I attended a fascinating session entitled "Thinking Like an Athlete: New Ways to Improve Your Conducting Gesture," led by Bert Pinsonneault from Northwestern University. Dr. Pinsonneault began by drawing comparisons between sports and the art of conducting. He explained that a peak mind-body connection experience in musical practice is similar to a "runner's high," and that we ought to focus our practice on achieving such moments of success.
We watched a few short videos of professional athletes in action, and Dr. Pinsonneault pointed out the ways in which their movements could be linked to conducting gesture. For example, running, like conducting, is an inherently rhythmic activity. The act of bouncing a basketball requires expansive arm movements, and Tai Chi involves balance and coordination, as in conducting. Dr. Pinsonneault suggested that watching athletes, as well as watching other conductors in action, is extremely useful for the developing conductor.
Dr. Pinsonneault had us all on our feet, trying out physical warm-ups that focused on the athleticism of conducting. One activity that I particularly enjoyed was when he had us all walk around the room at a comfortable pace while focusing on maintaining good conducting posture in our upper bodies. The purpose of this exercise is to create a sensation of buoyancy and openness in the upper body while simultaneously engaging the lower body in grounded forward motion. I left this workshop feeling physically refreshed, and I was inspired to see more examples and ways of conducting almost as a sport!
-Juliana Joy Child, IC ACDA President-Elect
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