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Paul Kile conducting a University ensemble.

Conductor and U alum Paul Kile leading a University of Minnesota ensemble at the Third Annual Instrumental Conducting Symposium hosted by the School of Music.

A day for music makers

University of Minnesota hosts annual conducting symposium

By James Patrick Miller

December 11, 2007

For musicians interested in performing and conducting, Ferguson Hall on the Twin Cities campus was the place to be last weekend. The University of Minnesota's School of Music hosted the Third Annual Instrumental Conducting Symposium and once again drew the maximum number of participants--50 local music teachers, music education students, and professional musicians, including 12 conductors. The goal of the event is to provide those interested in making music a day to focus on their art form while learning how to deepen the musical communication between conductors and performers.

A primary draw for the participants this year was University of Minnesota professor of conducting Craig Kirchhoff, a renowned leader in the world of conducting and educating. Through a series of lectures, an open forum, and conducting clinics, Kirchhoff demonstrated conducting techniques and offered conducting strategies for daily rehearsals, in addition to addressing issues of communication and motivation in teaching and inspiring dynamic performances. "Watching my teacher [at] work helps reinforce what we study and practice in our graduate seminar," says University graduate student Peter Haberman. Participants who were interested in conducting at the symposium had to submit a personal statement outlining their musical goals and what they hoped to get out of the experience, and those who were selected then had the chance to conduct two 12-minute sessions--a morning session with the U's Symphonic Band and an afternoon session with the U's Wind Ensemble.

The sessions were videotaped, complete with commentary or observations from Kirchhoff; Jerry Luckhardt, University associate director of bands; and both Mary Schneider and Timothy Diem, University assistant directors of band. Each conductor also received feedback from the other participants and the students in the ensembles. To watch the faculty, students, and participants in open, honest discussions was testament of Kirchhoff's vision for the event: blending art and education seamlessly to uncover the most vital issues facing all musicians, not only conductors. "As a performer this conducting symposium is appealing because it offers insight and pedagogy that is applicable not only to the conductor, but also to me as an instrumentalist," says Joseph Peters, a junior oboe performance major in the School of Music and a member of the wind ensemble. "Professor Kirchhoff makes this a great event for undergraduates interested in both performing and conducting." According to Luckhardt, who also serves as interim director of the School of Music, the symposium is valuable because "our music education students get to look into their future and make personal connections to the profession." The symposium, he adds, "provides a creative model for how to live life as a musician, conductor, teacher, and artist." And for School of Music education student Aaron Cole, there was no place better than Ferguson Hall last Saturday. "To take a day for creating and experiencing great art--it doesn't get any better than that," he says.

James Patrick Miller is a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate and graduate teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota School of Music.