On Wednesday, I attended my first interest session of the conference, called "Thinking Like an Athlete: New Ways to Improve Your Conducting Gesture." Dr. Bert Pinsonneault from Northwestern University, an athlete and conductor, led the session. He explained that the conductor does not merely show beat placement and entrances, but in fact:
I was excited when he mentioned mirror neurons, which I've been learning about in a Storytelling course at IC. These mirror neurons create a motor resonance inside each of us, causing us to feel physically and emotionally what others around us feel simply by watching them. In music, this means that we not only perceive sound as an auditory stimulus but also as a sequence of expressive motor acts; for the same reason we cringe in sympathetic pain when we watch someone get injured in a viral video, we also feel physically what our conductor shows us.
Dr. Pinsonneault had us practice sympathetic observation as we watched athletes in action, feeling their physical motions ourselves. He explained that any athletic activity involves a balance of tension and relaxation necessary for muscles to move. We all got to try some activities that can help us achieve this balance. They were not stretches, per se, but movements that released excess tension. I tend to hold a lot of tension in my body from the stresses I compile every day, taking on the stress I sense from others as well as my own. These activities helped me feel relaxation and ease in my body. I hope to continue practicing the activities Dr. Pinsonneault provided in order to mirror the music physically while conducting.
-Laura White, IC ACDA President
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