way to go with the repertoire and should the conductor just be making musical decisions in an arrangement? Or should the conductor have a clear view of what the choir is able to sing and what path they have to take? Once the choir gives a lot of responsibility to the conductor, it can and will become a lazy group regarding every facet of the collaboration. This is something a conductor should be aware of! All of the singers should be self reflecting from time to time, as well as the conductor. This is important for the musical choices as well as their attitude during the preparation process at home, during the rehearsals, picking out material, etc. In our words: every singer should be ‘in the drivers’ seat’ from time to time. They have to take responsibility for their own car!
Of course this is interesting stuff to think about. It’s not like there’s a perfect way of working, every group is different. That’s what being a conductor is about, and that’s also what makes it interesting! Hopefully this gets you thinking. There will be more questions and insights next time!
Warm, musical wishes from the
Merel Martens (www.merelmartens.eu/facebook/twitter:MartensMerel/linkedin)