Conductor as defined by Wikipedia: the act of directing a musical performance by way of physical gestures.
Max Rudolf has a better description in his book The Grammar of Conducting. In his preface he writes: “Part musician, part actor, the conductor pursues a craft which is not easily defined.” He goes on by explaining that if a musician sees a competent conductor s/he can become competent at conducting without formal instruction.
The introduction delves into the complexity of conducting; the conductor has knowledge of composition, musical styles, basic knowledge of instruments, ability to score read, play piano, perfect pitch (helpful, not a necessity), talking/working with people, knowledge of psychology, and technique.
So why is it that not ALL musicians consider themselves conductors? At some basic level all musicians receive this knowledge, especially as one continues up the educational ladder. Why is it that only few musicians have the privilege to be called conductors? Shouldn’t all musicians be encouraged (by their teachers) to follow up on all the skills mentioned by Rudolf?
Take a look at this guy....
In the documentary The Gift of Music, Lenny says "When I teach I learn, when I learn, I teach."
Exemplary teaching below....
The conductor is a role model: someone that is continuously developing their human capacity; s/he are guided by her/his own role models into autonomy. The student taught in this manner is not a subordinate (or oppressed, as Freire would say) of the conductor, rather, the student conductor makes a choice to follow another fellow conductor. I want to believe that the most amazing orchestras in the world are organisms that have self directed and autonomous individuals! I believe Rudolf is on to something when he states that it is possible to learn how to be a conductor if you have a wonderful conductor role model.
Students have to be guided through the process of becoming, they have to be taught how to practice and problem solve. In order for those to happen, you have to foster reflective listening skills - the student plays and the teacher asks what they heard - and practice practicing with the students. Always ask: WHY? Why they did that? Why did that work, or not? Then, HOW? How can you make this better?
I take Bernstein's words very seriously. If you want someone to learn something, you have to understand how that individual (or group of individuals) learns. It has to be a conversation in order for a meaningful exchange or change to happen - and not in lecture form (don't do this, that bowing is wrong).
Ultimately, we are our own masters. As teachers we can only hope to say the right thing for students to have an AH moment. Students could be having those moments a lot more often if they discover how to seize control of their own learning experiences. Educators must have a personal commitment to guide and cultivate those habits of mind.
I have this crazy idea that if we were to teach all of our students the conductor model that they would prosper, not only as musicians, but as human beings.