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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Thoughts about being a true artistic director

Just a brief post (we'll see--I do tend to go on!).

Following up my comments yesterday about Peter Dijkstra and his looking after the long-term growth of the Radio Choir, I think there is such a difference between conducting a choir and being a true artistic director/music director.

For me, the true AD takes care of all aspects of the choir's long-term development. This means thinking beyond just the individual concert and even season. It means programming in such a way that the choir's abilities will develop; continuing to work diligently on improving every aspect of the choir's technique and musical expression; working with administration to set the conditions for long-term growth and stability; carefully choosing guest conductors (if there are guest conductors) who bring something to the choir; and at times making difficult choices, particularly with choir personnel, whether in auditions or elsewhere.

When I did my audition concert with Pro Coro in 1998 (I'd guest conducted them in '96) and was interviewed by the search committee, one of the things I told them was that if I took the job, I wouldn't (and couldn't) look at it as simply a series of nice gigs, but would only do it if I felt I could develop something significant there. Particularly when you're not resident (and I don't live in Edmonton), this is an important issue: do you think about and work towards the ensemble's goals (and do you have goals?) on a regular basis, or just when you come to town to do your concert? I think in all of my positions I've thought strategically and with long-term goals in mind. That doesn't mean I've always been successful--but at least I do think that way.

If you think of the great orchestral conductors, so often they've been associated over a long period of time with the orchestra they've built. And one can think of choral conductors like Eric, Robert Shaw, or Dale Warland, who've worked consistently over a long period of time to build their ensembles.

It's something to think about.

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