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This question is more vague than I would prefer, but I am really struggling with this issue, so any help would be appreciated.

So, due to COVID, the school where I teach has gone virtual for the first term. Now, I still have my conducting class, and I still need to teach them about conducting. Traditionally, my course has been keyboard (score reading) + conducting technique, culminating in a 15 minute rehearsal session with a live orchestra as the final exam.

We don't have an orchestra to conduct, and conducting musicians live over Zoom would be impossible due to lag in any case. In addition, not all of the students necessarily even have a piano at home.

I guess I'm hoping to hear from other conducting teachers, though I would take input from anyone with a solid idea; how can a beginning conducting course be conducted (ha!) virtually? I really still want there to be something that we build towards as the course progresses, but I am struggling very much to think of what that could be.

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As a teacher and especially conductor the main gifts we need apart our musical knowledge are:

Communication, phantasy, visions and management.

Most skills of musician can be taught and studied online, also all management jobs of a conductor.

What I miss in your question is a plan and program of your curriculum. You will have to set other priorities and make changes in the sequence of your program.

There are certainly many things that can be taught online: everything that is contained in a book about conducting like the elementary patterns of times, fermatas, openings. Also knowing the instruments, their range, studying and analyzing a score, reading the clefs can be practiced and taught virtually.

Mind that 90% of the stuff of your lessons is homework.

You can give feedback to the students in form videos about their training.

The most important abilities of a conductor like communication skills, humor, pedagogy and psychology are difficult to be taught and especially practiced without working with an orchestra. But this special situation gives us time to reflect your curriculum, your plans, your feedback culture, set new priorities.

This link gives you many interesting ideas and reflections about a conductors’ job, like organizing e.g. a gourmet symphony. You can make these reflections as subject of discussion with your students:

First-Year Music Director: Three Lessons Learned

Note that this is only the first of three parts of articles by John Devlin.

If I had your job I’d make a selection of some excellent videos with fantastic conductors and performances of the same oeuvre. (This could also be part of the task by the students.) Then the students job will be discussing the conductors like a competition jury, writing a detailed critic. Then exchange the critics and discussing them. I could spend the rest of my life doing things like that!

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