Robert Meese ‘20: Orchestral Conducting Immersion
As a conducting scholar at the Eastern Music Festival, I was on the podium every day conducting readings, rehearsals, sectionals, and performances of repertoire covering three full orchestral programs per week.
About the Artist
Robert Meese is currently in his senior year at Duke University where he studies conducting with Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant and trombone with Michael Kris. On campus, he is the Music Director of the Duke Chamber Players and plays trombone in the Duke Symphony Orchestra and Duke Wind Symphony. In the past, he has worked with the Eastern Festival Orchestra, Guilford Symphony Orchestra, London Classical Soloists, Durham Medical Orchestra, Duke Waltz Orchestra, Duke Symphony Orchestra, and Duke Wind Symphony.
About the Project
My summer at the Eastern Music Festival allowed me the opportunity to work with professional and student ensembles of exceptional quality while studying with Maestros Gerard Schwarz, Jose Luis-Novo, and Grant Cooper. From this experience, I’ve gained great insight into the preparation and rehearsing of orchestras and gained a greater sense of what a conductor’s role is in an orchestra.
The amount of repertoire I was able to conduct was phenomenal. As a conducting scholar, I prepared music for three full orchestral concerts each week in addition to two symphony-length pieces for weekly readings. In order to keep up with the amount of repertoire—at least seven hours of music a week—I had to learn how to most effectively study scores quickly. I discovered quickly that learning music at a detailed enough level takes great time. I had never before studied music so intensely and in such great quantity, and to turn around and conduct these works shortly after digesting them presented a significant challenge.
I entered EMF having never before worked with a professional orchestra for multiple rehearsals. I had a wealth of experience working with student groups and felt comfortable in the rehearsals of the student orchestras, but working with the professional orchestra made me incredibly nervous; I didn’t want to rehearse them in such a way that they would feel demeaning, but I also didn’t want to rehearse them at such a distance that they didn’t think I was detail oriented enough. Through the experience working with the orchestra and through individual review sessions with the faculty I now have a better sense of what professionals need from the podium. Many issues I was used to having to address with student orchestras (mainly rhythm and pitch issues) I didn’t have to with the professional orchestra because they would fix their issues by the next rehearsal. Most of the time, it was better to say nothing and just play a section again rather than specifically mentioning the issue to the orchestra.
The experience I gained at EMF, the recordings I was able to gather, and the professional connections I made will be invaluable to me as I apply for graduate school this year. Most directly, I all three of the faculty have agreed to serve as references for me and one of the faculty invited me to apply to his graduate conducting studio. I won’t be working with a professional ensemble in the short term, but the lessons I learned about score study and preparation will be incredibly valuable in preparing for my semester’s work conducting at Duke.