As of Jan 2020, I am enrolled at Eastern Michigan University with the intention of graduating with a Bachelor's in Music Therapy. The intended time is about 2.5 years before internship.
Beginning this journey was fraught with insecurities, questions, and back and forth decision making. Should I go back to school? Is it worth the financial investment? Will I be able to handle being a student again?
Getting put back into a student situation allows me to gain more insight into the psyche of my students - the need to impress, not seeing the end game but finding it necessary to take small steps in the direction the teacher asks, and how we willingly force ourselves into situations where we will be dragged into personal development whether we like it or not. The class which I expect the most personal growth for myself this semester is conducting class. After all, leading bands, orchestras and chips requires a certain amount of human potential that is not easily taught - leadership, authoritativeness, direction, and allowing to be vulnerable enough to admit where we could all do better as a group.
I had a poster in my room when I was a kid. It read, "If you want to lead the orchestra, you must first turn your back on the crowd." That phrase really seems to stick with me during my formative years. Now that life has brow beaten me into compliance as an adult with adult responsibilities, I find myself looking again at this simplistic phrase. I see it as a way of encouraging individuality, putting in more work than others, and not putting too much thought into what others think of you. As I'm finding through various readings for class, a good conductor actually needs to be aware of what the ensemble is thinking of you. (We are assuming an adult ensemble and not a middle school ensemble where it is more important to teach the fundamentals of music.) Adult musicians are just like other people and have differing motivations and drives. You need to be the kind of leader that they WANT to follow. It is all too easy for musicians to just bury their eyeballs in the music and do their own thing, but you must convince them that you have something important they need to know.
My class agreed that the qualities of a good conductor strongly overlap with the qualities of a overall good person. I often tell people that music is a skill that can be taught, and musicians are just that: people who play music. We are MUSICIANS, not MAGICIANS. There is nothing magic about putting in the practice time to add tempt perfection in a piece of music. But there is a bit of magic in a good conductor that brings out the best in its ensemble members.
I'm out to get that, and make it my own.