Conducting & Ensembles
Undergraduates may elect courses such as basic, intermediate, and advanced instrumental and choral conducting; wind ensemble repertory; choral repertory; and contemporary music performance practices. (Some courses require special approval for undergraduates.) Music education majors and organ performance majors are required to take conducting courses as part of their curriculum.
MM students specialize in either choral or orchestral literature and rehearsal techniques. A diploma in sacred music may be combined with a degree in choral conducting. DMA conducting majors specialize in choral, orchestral, or wind conducting, but also conduct in areas other than their principal repertory. Regular tutorial sessions are given in conjunction with a significant amount of contact hours with the School’s ensembles.
Of the more than 700 performances presented each year by the Eastman School, many are by Eastman’s student ensembles. Membership in large ensembles is critical to professional development, and is a required part of the undergraduate curriculum.
Undergraduate instrumentalists progress from the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra and Wind Orchestra to the Philharmonia, Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, and Musica Nova. Each fall, entering string students audition for initial ensemble seating. For winds, brass, and percussion students, personnel assignments for each concert are determined by studio faculty based on instrumentation needs. Graduate students, as required by their majors, enroll for credit in Graduate Ensemble, which encompasses participation in the Eastman Philharmonia, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and the Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra. All first year graduate students must participate in ensembles, with string students required to audition in the Fall.
Voice students begin their training with the Repertory Singers (approximately 60-70 members) and Eastman-Rochester Chorus (175 members), and then proceed into the Eastman Chorale (35-40 members) and Eastman Opera Theatre programs. Participation in Opera Theatre choruses is by audition, per production.
The opportunity to rehearse and perform under important guest conductors is one of the advantages of an Eastman education. Recent guests have included John Adams, Christoph von Dohnányi, Frederick Fennell, Mitch Miller, Kryzsztof Penderecki, Yuri Temirkanov, John Williams, David Zinman, and Walter Hendl.
Musica Nova, the School’s contemporary music ensemble, presents six concerts of 20th- and 21st-century music each academic year. Collegium Musicum is a virtuoso ensemble for the performance of music composed before 1700. The School’s two Balinese gamelan (a gamelan angklung and a gamelan joged bumbung) and African mbira ensemble are open to students, faculty, and community members. Studio ensembles at Eastman include the Trombone Choir, Horn Choir, Tuba Mirum, Brass Guild, and Percussion Ensemble.
Eastman ensembles enjoy performing in the newly renovated Eastman Theatre and in the smaller, but exquisite, Kilbourn Hall. Many Eastman ensembles perform in outside venues in the Greater Rochester area. Concerts performed in the halls of local colleges, church sanctuaries, and in public schools are considered a vital part of our efforts to reach out to the community. Our ensembles periodically travel nationally and internationally, representing the Eastman School in the global realm. The Wind Ensemble has toured Japan a number of times under the sponsorship of Sony Music Foundation, most recently in spring 2004. The Trombone Choir has performed in Washington, DC; the gamelan in Toronto; Musica Nova several times in New York; and the Eastman Chorale undertakes annual tours through different regions of the country.