Just under a week ago, Maestro Jonathan Darlington arrived in London to start rehearsing the orchestra. With our first concert tomorrow night, we were in serious work mode from the moment he first stepped on to the podium. Rehearsal time seems to fly when he’s conducting; with an abundance of musical knowledge matched only by his array of jokes and energy, rehearsals are both educational and highly amusing. Matching the personality of a conductor with an orchestra is essential, and it’s wonderful to see the connection we’ve made with our conductor in such a short period of time.
Often when I invite friends who aren’t classical musicians to symphony concerts, someone always asks, “Does the conductor actually do anything besides wave his stick?” With Darlington’s arrival, I feel like this is the opportune moment to discuss the role of a conductor. In short, the conductor leads the orchestra. The stick he’s waving is a baton, and it’s used to dictate beats, so the orchestra can be rhythmically together. More importantly though, is the conductor’s role in interpreting music. A piece, like the Shostakovich we’ll be performing, can have parts that seem funny, but the conductor can show with his hands and face that the music should actually be sarcastic and harsher. Most of this interpretation is done in rehearsals, when the conductor really gets to take a lead and work a section until it’s as he imagines. Then when it’s concert time and the conductor is giving tons of energy to the orchestra, it can be expected the orchestra will return that same intensity.
While we’re thrilled to have the maestro with us, yesterday we said a heartfelt thank you and farewell to the coaches who have worked tirelessly with us upwards of three weeks. It was with their hard work and unyielding persistence on perfection that each section sounds as organized and solid as it does. To show our appreciation, each section presented a nice gift to our coaches, and many of us got to go out on a special sectional outing with our coach. It was fun to spend time away from the music with them, because beyond everything else, these are genuinely good people we had the privilege to work with. I personally learned a great deal about orchestral playing, viola, and the mentality needed for a musician from our viola coach, and I know others learned as much.
With the departure of the coaches and the arrival of the conductor, it really dawned on me that one person can have an enormous influence on a remarkably large group of people. There are ten of us violists for our one coach, and yet he was able to teach all of us at a personal level. The maestro has an orchestra of 95 musicians in front of him, yet he’s still managed to talk with almost all of us individually at some point. I believe this shows the enormous potential for influence everybody has. Even if you’re just one person in a group of nearly one hundred, if you can prove you know what you’re doing and encourage others to follow, you will be more influential than you ever thought possible.
As our tour kicks off tomorrow, here’s the question I’m proposing: with nearly a hundred of us on stage trying to reach out to our audience, how much will you be influenced?