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ETBU hosts international master class for conductors in Marshall

By Ryan Wagoner
May 30, 2015 at 4 a.m.

Two cellists prepare to play after a rest in the music during a practice rehearsal with conductor Ross Gordon on May 28. The cellists are members of the Persimmon Hill Chamber Orchestra, which consists of top musicians from Texas and Louisiana.

Eight conducting fellows from across the U.S. will work with a 20-piece orchestra, multiple pianists and two renowned faculty members as part of the East Texas International Conducting Masterclass at East Texas Baptist University this weekend.

The full course consists of four rehearsals and ends with a free public concert at 4 p.m. Sunday in the Baker Auditorium of the Ornelas Spiritual Life Center on campus.

Each fellow will rehearse for 80 minutes with the Persimmon Hill Chamber Orchestra, which is comprised of top musicians from Texas and Louisiana, and 48 minutes with the pianists.

The master class will focus on conducting skill and communication techniques with the orchestra. Fellows also will have daily lessons on topics like score study, professional advancement, starting a professional ensemble and creating community through music.

These fellows will also be under the guidance of ETBU Director of Bands Mark Crim and Finnish conductor Sasha Mäkilä during the course, and will receive daily "Qigong for Conductors" sessions from conductor Theresa McGee that will focus on good posture and energy flow between the conductor and orchestra.

"It's a merging of an ancient Eastern method of mind and body care with conducting to reduce strain and fatigue," McGee said. "We work on awareness of the body and how it communicates to the orchestra."

McGee said this process is important to keep conductors fresh and focused when dealing with the challenges of leading an orchestra.

"Conducting is a very vulnerable experience," McGee said. "When you practice an instrument, you get to practice it alone in a room or at home if you want. For conductors, our instrument is the orchestra. When you mess up, it can be a very personal experience."

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