Students in the Orchestral Conducting program at Mannes hit the ground running — and don’t stop. The emphasis is on practical application, hands-on opportunities and technique, but there is also a strong grounding in intellectual and musical elements, including analysis, orchestration, and structure. A typical week will include a techniques class, analysis seminar, conducting of a string quintet, wind and string ensembles and the Mannes Orchestra. With a lot of conducting time, both with instruction and "on own," students are encouraged to "spread their wings" from the beginning.
There is a wide spectrum of opportunities for students to conduct different ensembles, both in rehearsal and performance, including the Mannes Orchestra, the Mannes American Composers Ensemble (MACE), Mannes Opera (there is a conducting apprenticeship program under Joseph Colaneri, the Opera Director), as well as various chamber ensembles. Notably during their final year, Mannes conducting students go on an apprenticeship with the Buffalo Philharmonic, where they spend 4 two-week sessions in Buffalo as cover conductors for the Philharmonic, under the mentorship of Music Director JoAnn Faletta. Conducting students receive a full immersion by going to all rehearsals, artistic meetings, the Philharmonic library, and by interacting with musicians of the orchestra. It is an amazing apprenticeship for all Mannes conducting students at the end of their tenure, an opportunity to see the world as it is, how a major orchestra operates. At the end, students conduct one-half of a public concert.
Orchestral Conducting Department Chair and Mannes Orchestra Director David Hayes says the Department fosters a well-rounded, career-building environment; students have Master Classes with outside professionals and explore various non-musical topics regularly, such as the state of the business, public relations and budgeting, and how to survive a conducting career across a range of performing ensembles, including choral conducting and Broadway Musical work. With 22 years as a professional chorus director, including the directorship of the Philadelphia Singers, Mr. Hayes strives to impart a sense of openness to all possibilities of ensemble. As he points out, a good choral conductor knows how to conduct an orchestra and vice versa. The needs of the ensemble are primary, and it is important to be an omnivore musically. With only 4 to 5 students admitted to the highly competitive program, students have opportunity to experiment and tailor their curriculum with faculty as they go deeper into study.
"Students receive lots of individual attention, and we tailor the program around their interest while exposing them to as much as possible." Hayes says. "And it does not stop at graduation, former students stay in touch. It is an open relationship, a continuing mentorship. I think this is most useful, the sense you are not kicked out of the nest but have started a strong support system for your career."
Former students have gone on to find professional success across a wide range of styles and musical ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, Ensemble 212, the 92Y School of Music Orchestra, CUNY Symphony Orchestra, the Longy School of Music Orchestra, Bard College Orchestra, Apollo Chamber Orchestra, York Symphony, Portland Opera, Opera Camerata, the Philadelphia Singers, Fairfield County Chorale, Oratorio Society of New York, Queen City Chamber Opera and the New York Youth Symphony. Many have gone on to distinguish themselves in academia, including one recent conducting graduate who is now Chair of Musical Studies at the Curtis Institute of Music.
"Each student is looked at as an individual here, each with their own unique potential," Hayes says when asked what distinguishes the Mannes approach. "We look at the student as a whole person and help them reach for their potential. Mannes has a very strong intellectual history and tradition, but it is also forward thinking. We teach flexibility, the importance of being prepared to be successful musicians of the 21st century, which means to learn to evolve and really reach to what is out there."
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