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2012 Conductor Development Summer School

Participants and staff. Michael Dahlenburg, Anna Howell, Christopher Seaman, Eugene Ughetti, Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer, Edward Ananian-Cooper, Nathan Aspinall, Christopher Dragon, Maxime Tortelier, Luke Dollman

It was an extremely hot January day in Hobart that saw the coming together of eight of Australia’s and one of Europe’s most promising young conductors, to attend the inaugural Symphony Services International Conducting Summer School. Christopher Seaman, director of SSI’s Conductor Development program, was the teacher for the two weeks, and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra our host for the event.  TSO provided the most valuable training component for the participants, and the reason that the program is unique – significant podium time in front of a professional orchestra.

The participating conductors were Nathan Aspinall (QLD), Eugene Ughetti (VIC), Michael Dahlenburg (VIC), Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer (VIC), Edward Ananian-Cooper (SA), Christopher Dragon (WA), Anthony Pasquill (NSW), Daniel Carter (VIC) and Maxime Tortelier who travelled from the UK to attend.  Click here to read Maxime’s impressions of the program as our very first international participant.

The Summer School was held over a period of two weeks and involved intensive training for the aspiring maestri with a gruelling timetable of activities that were scheduled on top of the regular conducting sessions with the orchestra. Kim Waldock, Education Manager of the Sydney Symphony, spent countless hours with the group sharpening their aural skills, Bronwen Ackermann worked individually with each participant on posture and movement, and Mairi Nicolson provided insight into the media and publicity. Principal players in the TSO shared their knowledge and expertise on specialised instrumental techniques and what they look for in a conductor, and composer Maria Grenfell offered some insight into what it’s like to prepare a contemporary work and collaborate with a living composer. The group were advised of the wide range of responsibilities of an artistic director and chief conductor, from corporate relationships to concert programming, by TSO’s Managing Director Nicholas Heyward, and Manager of Artistic Planning, Simon Rogers.

Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, Debussy’s La Mer and the Elgar Enigma Variations were only a small part of the long list of orchestral works the conductors were asked to prepare for the Summer School. They were also taught the art of “accompanying” with soloists Jennen Ngiau-Keng and Alexey Yemstov who each graciously and beautifully played their concertos (Bruch Violin Concerto and the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 respectively) many times over so that every participant could have a go.

We welcomed two guest teachers, Ollivier-Phillipe Cuneo and Luke Dollman, both successful graduates of SSI’s Conductor Development program. Olli, who has a wealth of experience in operatic conducting, took the participants through some of the much loved repertoire from Mozart, Puccini and Verdi with singers Tiffany Speight and Michael Lampard. Luke assisted Christopher Seaman with his teaching, working individually with each conductor as soon as they stepped off the podium, allowing any technical issues to be addressed immediately.

Increasing the course time to two weeks and spacing the orchestral calls over this period allowed sufficient time for the participants to digest instructions and implement suggested changes, resulting in their really gaining a sense of their own progress.  It also enabled the young conductors to make a personal connection with the musicians in the orchestra who all agreed that there was real development across the board over the fortnight.

Thank you to all the guest lecturers, teachers and artists involved in the Summer School, as well as the musicians and staff at the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and at Symphony Services International who all contributed to its success.

Anna Howell
Artist Development Coordinator