Conducting is the art of leading an ensemble with gestures alone, but it is not as simple as it sounds. Conducting combines the understanding of the elements of music, such as tempo, articulation and dynamics. Being able to effectively and accurately convey the demands of the conductors themselves allows for a better performance from an ensemble.
With that being said, Dr. Karen Fannin, The Director of Bands from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), decided to make helping conductors from all around Nebraska hone in on their abilities a priority. Thus, the UNO Annual Conducting Workshop was created June 2017. The second annual workshop was held July 7, 2018. Dr. Fannin stressed the importance of student involvement in this program.
“It was a good networking opportunity for them because many of them are music education majors,” Fannin said. “It gives them a chance to meet some teachers and people that might be their colleagues in the future.”
It was a one day workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. that included an ensemble of students and teachers for the conductors to use. The free program capped at 20 people, but a few others came to observe the session.
Each conductor was given 12 minutes to lead the ensemble and to get direct feedback from Dr. Fannin. Jake Senff, an ensemble member and a senior at UNO weighed in on the importance of this unique program and how even 12 minutes was enough to impact each conductor.
“While I didn’t participate as a conductor in this seminar, I learned so much from watching each individual conduct and receive coaching,” Senff said. “We’re all from different backgrounds and have different styles of conducting. This seminar isn’t about finding one way to conduct, it’s about learning to refine the skills they already have.”
Dr. Fannin created an environment that had structure and purpose. The first part of the day consisted of feedback and learning from each person who stood on the podium, but the final part was a Q&A where teachers sat down and discussed new ideas to bring to their classrooms.
“We began the day with a lovely breakfast. As one person was on the podium, the rest would play their instruments as we filtered between four different pieces,” said Lauren Milbourn, a first year assistant director of bands at Millard South. “We broke for lunch, generously provided by the school, then reconvened the symposium in the afternoon for more conductors and a final Q & A to conclude the day.”
The Q&A brought in a different side of teaching, it was a time for open discussions and ideas to bounce from person to person, allowing for constant learning opportunities. The diversity of the program and its potential will create countless opportunities for students and teachers all across Nebraska.