For a maestro leading an orchestra, the seemingly innocuous action of raising the baton at the commencement of a concert amounts to a mere minuscule fraction of the duties required of the post.
“Approximately 5% of our responsibilities are allotted to this function,” expounds Andrew Sewell, the musical director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.
As graduate students of the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music, Kelby Schnepel and Daewon Kang are in the process of comprehending the other 95% of this position. They are now fortunate enough to be the first beneficiaries of a recently established conducting fellowship with the WCO.
The fellowship program has a crucial objective: furnishing fledgling conductors with tangible, practical, and real-life experiences in the professional arena, supplementing the theoretical knowledge they acquire in the classroom as well as their previous appointments as conductors or assistant conductors of university-level ensembles.
“It serves to bridge the chasm between the academic and professional milieu,” affirmed Schnepel, who is set to complete his master’s degree in conducting by May.
Sewell had hitherto partaken in a collaborative effort with Oriol Sans, who holds the esteemed position of Director of Orchestra Activities at the Mead Witter School of Music, as well as serving as the Music Director and Conductor of both the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra and University Opera. This partnership bore fruit in the form of graduate conducting students from UW who were welcomed to participate in observing and engaging with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO).
However, in the preceding year, Sewell and Sans endeavored to establish a more structured and regulated program via the establishment of a fellowship. This facilitated a more efficacious partnership between the two institutions, with the fellowship members availing themselves of an opportunity to glean insights into the intricate operations of a professional orchestra, while concurrently gaining a deeper understanding of its repertoire.
Additionally, the fellows assume the role of cover conductor for select WCO performances. This entails attending rehearsals, immersing themselves in the score, analyzing the conductor’s work, and seamlessly taking the reins of the orchestra as and when needed.