Conducting Amateur Ensembles

by Birgitte Grong and Rune Hannisdal / Norwegian Band Federation

Rune Hannisdal is Music Director of the Norwegian Band Federation. He was previously a communications leader and education manager in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and has been a wind and brass band conductor since the age of 19. Birgitte Grong, also an educator and conductor of children’s wind bands, works as a music consultant for the Norwegian Band Federation. Together they have written a piece on how to conduct amateur ensembles, from their point of view. The following topics are addressed:

  • The musician 
  • The conductor 
  • Repertoire
  • Rehearsals and methods
  • Goals
  • Values, society and networking

Read the full article here:

Photo © Roscoe Rutter, RNCM


Your personal motivation and sincerity as a leader is an important factor in how you are perceived by the musicians in front of you. If your actions do not fit with the aims and goals of the ensemble, you are in the wrong place. You need to have an urge to make music, no matter the age group or level of the ensemble. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and use these in conjunction with the capabilities you find in your ensemble. 

Unlike professional musicians, amateurs are not paid and spend their valuable leisure time at rehearsals. As such, they need to feel the benefits of attending each week. It is up to the conductor to create interesting and engaging rehearsals that enthuse the musicians. The participants of amateur ensembles are often at different stages of development and can sometimes encompass a wide-ranging age demographic. This means that they will learn things at different speeds and may reach their goals in a number of different ways. In ensembles for beginners, the musicians start at the same level at first, but it does not take long before some are further ahead than others. One challenge for you as the conductor is to make the rehearsals equally interesting for everyone. Everyone should get the opportunity to develop and master their skills. This can be difficult when the members’ skillsets are different, but you should aim to strike a balance between making it easy enough for some and offering harder challenges to others. One solution is to tailor your expectations to the individual by giving members different but attainable tasks and adjusting your methodology to best suit the person you are working with.

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