I just attended my first choral conducting symposium and learned so much about myself, about my peers and teachers, and about this craft of conducting/ music/ teaching. I could expound on much of this for days, but here are three mindsets I worked through during the experience and will take into my next symposium. And I will do another one, because the opportunity to be a student on this level again was incredibly powerful.
1. Be Teachable
I asked for advice from a graduate school professor before attending and he said something to the effect of, "don't compare yourself to others; focus on personal growth"
I thought this was incredibly wise and so thus I attacked this experience with that mindset. Because I was focused on taking every ounce of personal learning, from everything said, I really believe it helped my teachability. Was I willing to listen to what was being said and/ or taught and take everything I could from it? Was I willing to let go of what I wanted to learn for what I was being told I needed to be improved on? And ultimately, was I communicating that with my body lanugage?
I believe being teachable isn't about being taught what you want to learn. Also, and this goes to the advice my professor gave me, no one is perfect. Don't compare yourself to others throughout this process. If you're too busy comparing yourself to other conductors you are missing teachable moments.
2. No Disclaimers
I stole this from a new friend I made at the conference. She explained how her high school English teacher used it in her classes. You were supposed to turn in an assignment and don't have it? No disclaimers. You just don't have it.
You'll see in this video I'm posting below there's a point where I get called on not observing the conversation between the upper strings in one section. I knew exactly where she was talking about because I turned the page too soon and missed reading that double system on the page. I knew the reason why I missed it and could've said something, but would it have changed the fact that I turned the page too soon? Nope. No disclaimers.
3. Have Fun
I want to attend or create or lead a conducting workshop where nothing about your gesture is specifically critiqued. Instead, the psychology and the mindset is explored. What mantra can you say to yourself before you get on that podium? How can you manifest a clearer gestures, a more confident demeanor, a relaxed arm movement? As I watched my colleagues I wanted to shout, "tell yourself YOU ARE CONFIDENT; YOU KNOW THE MUSIC; RELAX; YOU CAN DO THIS" just to see if that would change any of the specific gestures we typically address.
That said, I truly tried to focus on just having fun throughout this experience. We sometimes take ourselves and our craft so seriously. And while I believe what we do is incredibily important, sometimes I forget how fun it can actually be. I felt as though I conducted my best at the last session of the symposium. Perhaps it was because I felt comfortable in my surroundings by this point or because I thrive on doing instrumental/ choral music, but I also believe it was because I finally felt I was able to focus on having fun. Part of the reason I was able to have is because I had put in the work, but that's another lengthy post, perhaps, "preparation for a conducting symposium."
Conductor. Educator. Life-Long Learner.