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MUSIC 3O03 Conducting

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Rachel Rensink-Hoff



Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: by appointment

Course Objectives:


To develop skills in music listening and interpretation.

To establish a conducting technique that is clear, supportive & responsive.

To learn the basics of score-reading and analysis.

To build confidence in musical leadership through physical expression.



Body awareness & coordination

Nonverbal communication

Technical & expressive gestures

Attentive listening

Score analysis & preparation



The course will employ a combined lecture/laboratory format.  Each new topic will include time for experimentation, practice, and testing. The members of the class will provide an ensemble with which each participant will learn the gestures necessary for effective conducting. 

Students are advised that this course is taught as a master class. Those students who carefully prepare for each class, whether or not they expect to conduct, will benefit most from the course. Preparation must involve technical considerations (planning and practising specific physical gestures), and musical/artistic issues (tempo, style, phrasing, balance, musical direction, etc).  Also, because of the master class format and frequency of conducting opportunities, irregular attendance will significantly limit the knowledge and skills a student can expect to acquire.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Basic Conducting Techniques by Joseph Labuta. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Erasable coloured score marking pencils


Video-recording device

Please bring your instrument to every class.

Method of Assessment:

Conducting (50%)    

You will conduct weekly throughout the course of the term.  Comments and a grade for each conducting exercise will be posted in Avenue to Learn following each in-class conducting assignment.  Note, that in accordance with Mcmaster policy, at least 10% of your grade will be determined before November 4. 

N.B. Any in-class conducting assignment that is missed without prior consultation with the instructor will be penalized 20% up until the following class, after which the assignment will no longer be able to be completed.


Self-Evaluations & Final Reflection (15%)

You will be required to complete and submit self-evaluations and a final reflection within one week of each conducting assignment. Please submit your self-evaluation in the appropriate ATL dropbox.  It is expected that you record ALL of your conducting sessions and use these recordings as a basis for your self-evaluations

N.B. Self-evaluations will not be accepted beyond the one-week time frame.


Participation & Progress (5%)

All students are expected to actively participate in this class, whether in singing, playing or discussing. Preparedness & progress displayed throughout the term will also be strongly considered here.


Analysis & Listening Project (20%)

PART 1. Analyze the provided movement of Symphony No. 27 by Mozart following the steps outlined below.

   a. Type out details pertaining to the following:


Title & Composer/Arranger

Type of piece, genre


Describe the era/style period. Is this piece characteristic of this period?

Summarize composer’s life and compositional style.

Explore why the composer wrote this work.

Research original performances and other points of interest related to the piece.


Is it part of a larger work?

Analyze the structure (name of form, main sections/ units/endings/new beginnings, climax)


Describe harmonic rhythm (does the harmony change on every beat? once a measure?)

Locate modulations & important cadences.

Identify key moments of harmonic tension & release, dissonance, suspensions…


Is it homophonic, paired, polyphonic, changing?

What are the relationships between instrumental parts? Analyze the vertical relationships.


Identify interesting melodic features & recurring patterns, themes, motives…


Identify recurring rhythmic patterns (syncopation, hemiola, mixed meter…)

Other Expressive Elements

Identify dynamics, phrase lengths, articulations, tempo shifts and other interesting musical material.

b. Mark your score, using the suggestions in the Score Marking Tips handout in ATL. Mark all measure numbers.  


PART 2. This part of the assignment is meant to “grow your ears” as a conductor. 

Using youtube and/or itunes, find 3 quality recordings of your selected piece.  Listen to each recording and answer the following questions in one-two typed pages:

  1. Which performance do you think is most effective and why?
  2. Compare and contrast the performances (interpretation, tempi, dynamic range, intonation, tone/colour, articulations…)

Please be sure to provide all performer and recording info for each of the 3 performances.

Please submit this project in hard copy format to the instructor.


Final Marked Score (10%)

A well-detailed marked score, based on techniques learned in the Analysis Assignment must be submitted in hard copy format on the first day you conduct your final piece.  

N.B. Late Written Assignments will be penalized 20% up to five days, after which the assignment will not be accepted.


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

N.B. Any in-class conducting assignment that is missed without prior consultation with the instructor will be penalized 20% up until the following class, after which the assignment will no longer be able to be completed.

N.B. Self-evaluations will not be accepted beyond the one-week time frame.

N.B. Late Written Assignments will be penalized 20% up to five days, after which the assignment will not be accepted.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

WEEKS 1-2 Sept. 6, 8, 13 Preparatory Beats, Downbeats, and Releases

Prepare the two excerpts in Chapter 1.     



WEEKS 2-3 Sept. 15, 20, 22   Patterns, Active and Passive Gestures

Prepare two of the following excerpts: 2-1, 2-4, 2-6, 2-8, 2-11, 3-1, 3-2, 3-8, 3-9, 3-11, 3-12 (of two different time signatures) to demonstrate proficiency and confidence with prep beats, active and passive gestures, and beat patterns. (For extra practice, see Ch. 4). 

*Self-evaluation 1 due in ATL dropbox NO LATER than one week after second piece is conducted. 



WEEKS 4-5 Sept. 27, 29, Oct. 4, 6 Cueing & Internal Releases

Conduct on excerpt from Ch. 8, incorporating appropriate cueing and release gestures. This must be conducted FROM MEMORY.

*Self-evaluation 2 due in ATL dropbox NO LATER than one week after testing.




WEEKS 6-7 Oct. 18, 20, 25, 27 Fermatas

Conduct one of the following excerpts incorporating all of the three types of fermatas:

7.1, 7.2, or 7.14. This must be conducted FROM MEMORY.

*Self-evaluation 3 due in ATL dropbox NO LATER than one week after testing.

(NOTE: Analysis & Listening Project is due Oct. 27. See details above. Please submit in hard copy format.)



WEEKS 8-9 Nov. 1, 3, 8, 10   Dynamics & Articulation

1. Be prepared to conduct all of the excerpts on the Expressive Conducting handout provided as well as the example in Appendix B. (For extra practice see Ch. 10 & App. E.)

2. Prepare a short expressive piece (6.4, 6.5, 6.7, 9.6, 9.7, M-7, M-9). Hand in a photocopy of your marked score BEFORE you conduct.

*Self-evaluation 4 due in ATL dropbox NO LATER than one week after testing.



WEEK 10: Individual Practice and Group Preparation for Final


WEEKS 11-13 Nov. 22, 24, 29, Dec. 1,6 Final

Prepare a final piece (list to be provided by Dr. Rensink), incorporating what you have learned throughout the term. You will have an opportunity to work with the class on your piece at least once before your final test. See Appendix B for your evaluation guideline (excluding “Rehearsal Technique”).

*A well-detailed marked score must be submitted in hard copy format on the first day you conduct this piece. *Final Reflection due on the last day of class in ATL dropbox.