Summer. A time when lawnmowers are rumbling, the grills are fired up, and children laugh and play as their parents struggle to apply sunscreen. While the long days of sunshine, festivals, and fireworks are floating by, students in the Colorado State University Summer Conducting Seminar, the residency component of CSU’s Master of Music, Music Education – Conducting Specialization, are pouring over their scores and fine-tuning their technique for their upcoming final performance. On July 23, ten graduate students will raise their baton to lead a concert version of The Merry Widow operetta by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The performance is co-presented by the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and the Opera Fort Collins Apprentice Program.
Each student-conductor that takes the stage chose the graduate conducting degree to better themselves as a musician while maintaining their professional and personal lifestyles. For Pin Chen, an orchestral-focused student from Calif., CSU’s program was a perfect fit. “[I] was hoping to get a Master of Music degree in conducting without having to quit my job or travel extensively in Los Angeles traffic with my busy schedule,” Pin expressed. “CSU’s program was the only high caliber master’s program that I could find where I could learn to become a better conductor and still be able to fit it into my life.” Pin said that with her immensely busy schedule filled with lessons, conducing a youth orchestra, coaching chamber music, and running her nonprofit music education organization, the online degree program with summer’s only residency at CSU was exactly what she was looking for.
As the summer season continues, many people attend numerous parades, many of which have various styles of marching bands. This is something that graduate conductor Kevin Hertlein relates to as an assistant conductor in one of the Marine Corps field bands. As Kevin has progressed through the conducting Master’s program, he has appreciated the variety in his education and has been able to apply it to his unique specialization in a field band. “A bulk of the work field bands in the Marine Corps do involves performances with multiple variables that necessitate immediate and clear communication with the ensemble…the emphasis placed on clarity of expression has been invaluable,” Kevin shared. He expressed his great appreciation for the universal concepts of conducting that were taught, and as a result he was able to bring his education to his professional life quickly and clearly.
Although we are in the high noon of the summer months, the program of hard work is drawing to a close. For graduate choir conductor Donna Solverud, the end of the program is filled with reflection on the lessons learned and encouragement for students considering a journey down the same path. “The program has impacted my teaching in several different ways. My conducting, and how I communicate with my ensembles through my conducting, has improved dramatically,” said Donna. “I would highly recommend this program to any student that is currently teaching. It is a perfect [balance] between rigor and manageability.”
So after the day’s picnic is through, the Frisbee has been thrown, and the last drop of sweat tea has been sipped, be sure to come watch Pin, Kevin, Donna, and seven of their colleagues as they conduct The Merry Widow operetta, July 23 7:30 p.m., at the University Center for the Arts located at 1400 Remington St. The family-friendly performance of the concert version of The Merry Widow will undoubtedly be a great way to finish your day, and a very colorful sunset to the 2016 Summer Conducting Seminar.