Musicians lead from the front in conducting masterclass

Musicians lead from the front in conducting masterclass

12 October 2022

Mr John Hargreaves, Director of Music

Woldingham musicians put down their instruments and picked up batons on Thursday 6 October to learn the craft of orchestral conducting from renowned teacher and highly experienced conductor Denise Ham.

The afternoon started with a techniques class for our music scholars, some GCSE students, and members of staff, where Denise explained and explored beating patterns, posture, having a sense of presence in the space, and how to best support and encourage your musicians to play well.

This was followed by a masterclass involving music scholars Joyce and Rosie, Upper Sixth, Isabel, Sophie and Cherry, Lower Sixth, Clemmie, Year 11, and members of music staff Miss Wang and Ms Ives. Each participant had 15 minutes of podium time to work with Denise on a section from Haydn's Symphony 94, movement II "The Surprise", conducting a pianist. To conclude the masterclass, each musician conducted Woldingham’s chamber orchestra for five minutes. 

Afterwards, Denise said how impressed she had been with the standard of musicianship at Woldingham, adding, “You have some real talent there and I hope to see something of them in the future.”

The feedback from our students, below, shows how much they learnt from masterclass and techniques class. We plan to hold more in the future.

Joyce, Music Ribbon: The most valuable lesson I learnt was that the way the conductor moves directly affects the tone of the music the musicians produce. At first, my movements were quite stingy, which wasn’t helpful in communicating my musical ideas to the players. However, when I was conducting more generously, the players seemed more confident in fulfilling my instructions.

Rosie S, Upper Sixth: The workshop was so informative, interesting and helpful to me as a young musician. We learnt about the complexities and nuances of conducting and were put into a new situation (conducting the school orchestra) that was both challenging and lots of fun. Denise was an amazing teacher. It was a great experience that has inspired me to put myself out there and practise these new skills whenever I can.

Isabel L, Lower Sixth:  It was such an incredible experience to learn conducting from Denise. I found it very fascinating that music can also be expressed by a silent instrument (the baton). 

 Cherry L, Lower Sixth: The workshop was a genuinely wonderful and fruitful experience. Having the ability to express my musicality through my conducting to ‘play’ the chamber orchestra was terrifying and satisfying at the same time.

Sophie D, Lower Sixth: Denise was very patient in her teaching of how to use the baton, move our arms correctly, stand in a firm and steady way, and how to effectively convey our musical ideas to the orchestra. It was an amazing opportunity for us to gain some knowledge about conducting and put Denise’s teaching into practice by conducting our own chamber orchestra. Although this was challenging, it was great fun doing something so different. 

Kate C, Upper Sixth: Denise offered many useful conducting techniques including the basics of posture and breathing. The atmosphere throughout the workshop was very pleasant as Denise was very kind and patient, as well as offering clear step-by-step instructions. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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