The first semester in orchestral conducting is devoted to the physical movement of the baton. Symphonies of Haydn and Beethoven are the primary tool for analyzing problems and formulating technical solutions to meet the needs of the music. Regularly scheduled string quintet (plus piano) sessions are used to test and refine classroom solutions. All students conduct the Bard Conservatory Orchestra in a special session.
The second semester is devoted to a closer examination of the composer’s intent, along with further development of baton technique. Harmonic and melodic analysis and consideration of phrase structure, orchestration, and tone color are brought to bear on works such as the string serenades of Dvorák, Elgar, and Tchaikovsky. Podium time with the string quintet and the Bard Conservatory Orchestra continues, along with the possibility of guest conducting the Woodstock (New York) Chamber Orchestra.
The third semester moves to works of the late 19th and 20th centuries, and the study of new baton movements to serve new compositional concepts. Works of Bartók, Boulez, Britten, Debussy, Elgar, Messiaen, Prokofiev, Ravel, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Strauss, Stravinsky, and Varèse are studied. Quintet sessions and Bard Conservatory Orchestra readings continue.
The fourth semester emphasizes the musical heritage of the United States, with attention to works of the early American school (Paine, Gottschalk, Chadwick, and Parker), and icons of later American music, including Ives, Ornstein, Cage, Feldman, Carter, Copland, Schuman, Barber, Joplin, Ellington, Gershwin, and Bernstein.
The Conductors Institute
The Conductors Institute at Bard, a summer program, is integral to the track in orchestral conducting. For more than three decades, the Conductors Institute, now in its 11th year at Bard and part of The Bard College Conservatory of Music, has continued its mission to:
- promote technical clarity and precision in baton movement in a positive working atmosphere that enables conductors at every level to fulfill their own musical capabilities;
- disarm the competitive learning process so that conductors assist and support one another;
- encourage American conductors to be advocates of American composers.
The Conductors Institute is led by Harold Farberman, its founder and artistic director. Under his supervision and that of visiting guest faculty, students work daily with the Institute Orchestra on a variety of works covering all periods and styles. Participation in the four-week institute is mandatory for two summers, for the M.M. degree; a third summer is optional.