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The Bard College Conservatory of Music Announces New Graduate Program in Orchestral and Choral Conducting

Mark Primoff
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Bard College Conservatory of Music announces the creation of a Graduate Conducting Program that culminates in the master of music (M.M.) degree. Beginning in fall 2010, the Orchestral and Choral Conducting Program of The Bard College Conservatory of Music is a rigorous two-year residential curriculum with tracks (concentrations) in orchestral conducting and choral conducting. Although new, the program is built upon Bard’s years of experience and established leadership in music education. Balancing a respect for tradition with the flexibility needed to keep abreast of evolving musical ideas, challenges, and opportunities of a conducting career in the 21st century, the program’s unparalleled curriculum is designed and directed by Harold Farberman, founder and director of the Conductors Institute at Bard; James Bagwell, director of Bard’s undergraduate music program and music director of The Collegiate Chorale and Concert Chorale of New York; and Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The conducting program admits relatively few students—approximately 12 per year—to ensure individual attention. It offers its students unique access to the resources of the world-renowned Bard Music Festival and The Collegiate Chorale in New York City, the preeminent chorale in the country; internship opportunities with the American Symphony Orchestra; and an innovative four-semester sequence in the history of music.

“The Orchestral and Choral Conducting Program offers conducting students a unique opportunity to work with professional and student ensembles of the highest level, both at Bard College and in New York City,” says Bagwell.

The track in Orchestral Conducting offers a four-semester core seminar that focuses on baton technique through visual score study of works by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven; close examination of the composer’s intent through harmonic and melodic analysis and consideration of phrase structure, orchestration, and tone color in works by Dvorák, Elgar, and Tchaikovsky, among others; expanding repertoire through works of the late 19th and 20th centuries and the study of new baton movements to serve new compositional concepts; and 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. Regularly scheduled string quintet (plus piano) sessions test and refine classroom solutions. All students conduct the Bard Conservatory Orchestra in special sessions, along with the possibility of guest conducting the Woodstock (New York) Chamber Orchestra. The Conductors Institute at Bard, a summer program led by founder and artistic director Harold Farberman, is integral to the track in orchestral conducting. Under Farberman’s 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.

The track in Choral Conducting is based on significant podium time with a variety of ensembles and choral repertoire. Students work regularly with the Bard Chamber Singers and the Bard Symphonic Chorus. In addition, they have the opportunity to conduct the Concert Chorale of New York, a professional chorus based in New York City. In the track’s four-semester core seminar, students analyze 15th- and 16th-century vocal music with emphasis on counterpoint and text setting, performance practice, and liturgical function; Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Britten’s War Requiem, and choruses from Adams’s Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer with emphasis on text analysis, preparing a rehearsal schedule, and issues in concert programming; Bach’s St. John Passion, with emphasis on musical structure and Baroque performance practices; one of Haydn’s late Masses; and three major 19th-century requiem settings by Berlioz, Brahms, and Verdi, in the context of the rise of amateur choral singing during this period, with emphasis on performance practice, string bowings, and rehearsal plans. Diction—an introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet including its symbols and practical use in preparing and performing Italian, French, German, and English vocal literature—is taken together with students in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program of The Bard College Conservatory of Music. Through study of songs, arias, and choral literature, students gain a basic understanding of pronunciation rules and the rhythm of each language.

The common curriculum of the Graduate Program in Conducting includes a four-semester core Music History sequence that examines major works from the 18th to 21st centuries, reviews the history of opera, and culminates in a capstone course, built around American Symphony Orchestra programs in New York City and at Bard, illuminating shifting attitudes to public performance, different contexts of performance—spaces, politics, economics, and social status of musicians, the history of the orchestra, and economics of concert life. Other courses include Ear Training, Score Reading, and Composition; Foreign Language Study in German or Italian; Studio Instruction (weekly private instrument or voice lessons); Career Workshops with distinguished guest speakers who address the practical aspects of working as a conductor and/or music director; and Recital and Graduation Review (a 45-minute thesis concert with the Institute Orchestra for orchestral conducting and a recital for choral conducting). Core faculty of the program are James Bagwell in choral conducting, and Harold Farberman and Leon Botstein in orchestral conducting. The core faculty for history are Botstein, Bagwell, Kyle Gann, Christopher Gibbs, Peter Laki, and Laurence Wallach.

For admissions or more information about the Graduate Conducting Program of The Bard College Conservatory of Music, please contact the Conservatory at 845-758-7196 or, or visit

The mission of The Bard College Conservatory of Music is to provide the best possible preparation for a person dedicated to a life immersed in the creation and performance of music. Now in its fifth year, the Conservatory features a unique double degree program in which all undergraduate Conservatory students receive a bachelor of music and a bachelor of arts in another field. In addition, the conservatory offers graduate programs in vocal arts, led by renowned soprano Dawn Upshaw, and in orchestral and choral conducting, led by Harold Farberman, James Bagwell, and Leon Botstein, as well as a Postgraduate Collaborative Piano Fellowship, directed by Frank Corliss.


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This event was last updated on 03-02-2010