Mae­stros in the mak­ing at WSO

Or­ga­ni­za­tion launches first-of-its-kind in­ter­na­tional con­duc­tors work­shop

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - CRAIG PEAR­SON cpear­son@post­

The Wind­sor Sym­phony Orches­tra now con­ducts con­duc­tors.

WSO mae­stro Robert Franz this week is lead­ing a first-of-its-kind in­ter­na­tional con­duc­tors guild ed­u­ca­tion work­shop, of­fer­ing tips on how best to di­rect an orches­tra — and how to present clas­si­cal mu­sic to stu­dents.

“My goal is to help cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for these con­duc­tors to find their voice,” Franz said Tues­day, on the sec­ond day of the three-day course.

“They can then use their voice to bet­ter present clas­si­cal mu­sic.”

Eight con­duc­tors from four coun­tries — Canada, the United States, Spain and South Korea — paid $800 plus travel and lodg­ing to at­tend the wide-rang­ing sem­i­nar. Be­sides tak­ing turns in front of a string quar­tet and a piano on­stage Tues­day at the empty Capi­tol The­atre, the sem­i­nar at­ten­dees will lead four con­certs at two area grade schools on Wed­nes­day.

Franz es­ti­mates he has con­ducted con­certs for 60,000-70,000 stu­dents in Wind­sor and other ci­ties the last two decades.

“Do­ing mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams is a pas­sion of mine,” Franz said.

Franz looked into cour­ses on con­duct­ing for ed­u­ca­tional con­certs, but came up empty. About three years ago, he called the con­duc­tors guild to ask about the con­cept. Again, noth­ing.

“So we cre­ated it to­gether, the con­duc­tors g-uild and I,” said the ac­claimed con­duc­tor and mu­sic ed­u­ca­tor. “It worked out very well that the Wind­sor Sym­phony Orches­tra could host this and use our great mu­si­cians and our in­cred­i­ble schools.”

Part of a mod­ern mae­stro’s du­ties are more than merely mu­si­cal, and re­quire him or her to be in­for­ma­tive, per­son­able and en­ter­tain­ing. Franz delves into all that.

But first, there’s a cer­tain magic to wav­ing the ba­ton. What’s Franz’s main tip? “Get out of the way and lis­ten,” Franz said. “The tech­nique is pretty com­pli­cated. The process of learn­ing the score is pretty com­pli­cated. So we tend to get wrapped up in the de­tails.

“My ad­vice to these con­duc­tors is to trust the work you did. And lis­ten and re­spond to what’s hap­pen­ing.”

On Tues­day at the Capi­tol, with five mu­si­cians play­ing the cheer­ful Morn­ing Mood com­posed by Ed­vard Grieg, var­i­ous sem­i­nar par­tic­i­pants — many al­ready con­duc­tors in their home­towns or com­plet­ing grad­u­ate work — gave the ba­ton a go. Arms moved in a bal­let with the mu­sic, while Franz of­fered sug­ges­tions.

“Let it res­onate through you,” he said.

“Imag­ine the mu­sic hap­pens be­tween the beats,” he con­tin­ued. Then, sim­ply, “Bravo!” Wil­bur Lin, a 29-year-old New Jer­sey na­tive who grew up in Tai­wan and now lives in In­di­ana, al­ready hears the orches­tra bet­ter.

“Mae­stro Franz was talk­ing about the idea of ac­tive lis­ten­ing and how we should pro­mote that in our ed­u­ca­tional con­certs,” said Lin, who just fin­ished post-doc­toral work at In­di­ana Univer­sity.

“As con­duc­tors, we have to take a step back and re­ally lis­ten to what’s hap­pen­ing.”

Lin said Franz’s con­cept of lis­ten­ing more nat­u­rally al­ready feels right.

“As con­duc­tors we hear sounds in our heads but not nec­es­sar­ily com­ing from the orches­tra,” Lin said. “But if you take a step back, you get a bet­ter eval­u­a­tion and a fuller pic­ture of what’s go­ing on.”

My goal is to help cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for these con­duc­tors to find their voice. They can then use their voice to bet­ter present clas­si­cal mu­sic.


Robert Franz of the WSO is lead­ing a work­shop for in­ter­na­tional con­duc­tors where he ad­vises par­tic­i­pants to “get out of the way and lis­ten” to the orches­tra.

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