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MUSIC 3O03 Conducting (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Tracy Wong


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 409

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23671

Office Hours: By appointment.

Course Objectives:

The course is designed to develop analytical, musical, and psycho-motor skills that relate to conducting, including score study, aural skills, and gestural clarity and expressiveness.


Through in-class experience, personal study and practice, students will:

  • Develop skills in music listening and interpretation.
  • Develop a conducting technique that is clear, supportive, and responsive.
  • Apply basic score study and marking strategies.
  • 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.

This is a highly participatory class and regular attendance is expected. If you are unable to attend, please email Dr. Wong in advance. Unexcused absences will result in a 5-point deduction from the attendance and participation component of your grade. Absence from class is not an excuse for failing to complete weekly assignments and there will be a 5% deduction for every day an assignment is submitted late. Students are expected to practice outside of class time, to prepare in advance for each class, and demonstrate a willingness to learn and improve. Support for peers and a contribution to a positive learning atmosphere are mandatory.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Basic Techniques of Conducting by Kenneth H. Phillips. Oxford University Press, 1997.



A variety of highlighters and erasable coloured pencils
Device for recording in-class conducting
Music stand
Three-ring binder for organizing class notes, materials, and scores
Baton – do not purchase before consulting with Dr. Wong
Metronome for personal practice

Method of Assessment:

Conducting (50%)

Musical examples will be introduced in class. You will conduct weekly throughout the course of the term and will be evaluated on your in-class work as well as on formal practicum experiences. 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 9.

Weekly in-class conducting, repertoire preparation, and score study assignments: 15%
Conducting practicum #1: 15% (including self-evaluation), Week 5
Conducting practicum #2: 20% (including self-evaluation), Week 12

TOTAL: 50%

It is expected that you record ALL of your conducting sessions and use these recordings as a basis for your self-evaluations.

N.B. Any in-class conducting assignment that is missed without prior consultation with the instructor will be penalized 15% up until the following class, after which the assignment will no longer be able to be completed. Self-evaluations will not be accepted beyond the one-week time frame.


Journal (15%)

Journals should be written in an honest and thoughtful style. Students are required to complete and submit Journal #1 and #2 within one week of each guest speaker’s visit. The following points should be included:

  • The guest speaker’s philosophy of being a conductor.
  • What are some of the points raised by the guest speaker that encouraged you to reflect on your values as a conductor? How did your values of a conductor shift after the session with the guest speaker?
  • Some ideas which you can apply to your own development as a conductor.
  • Any other highlights?

Journal #3 is a rehearsal observation of one conductor in a McMaster University SOTA ensemble in which the students are in. This encourages students to think like a conductor/educator rather than a singer/instrumentalist who responds to directives without reflection. The following points should be included:

  • The conductor’s nonverbal communication.
  • The conductor’s technical & expressive gestures.
  • What do you think are the priorities of the conductor?
  • What do you notice about his or her leadership style?
  • Any other highlights?


Please submit these in the appropriate ATL dropbox.

  • Journal #1: 5% (Guest: Prof. Joseph Resendes (Lecturer & Band Conductor, McMaster University – Conducting as a Profession), due Sept. 28
  • Journal #2: 5% (Guest: Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt (retired Head of Choral Activities, University of Toronto – The Conductor/Teacher & Leadership Styles), due Nov. 9
  • Journal #3: 5% (Rehearsal observation), due Nov. 23


Attendance and Participation (15%)

All students are expected to actively participate in this class, whether in singing, playing or discussing.


Analysis & Listening Project (20%)

Part 1 – Analysis: 10%
Part 2 – Listening: 10%
TOTAL: 20%

PART 1. Analysis of a provided score or movement utilizing the guidelines outlined below.


  • Title & Composer/Arranger
  • Type of piece, genre
  • Background
  • 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.

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


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

You will be provided with recordings of the same assigned 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 recordings.

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


Students will receive a midterm grade for this course by November 9, 2018.

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 and Journals 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:

Week 1

Sept. 5, 7

Introduction to Syllabus / Course Requirements

Posture and Position
Preparatory Gesture
Using the Metronome
Patterns – internal & final releases

Readings: Lessons 1-4
Music preparation: 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4 (pp. 30-35)

Week 2

Sept. 10, 12, 14

Review music
Entrances and releases
Articulation and dynamics
Score marking

Baton manufacturer’s visit.

Readings: Lessons 6-8
Music preparation: 6.3, 6.4, 6.4a, 6.5, 6.5a (pp. 53-59), 7.1, 7.2 (pp. 65-66)

Week 3

Sept. 17, 19



Sept. 21

Review music
Cueing and internal releases

Music preparation: 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4


Guest speaker: Prof. Joseph Resendes – Lecturer & Band Conductor, McMaster University – Conducting as a Profession. (subject of Journal #1)


Week 4

Sept. 24, 26, 28

Review music
Cueing and internal releases, cont.
Entrance on a pickup note
Review practicum repertoire

Music preparation: 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, 11.4 (pp. 95-101)

Journal #1 due Sept. 28

Week 5

Oct. 1, 3, 5

Conducting practicum #1 (and self-evaluation)


Oct. 8, 10. 12

Mid-term recess

Week 6

Oct. 15, 17, 19

Functions of the Left Hand
Coordinating the two hands

Readings: Lesson 16-17
Music preparation: 16.1, 16.2, 17.1, 17.2, 17.3

Analysis and Listening Project due Oct. 19

Week 7

Oct. 22, 24, 26

Functions of the Left Hand, cont.
Coordinating the two hands, cont.
Review – entrance on a pickup note, fermata

In-class video viewing: conducting styles of selected conductors


Week 8

Oct. 29, 31, Nov. 2

Alto and Tenor Clefs
Entrances on Incomplete Beats

Readings: Lesson 20-22
Music preparation: 20.1, 20.2, 22.1, 22.2, 22.3, 22.4, 22.5, 22.6

Guest speaker: Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt – retired Head of Choral Activities, University of Toronto – The Conductor-Teacher & Leadership Styles. (subject of Journal #2)

Week 9

Nov. 5, 7, 9

Asymmetric Meters
Changing Meters

Review of selected topics

Readings: Lesson 25, 27
Music preparation: 25.1, 25.2, 27.5,

Journal #2 due Nov. 9

Week 10

Nov. 12, 14, 16

Repertoire for Conducting Practicum #2 – analysis
In-class video viewing: interpretations of repertoire

Week 11

Nov. 19, 21, 23

Group Preparation for Conducting Practicum #2

Individual coaching, as needed

Journal #3 due Nov. 23 (Rehearsal observation of one McMaster University SOTA ensemble in which you are in)

Week 12

Nov. 26, 28


Nov. 30

Conducting practicum #2 (and self-evaluation).


Journal discussions

Week 13

Dec. 3, 5, 7