There's no such thing as a left-handed conductor and other hints for the podium

Joining Richard Bellis tonight were music union rep and double-reed player Phil Ayling and Peter Rotter, a principal in music contracting service De Crescent & Rotter. Here’s what they had to say.

The business is contracting! Don’t despair!

In the heyday of episodic television, Ayling says, there was 100 hours of TV scoring work per week. However, both men said it was a misconception that the orchestras are losing work. People still prefer to record music in Hollywood because players are good and fast. With that in mind, Rotter pushed workshop participants to request union and local musicians.

Orchestras are delicate; handle with care.

Rotter says creatives are often “essentially little kids – scared to death they are going to screw up.” Bellis suggested addressing principal players with specific remarks if you have remarks for sections. (“Brass, can we check your ‘A’ please?” is better than “Wow, brass is way out of tune.”)

Ayling prepared contestants for the possibility of guff from the orchestra. He joked: “We imagine ourselves to be artists and part of being an artist is to be uncivilized.” But he quickly followed this with, “our job is to honor your individual voices” and that “to actually see talent blossom right in front of us – that’s the gift you give us.”

You’re left-handed? Not anymore.

If you are a lefty conductor, lose it. Conducting needs to be done right-handed. More tips: To get the orchestra to speed up, make your movements smaller but faster. To slow down, movements get bigger and broader. Richard Bellis said that being an orchestra’s “quarterback” requires muscle memory similar to an athelete’s, which means practicing basic moves such as the intro, the count-off to the click track and even bringing your arms up to gain the orchestra’s attention.

Don’t be afraid to start small.

Ayling said it’s important to be open for opportunities; apprenticeships can lead to good things. “Mark Mancina and John Powell came from the Hans Zimmer school of being invisible,” he said. “At some point they were in a cubby hole somewhere and then they got their chance.”

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