Thursday, 17 March 2016

Opportunities for Women Conductors at the Dallas Opera

Dear Mr. Lines,

We would greatly appreciate if you could include this important announcement from The Dallas Opera in your Blog or website. Female conductors, as well as accomplished women singers, opera coaches and accompanists, and instrumentalists with established careers seeking a new career at the podium are encouraged to apply for our next Institute for Women Conductors. The application deadline is April 22, 2016!

Thank you so much!

Kind Regards,

Celeste Hart 

Contact: Suzanne Calvin 214.443.1014 Or Celeste Hart 214.443.1071                                                                                  

The Dallas Opera is Proud to Announce

Applications Are Now Being Accepted For


The Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for

Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera


Expanded 2016 Program: Nov. 26 – Dec. 11, 2016


TDO Seeks to Create New Opportunities for Talented Young Women Conductors Making Their Mark in the Field of Opera


Additional Support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,

TACA Bowden & Embrey Family Foundations Artist Residency Fund and the Richard and Enika Schulze Foundation


Cut out middling, middle of the road thinking

Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven did not use the middling indications of loudness and softness much, especially within their solo piano music. The majority of their written indications were either unequivocally loud or unequivocally soft. 

This was probably due, at the very least in part, to the nature of the instruments they had to hand.

However, not using such middling indicators had some very significant effects:
  • It emphasised contrast.
  • It emphasised the transition or transformation from loudness to softness and vice versa.
  • It demanded a keen awareness and appreciation of context and environment: what is perceived as loud or soft in one place may not be the same in another place.
  • It demanded clarity of purpose: certainty about what mood or sentiment needed to be conveyed to an audience and what nature or style of loudness or softness was required to achieve it. 
Emphasising contrast, emphasising transition and transformation, demanding enhanced awareness and appreciation, and demanding clarity of purpose: all these are essential to effective problem solving and can be encouraged by cutting out or reducing middling, middle of the road, middle range thinking.

The next time you need to generate and develop creative, innovative and ground breaking ideas cut out middling middle of the road thinking.

Don't say, 'That is a bit like or similar to.' Ask, 'What is different about this? How does it contrast with what we have done before?'  

Don't say, 'That is okay.'  Ask, 'How can we amplify its effectiveness and attractiveness?'    

Don't say, 'That will do.' Ask, 'How can we significantly dampen and shrink its drawbacks and consequences?'

Don't say, 'I'm comfortable with that.' Ask, 'How can we challenge ourselves to make it even better?'

Don't say, 'That fits well enough.' Ask, 'How can we tailor this to our own and others' needs?'

Don't say, 'That is sort of going in the right general direction.' Ask, 'Where precisely are we going with this?' and, very importantly, 'What stimulating new directions is it opening up for us?'

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Develop tiny details

"You hear something -- it may just be a tiny detail in someone else's piece, or even a pop song or a piece of ethnic music -- and you think, 'What an interesting connection that is. What if I took that one little idea, and turned it around, or expanded it, or took what is background and made it foreground?"'

Composer John Adams from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

As part of his compositional process John Adams sometimes takes a tiny seemingly insignificant detail from someone else's piece of music and works at developing it into a larger and more significant idea.

Beethoven did very much the same thing when composing the first movement of his 5th Symphony. He transformed a small rhythmic motif commonly used by other composers into an idea of immense power and significance which changed the course and nature of Western music: da da da dar! 

He often did the same with his own seemingly trivial material, taking a throw-away melody or phrase and developing it into a substantial section of a composition. He does this very effectively during the first movement of his 5th Piano Concerto (the Emperor): a very quiet unassuming little tune is stated early on and seemingly put to one side, only to return every so often in slightly altered guises which are delicately beautiful and increasingly memorable. Imagine seeing a small, finely crafted gem slowly turning and gradually revealing the rich spectrum and patterning of its glistening facets -- Beethoven gifts us his musical equivalent. 

Indeed, the feel and mood of this little idea does not fade away with the end of the first movement; it permeates and floats through the reflective, gently flowing second movement.

When seeking innovative approaches and solutions remember that their seeds may exist within your own or others' apparently insignificant or seemingly trivial ideas, and ask yourself the following types of questions:
  • What small facets and little details of others' ideas have caught your attention and interest? Why have they caught your attention and interest?
  • How would your approach change if they were placed in the foreground of your thinking? 
  • How do they connect with and complement your own interests and ideas?
  • How do they connect with your current challenges?   
  • What would happen if you looked at them in different ways and experimented and played around with them?
  • How could they fit, operate and develop within a different environment?
  • How could they contribute to solving different problems?
  • What would happen if you gave them resources and invested time in developing and expanding them?
  • What benefits would you gain if you implemented and/or combined all of them? 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Gergiev's toothpick

The Russian conductor Valery Gergiev sometimes conducts with a toothpick. The sight of him conducting dramatic large-scale works with this small, common-place item is extremely incongruous.

On watching him conduct, sharp toothpick in hand, a couple of seasoned professional musicians were heard to comment, ‘you better pay attention!’ Others he has conducted have noticed his ‘in the moment’ eye contact and facial expressions and how the slightest flutter of his fingers can be of incredible significance. Critics write about the detailed and brilliant sound he can coax out of an orchestra armed only with a toothpick. He certainly has everyone’s attention!

The rumour is that Gergiev started using a toothpick to conduct because his movements whilst conducting were so violent that he frequently lost his grip on the baton and it would go flying into the audience or the orchestra. Whatever the initial reason, the use of his trademark toothpick has since paid great dividends, enabling him to achieve outstanding performances with his orchestras.

Why is this?

By making his musicians concentrate upon the movement of such a small item he is sharpening perceptions and encouraging the thorough exploration of those moment-to-moment details that if tugged at and brought into clearer view will make the difference between a good performance and a truly great one.

The next time you have a gritty problem that refuses to budge take a perceptual toothpick to it. Sharpen your awareness of its details and explore them minutely. Define those small actions that will most effectively enable you to access the roots of the problem and tease out the best ways to resolve it.