Mr. Slatkin shared with us these conclusions: “You’re not selling tickets to the kids, you’re selling them to the adults. So, if you can make it attractive for the adults, they will bring their families… What you need, of course, are people who can communicate well with a young audience, people who are educating, entertaining and engaging—and who will spark the imagination of the people coming to those concert. I’m a little surprised that none of us have thought of this [including the classical series soloists] before....”
The National Conducting Institute Sharing insights on how orchestras can increase community connections is just one facet of Leonard Slatkin’s continuing interest in working with aspiring conductors. He has long been recognized for these efforts. In 1999, he established the National Conducting Institute at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Along with the National Symphony Orchestra and in cooperation with the American Symphony Orchestra League’s Orchestra Leadership Academy, he has administered this three-week training program since its beginning. Again speaking to us at IU this spring, Mr. Slatkin explained: “This is a program that has its basis in moving to the next step. For most conductors, when they have the opportunity to stand in front of a first-rate professional orchestra for the first time, they really don’t know what to do. Here, as opposed to a student or community orchestra, you are in front of musicians who actually know the pieces better than you do. So, of course there is a fear factor there. What are you going to tell them? I remember when I went to Philadelphia for the first time in my life—I was conducting the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony—what could I possibly tell them about that? “… So, the Institute was devised primarily to bridge that gap — preparing musicians before they stand in front of the orchestra: observing me, questioning me, talking to members of the orchestra so that by the time the conductors within the Institute stand in front of the ensemble, they know what the orchestra
expects of the conductor…. That was the impetus for the Institute, and then it grew rather quickly to include a week of nonconducting activities where we teach the full administrative network that goes into leading an American orchestra… “In essence, it’s a practical guide to what life will be like when you first enter the professional ranks. The institute is unique in that respect. I’m very proud of it. It has produced a number of very fine conductors who are doing well. And mostly, every place these participants go, people comment about how prepared they are in terms of their administrative capacities, because they know the system now.” Beginning in 2009, the Institute will invite applicants from all across the world, and will migrate to a new home with the Pittsburgh Symphony, where Mr. Slatkin has recently been named principal guest conductor designate.
A New Teaching Investment Last year, Maestro Slatkin accepted a faculty appointment as the Arthur R. Metz Foundation Conductor in the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. As part of this position, Mr. Slatkin visits the Bloomington campus regularly, working directly with the orchestral conducting students in daily master classes and seminars, in addition to preparing the IU Philharmonic for a performance at the end of each visit. Observing him rehearse the top student orchestra, tutor conducting students in rehearsal, and discuss related topics are indeed powerful learning opportunities. Here are a few conducting insights Leonard Slatkin offered during his March 2008 IU residency: “If you read a book and you know the language well, chances are you aren’t really going to misread a word. You might, but rarely. Conducting is the same way: you have to know a score well enough that you don’t misread it. It’s a matter of investing the study time.” “Another problem in any conducting situation or learning situation is that it is very hard to put into words much of what we do. Choosing your words is so important. And simplicity is always best. For me, the most I ever learned was when I conducted in countries where I don’t
10 Thoughts for Music Directors BY LEONARD SLATKIN Musical Preparation • Study not only from scores, but also from literature. It will enrich your music making. • Have practical knowledge about all instruments—this is a key to effective rehearsals. Rehearsal • Choose words very carefully during rehearsals: be clear and concise. • Rehearse to what you hear from the musicians: do not assume too much beforehand. • Let the musicians make some of the musical decisions: you can learn a lot from them. • Have clear reasons for interpretations, especially when deviating from explicit score markings. • Simpler is better, both in gesture and word. Programming • Be creative and pursue diverse audiences through your concert programming. Strive to connect the orchestra to the community. • Emphasize educational programs—these are the root of developing a community’s own musical culture. Administration • Get to know all administrative personnel and structures within your organization. Your artistic vision will require excellent communication skill
speak the native language at all, and I was forced to find non-verbal tools with my hands and face, and just a very few words to make it work. I would encourage every conductor to put him- or herself in that situation. Remember, when you do use words, every one of them should have a universal meaning for the School Band and Orchestra, June 2008 15
SBO June 2008