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I have a friend who recently graduated at the top of his class at a prestigious east coast music conservatory. (He graduated with a bachelors of music.) He wants to be a conductor and applied to a number of graduate programs, but his application (with pre-screening videos) did not result in any invitations for a live audition. He says that the feedback he received was that he didn't have enough conducting experience. To remedy that lack he has enrolled in a Masters of Music Ed program at a local university. I've looked at the program, and to my (inexpert) eyes, it seems to be preparation for teaching high school orchestras, bands, choirs, etc.

Is this a useful pursuit for someone who doesn't really want to teach high school? Will any fine arts graduate programs in conducting find secondary school experience compelling? If not, does anyone have any suggestions for improving one's conducting skills to better the chances of graduate admission?

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The only way to get conducting experience is to actually conduct. For the beginning conductor that means jumping at absolutely every opportunity to conduct, whether that's student ensembles, community bands, church choirs or whatever.
A masters course in education will contain some conducting, but that won't be the main emphasis, and that's probably not the best route to take.

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it seems to be preparation for teaching high school orchestras, bands, choirs, etc.

It is possible that you're right. I can't confirm, though.

I think the best approach in this kind of things is to take classes with some already established director, a maestro who knows what and how makes the difference. Don't look so much into the degree as a whole, but rather to what exactly would improve his conducting. Once he's under the guidance of a maestro who'll work with him to get the best of him, he should naturally start to introduce him to new opportunities and of course how to prepare to get right those auditions.

It is possible that he can get that maestro at the university to which he's applying, I don't know. But above all, that's the thing to which your friend should pay attention to, in my opinion.

Hope this helps!

  • I've been somewhat coy in not identifying the school. By "it seems," I really mean "that's basically their mission statement." Your answer does help. Thanks. – Ben Aug 9 '19 at 2:20
  • It's ok, it might not help anyway without getting too much into detail, so I think the level of detail you gave was just right. Glad I could help. – 89f3a1c Aug 9 '19 at 3:36

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