If you are a conductor, your gesture must not only express the music, but your students must also be willing and able to follow you. The best way to hone their ability to follow as well as your ability to lead is to train them to your gesture. Here are some ways to get started:
🎼 For warmups, rather than sing through the same patterns in the same way each class, try conducting them and varying your gesture.
🎼 For example, if you typically have students echo various consonants in order to warm up articulators, try getting them used to varying musical elements by changing your usual tempos, dynamics, etc. Then try speaking one way and then having them echo back what you show (same consonants, but with surprising changes in the gesture.) Students always enjoy the challenge of this.
🎼 Let’s say students typically sing arpeggios (do, mi, sol, mi, do) moving up by half steps. Try moving away from the piano and telling students that they should try to follow your changing dynamics, tempo, articulations, fermata, caesura, etc. Only introduce one change at a time until students are able to be successful. More advanced students may be able to make multiple changes simultaneously.
🎼 Regularly vary your tempos and other factors in their repertoire as well. It’s best not to get locked into one tempo because students will go into auto pilot in performance. Ultimately, you must be fully in charge of what happens musically.
🎼 The good news is that all of this will train YOU and make you a better conductor. If you think you’re showing a clear gesture, but students don’t respond the way you thought, then they are being instructive to you as well.
I once had to conduct an elementary all-county choir where most of the kids weren’t used to following a conductor. We tried just a few exercises where I trained them to my gesture.
Later that day, we were working on a piece I composed just for that occasion. There was a syncopated entrance and they weren’t getting it. After a few failed attempts, I told them not to guess, but to trust me and sing what my hands show. The very next time all 185 of them nailed it perfectly! 😆🎶
Remember that a conducting gesture is as important to a conductor as a paintbrush is to a visual artist. The difference is that the painter doesn’t have to train the paintbrush. 🖼 🎨
Be sure to always train students to your gesture. Step away from the piano and trust your students to partner with you as you communicate your vision together. 🎹
Happy conducting! 🤲💕🎶