[Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/grahams__flickr/]

This year, our fall semester doesn’t end until January 15th, so exams don’t occur until 2 weeks after winter break. Not ideal for students who erase their brains over the holidays, but an excellent opportunity for arts teachers to cover some “fun” topics!

Since I will be in the process of ordering spring repertoire and finalizing our spring calendar, the last two weeks of the semester provided an opportunity to create a “mini-mester.” I developed a list of topics that students have asked me about in the past, and created short lessons and activities that briefly exposes them to the basics of each topic.

For this two week period, we explored “Conducting 101.” Here’s what we covered:

Conducting 101

  • Conducting in meters 4/4, 3/4, and 2/4.
  • Defining terms such a ictus, downbeat, preparatory beat/gesture.
  • Conduct the ensemble or in small groups vocal warm ups or winter repertoire.
  • Hand independency: Conducting a pattern with their dominant hand and showing one of the following in the other: dynamics, cues, solfege signs.

Student comments ranged from, “Hey, this isn’t so hard. I can totally do this,” to “I cannot do two different things with my arms,” to “Conducting hurts my brain.” Regardless of their coordination success or struggle, they enjoyed the challenge!

Now I make conducting part of our daily vocal warmups. When we sing a major scale, I’ll have them conduct a 4/4 pattern, repeating each solfege syllable 4 times: “Do, Do, Do, Do, Re, Re, Re, Re, Mi, Mi, Mi, Mi,” etc. To expand, we conduct with one hand, sign the solfege in the other.

I highly recommend spending some time introducing the world of conducting to students. Most likely, the majority will not go on to study music in college, so when else would they be exposed to it? If nothing else, it shows them how to understand your conducting better!