Conductors Institute of SC offers behind-the-scenes look at the art of conducting

The Conductors Institute of SC is hosting conducting training sessions, free to observe by the public, June 3-15, offering the community a rare and insightful look at the art of conducting. The sessions available to the public include string ensembles, chamber groups, and a full orchestra, from 9 AM to noon and 1:30 to 4 PM, Monday through Saturday at the Koger Center for the Arts. More than 1,000 conductors have attended the sessions since its beginnings 30 years ago. Maestro Donald Portnoy, music director of the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra, founded the Institute, which boasts a comprehensive workshop style structure offering students daily podium time and constructive feedback from veteran conductors. Portnoy is also the director of orchestral studies at the University, and has conducted orchestras all over the globe. These sessions are intended to provide aspiring conductors with first hand experience and feedback from professionals with experience in the commercial and academic music industries.

The sessions available to the public allow those not so musically inclined to observe the training an aspiring conductor experiences. The Institute offers a 15-day program for intermediate to advanced level of experience, as well as a 10-day program for those with less experience. Each session is designed to enhance orchestral command skills through interaction and instruction from composers and conductors from all over the world.

Conductors Institute 2011

From the outside, the sessions appear formal, yet relaxed. The orchestra eagerly sits at the edges of their seats, awaiting the flourish of the baton with equal respect to the rookie and master conductors alike. Before attending the session, I always assumed the conductors were more for show than utility; however with each arm movement and flourish, I noticed a symbiotic response from the musicians. The harmony between the conductor and the musicians is incredible to watch, and I’m sure hard to achieve. The experience gained through these sessions provides conductors not only with further practice, but connections and dialogue with maestros and composers with whom they may not have another chance to interact. Acting as a fly on the wall in these sessions is a rare and unbeatable glimpse into the music industry, not often found on a college campus. The observers were a mixed bunch of students and music enthusiasts, encouraged by this rare opportunity in Columbia.

The Southeastern Piano Festival has teamed with the Conductors Institute of SC to allow the public also to observe the Conductors Institute Apprenticeship Program, June 12-13 from 10 AM to noon and 1:30-4:30 PM. This program is a collaboration of conductors attending the festival in a rehearsal style setting, also held at the Koger Center for the Arts. The 2013 Southeastern Piano Festival is from June 9-15, and features a piano competition, concerts, and guest artists. The University of South Carolina School of Music sponsors the festival, a platform for aspiring pianists, master-teachers and world-renown musicians, held each summer.

For more information about the Conductors Institute of South Carolina, click here, or contact the Conductors Institute at 803-777-7500, or email Charlene Rackley.

~  Sarah McNab, Jasper Intern