The effects of score study on novices’ conducting and rehearsal behaviors



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This study investigated the effects of score study on novice conductors’ nonverbal and verbal conducting behaviors. Presented with a brief musical excerpt of which they had no prior knowledge, undergraduate conducting students (N = 11) conducted and rehearsed a live brass quartet. After an initial conducting session, participants in the experimental group (n = 6) received two individual 30-minute score study tutorials, while the control group (n = 5) received no assistance. All participants returned one week after the first conducting session to conduct and rehearse the ensemble for a second time. Brass quartet members and three experienced conductors, all whom were blind to the experimental condition, evaluated participants’ conducting in terms of eye contact, facial expression, effective gesture, ability to lead toward a musically accurate performance, knowledge of the score, and pacing. Significant differences were found between the score study and control conditions. The brass quartet members’ ratings for eye contact and knowledge of the score were higher for the participants who studied the score. I found no significant differences between conditions in the ratings given by experienced conductors. At the conclusion of the second rehearsal, brass quartet members accurately identified five of the six conductors who had received score study assistance and four of the five conductors who had not. Experienced conductors were asked to identify the order of the two videos of each conductor. They accurately identified the order of five of the six score study conductors’ videos. Identifications of participants’ videos in the control group were mostly inaccurate and reflected much disagreement among the experienced conductors. In reviews of the participants’ written and verbal responses about their experience and the comments provided by brass quartet members and experienced conductors, I noted three characteristics that distinguished those who engaged in score study from those who had not: (1) more meaningful, instrument-specific eye contact; (2) greater confidence and comfort; and (3) more effective gestures and other nonverbal behaviors in rehearsal, all of which seemed to result from a more clearly defined interpretation of the music.