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Conductor leads seminar for emerging maestros
Friday, June 22, 2012
Photos by Erik Trautmann
Norwalk Symphony Orchestra's former conductor Diane Wittry chats with Todd Craven of Sarasota, Fla., during Beyond the Baton Friday at the Norwalk Concert Hall. The program, hosted by the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra, allows conductors to train and coach other conductors from around the country.
NORWALK -- Conductor Leonard Bernstein once described his craft this way: "Technique is communication: the two words are synonymous in conductors."
Working toward perfecting their technique and communication through the conductor's baton, 16 emerging conductors from throughout the United States were at the Norwalk Concert Hall on Friday, June 15, participating in a National conducting seminar and workshop taught by former Norwalk Symphony Orchestra (NSO) conductor Diane Wittry.
Wittry's book, "Beyond the Baton," a roadmap to artistic leadership for conductors and music directors, was the focus of the National Conducting Workshop which helped emerging conductors put to practical use the elements of conducting. The "Beyond the Baton" workshop is now in its sixth year.
Conductors from throughout the country took turns conducting members of the NSO for three 10 miinute sessions, and received a critique from the musicians and Wittry.
As Christopher Ramaekers, the winner of the 2011 American Prize in Orchestral Conducting, picked up the conductor's baton and took the stage, he led members of the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra in Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring."
Members of the NSO offered suggestions and advice to Ramaekers, cautioning him to "articulate more," in parts of the piece.
"This is not a competition," said Wittry. "They build support for one another and are learning. Being a conductor can be a very lonely job."
The participants are far from novices and reflect an accomplished collection of talent: Jason Lim is the 2011 winner of the American Prize for Outstanding Young Conductor, and has performed throughout Australia and Wales. Richard Marcus is a conductor and educator with over 20 years professional experience. Sandra Noriega is a graduate of San Francisco Conservatory of Music and has performed with the Women's Philharmonic and conducts the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra.Gemma New is the assistant Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and made her first conducting appearance at age 15.
"Conducting requires a lifetime of study. All aspects of conducting are challenging," said Wittrey. "In order to be successful, one must study music, be well-versed in the technical side of conducting, be familiar with many types of music, work well with people, communicate well, and have leadership skills."
Wittry began her conducting studies at the University of Southern California and while still a student, was the recipient of a conducting fellowship from the Aspen Music Festival. She maintains a dual career as a music director and guest conductor throughout the world.
She has led performances by: The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic, Florida Philharmonic, and the symphony orchestras of San Diego, Houston, Milwaukee, and Santa Barbara, among others.
Wittry was recently named the Artistic Director for the International Cultural Exchange Program for Classical Musicians through the Sarajevo Philharmonic and Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Academy for Arts and Sciences. She conducts in regularly scheduled concerts in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
In 2008, Wittry began composing. Her first piece "Mist" was premiered by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.
The goal of the "Beyond the Baton" conducting seminar and workshop is to provide a forum for preparing conductors for conducting positions with regional orchestras.
The five areas covered are: Artistic leadership, Programming, Community Involvement, Working with the board, staff, and orchestra, and preparing press packets and preparing for auditions. Participants received a DVD that will be suitable for their auditions.
"I've been a cellist for many years and conducting is something I've always wanted to do," said seminar participant Ofra Hahn-Sacher, who is originally from Israel and a graduate of Indiana University, where she studied cello.
"I read Diane's book and met her in New York, and decided to come, Hahn-Sacher said. "I'm one of the few middle-aged people participating. Now that my children have grown up, it's the perfect time. "