Have you ever wondered what a conductor actually does? The conductor is the person who keeps all artists of the orchestra and their different instruments together or on track. If the musicians in an orchestra know the music in front of them and are following the score, can’t they just perform on their own? By understanding their importance in the music industry, we can appreciate how music is made.
There are several things to be aware of when conducting an orchestra such as knowing the song being played inside out, what notes to use, how fast or how slow they are. These factors determine phrases or melodies that could go together with the sound. Knowing specific instruments that musicians are playing is important as it could direct a conductor on what strings to alter or play with.
In an orchestra, there are four families of instruments; woodwinds, brass, percussion, and the strength. Since they’re not all playing together at the same time, a conductor needs to know how to cue instruments to bring them in. Conductors are knowledgeable about the rhythm being played, its time signature as well as their gestures to tell musicians what to do. Additionally, since musicians are spread across the stage, conductors have tricks on how to get their attention all at the same time, so they can start together, and when the song is ending how to stop together.
Marin Alsop became America’s first woman to stand in front of an ensemble about a decade ago, opening doors for hundreds of women to come to the podium. The Viennese music award is known to be old-fashioned, for example, the Vienna Philharmonic only officially started accepting female artists 20 years ago. Since then, they are catching up to modern times by appointing Marin as their first female conductor. There are hopes that her new role will stimulate the industry to create more opportunities for females, and that one day, being the first woman, will no longer be news.
Certainly, the image of a conductor has always been sort of a father figure or a young firebrand, and women don’t fit any of that. But the fact that women are influential, makes them important to the industry as they can speak on a level that is communicative as well as creates as sense of community. Women create good conductors because, unlike men, they’re not really driven by who has authority or the boss, all they’re after is a perfection of the work they’re assigned to do. Female conductors deal easily with a dialogue rather than a monologue, which is needed in this world where so much is probably studied or managed.
Being a conductor is still a male dominated profession, female conductors get stuck mid-level, or sometimes don’t get to the top podiums before they quit. Fear of being in control drives most of them out before seeing any success. Yet, these should not be result, Alsop represents an example that women can follow not only in the orchestra world, but in their unique professions as well.