The twenty-first century presents wonderful opportunities for a thriving and successful university and youth orchestral program. Innovation and creative programming must be an integral part of every orchestral program today. As part of the program students must have opportunities for collaboration with professional musicians, live composers, art, film, dance, and graphic design. The conductor must facilitate outreach programs and joint musical performances with high school orchestras and in the community, which attracts potential students.
One of the challenges for music educators today is making students connect with the music and making music relatable to their every-day lives. In my rehearsals, we talk about how human emotion transcends time, and how something composed one, two or three hundred years ago can still be relevant to us through struggles of doubt, insecurity, pain, love, and joy, experienced by the composer then, and experienced by us today.
It must be our goal as music educators to help students feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Recently I organized and facilitated the performance of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf in front of the audience of 350 elementary school students. My goal was to share our music with the children, many of who were from underprivileged families and probably never heard classical music or a live orchestra performance before. On the other hand, I wanted my orchestra students to feel that they can make a difference in someone’s life by sharing their gift of music with them.
Artistic excellence is an important part of my philosophy, and the main objective of my teaching. I teach students the importance of personal responsibility in reaching higher levels of artistic excellence. Students are learning leadership skills, learning practice as a process and means to collaboration, learning orchestral etiquette, learning what kind of a person they want to be from how they approach their music studies. I program wide variety of repertoire that expands students’ knowledge and helps them progress as musicians. New music must be an important part of any youth or university orchestral curriculum as it gives students greater prospective and teaches them how to collaborate with living composers.
Above all, orchestral program must be student centered as opposed to teacher centered. I approach my rehearsals with a model of a servant leadership. As a conductor educator, I have an obligation to serve the music, the score, and the students who play for me. This teaches students honesty and integrity as participants of the musical process, and helps build relationship of trust between the conductor and the orchestra. I found this approach and attitude to have the greatest impact in achieving my educational goals. A successful orchestral program must solidify principles of excellent leadership and excellent performance, a comprehensive package of knowledge and personal experiences, which will help students to navigate their path as musicians and citizens of the world.