Summer School of Music
Frequently Asked Questions
The George Hurst Conducting Course enables students to understand and conduct orchestral works in a way that is clear and musically rewarding. This is best achieved through careful study of the score and in the application of an effective conducting technique.
What will I learn on the course?
Whilst we recognise other effective conducting techniques, the basis of this course is the long-established Toscanini/Barzin technique. This method of conducting is founded upon clear communication through the integration and control of the body and the baton. The course also passes on a performing tradition of interpretive skills for the core orchestral repertoire that has been passed down through a direct line from Liszt, Wagner, Richter and Nikisch, via Pierre Monteux and George Hurst to the current tutors.
What is a typical day?
The day starts with a warm-up focusing on baton technique, the left hand and use of the body.
The majority of the classes which follow are in small groups (10 to 15 students). These take the form of workshops with pianos or small ensembles formed from the class with the tutors rotating between the groups so that each student has an individual lesson with each tutor. The purpose of these sessions is to develop technique and communication skills using the set works.
Other classes include musicianship sessions that concentrate on aural awareness, aspects of score preparation and instrumental techniques pertaining to the scores being studied. There are also orchestral repertoire sessions (with a large orchestra) which aim to develop musical understanding and an awareness of the works as a whole.
The course timetable can be very full, with sessions running from 09.00 until 21.30 on some days. ‘First time students may find the course rather intensive and tiring, though most find it enjoyable and fulfilling.
Will I get to conduct an orchestra?
The majority of sessions utilise small instrumental groups taken from the class or pianos rather than a full orchestra. These core sessions aim to build students' abilities as in the main it is not practical even for advanced students to do this whilst rehearsing an orchestra.
Regular ‘repertoire sessions’ with a large orchestra are scheduled each afternoon Monday to Thursday during the course. These are not primarily for students to develop their conducting technique – rather, they allow the whole class to gain a musical understanding of the work whilst demonstrating rehearsal technique in the process.
In these sessions, all students will be invited to conduct the orchestra under the direction of the tutors in repertoire suitable to their abilities. All students will also have the opportunity to conduct the class orchestra for at least three or four sessions during the week.
Will I have to play my instrument?
One of the best ways to learn is to experience the effect that different conductors have on orchestral players and to hear that effect from 'within the score'. Therefore, students are strongly encouraged to bring their instrument to play during instrumental sessions, even if they only play to a modest standard.
Will I have to play piano?
It is very helpful to the whole class if students who are able pianists play during the small group sessions. Two or four-hand arrangements of the set repertoire are used throughout the course and this music can be made available in advance of each session for students to practise. Many of these two and four hand arrangements are also available in public libraries enabling pre-preparation before the course begins.
How should I prepare for the course?
The most important preparation is to study the scores of the set repertoire as thoroughly as possible. Even experienced students invariably find that they would have benefited from additional score study ahead of the course. Those who prepare all the works meticulously will gain the most from the course and be best placed to take part in all sessions. If time constraints do not allow thorough study, it is strongly recommended that rather than superficially preparing several works, at least one work be prepared in depth.
What should I bring to the course?
Students should bring their scores of the set repertoire. They should also bring a baton. Many students find it helpful to video their lessons and bring a personal camera or smartphone. A ‘digital SD memory card’ camcorder will be available for course use. Students wishing to use the camcorder should bring their own standard SD card carefully marked with their name.
What is the difference between this course and the Practical Conducting course?
The philosophy and technique taught on the two courses is the same. The Practical Conducting Course is somewhat less intense and better suited to those with less experience, whilst The George Hurst Conductors’ Course is ideal for those who already have some practical experience. It is also an ideal second step for those who have previously attended the Practical Conducting Course.