30: Q&A about Everything Conducting Videos

Show Notes:

Today’s episode is a bit different as I will be answering all the questions that I received about conducting videos.

Before we get started, I wanted to remind you all that the very first episode of this podcast is about Five Mistakes to Avoid with Your Conducting Videos.

Here are the questions that I will answer in the episode:

  • I have a video that has much better sound quality and the performance was great, but it was shot from the back of the conductor. Should I submit it over the poor quality footage that had my face?
  • Does the repertoire matter? If so, what should I put out there?
  • Should I get together a few musicians to record a session if I don’t have good and updated footage?
  • What about rehearsal footage?
  • What do people really look for in those videos??

Links Mentioned in Today's Episode

Chaowen: 0:02
Hi everyone, this is Chaowen recording in May 2023. After finishing the first season of The Conductor’s Podcast, I have decided to give this podcast project, a dedicated website with more user friendly functions. So now we have a brand new website called theconductorspodcast.com. Straightforward, right? And now we also have its own Instagram handle. It’s also the same, @theconductorspodcast. So all the show notes have been moved to the new side. And I invite you to come check out all the resources and happy listening.

Chaowen: 0:50
Depending on the program that you are applying for, and your stage, there are different things that people generally look for. And people have different priorities. But in my mind, they are at least three different areas of things that we look for in conducting videos.

Chaowen: 1:13
The first part is your knowledge of the score. The second part is your conducting techniques. And the third is your connection with musicians, your interaction with them and your personality.

Chaowen: 1:30
Hey there, welcome to The Conductor’s Podcast. I’m your host Chaowen Ting, a conductor with over 20 years of experience working with professional symphony orchestras, opera houses, new music groups and vocalist. I’m also founder of Girls Who Conduct and have mentored hundreds of conductors from across the globe. I created The Conductor’s Podcast to share all the behind the scenes secrets with you while I interview conductors, musicians and business gurus from around the world. This is a space created for conductors, conducting student musicians and non musicians who are curious and interested in learning more about the profession, craft, industry and business.

Chaowen: 2:16
Shy away from the real talk? No way. Money, hardship, growth and the roller coaster of a conducting career are all topics we discuss here. I will give you a simple, actionable step by step strategies to help you take action on your big dream. Move through the fear that’s holding you back and have a real impact. Now, pull up a seat, make sure you are cozy and get ready to be challenged and encouraged while you learn.

Chaowen: 2:51
Hello, hello. Hi there. Welcome to episode number 30 of The Conductor’s Podcast. Oh my god, I can’t really wrap my head around the idea that we are now at episode 30, three zero of the podcast. Thank you so much for listening along the way. And for those who DM me or send me an email to share with me your ideas, your feedback. I thank you so much for your support. And for your encouragement. For those of you who didn’t reach out, but are listening, I love you dearly as well.

Chaowen: 3:30
I’m your host Chaowen Ting and today’s episode is a little different, as I will be answering all the questions that I received about conducting videos.

Chaowen: 3:43
In a time that will leave right now, it can’t be denied that conduct and video has become such an important thing about related to our career. Really, honestly, when I started out as a student, it wasn’t this case. For a lot of the school programs that you just went in an audition sometimes you pass round like days and days of different rounds of different tests to get to the last stage of actually conducting a group in front of the juries. But nowadays, sending a pre-screening conducting video has become the standard for almost everything from graduate schools, to workshops, to fellowship programs, master classes and two jobs. So it’s so important that we understand how people are viewing those videos. And if you didn’t know, I wanted to remind you that the very very first episode of this podcast was about conducting videos, I talked about the five mistakes to avoid in yout conducting videos and that episode number one, and I’ll put that in the show notes. But you can find everything available at chaowenting.com/1 [now theconductorspodcast.com/podcast/1].

Chaowen: 5:09
The five mistakes in episode one, were quite basic. But if you know me a little bit, you know that I love starting with the basics, because, as you can imagine, a lot of people don’t even pay attention to details, and basics. And, as you all know, this field is so selective, and so competitive, sometimes you miss out an opportunity just because of one of those little details that you missed. So love to remind you again, and again, check and check, double check and double check and find multiple eyes to look at your materials before you send it out. As always, if you can, if time allows.

Chaowen: 6:08
So today, I’m going to answer quite a few questions that I got from students from mentees and from people who reached out to me. And I wanted to be very, very clear upfront that people have different preferences. People look at those videos differently. But there are a few things that are still quite general. And everyone can be reminded that that’s what I’m going to focus right now.

Chaowen: 6:43
Before we start, though, I still want to remind do that you always always always want to send a footage that is placed, that the camera is placed at the back of the ensemble, meaning that we’re seeing the front part of the conductor, we want to see your face, your gesture, your hands, your eye contact. And if you’re not wearing mask, your facial expressions. When you have a video that is probably provided to you by the organization or by the theater for their commercial or archival usage, that has multiple cameras, that sometimes you’re at the back, sometimes it’s the front of you, you want to make sure that you cut it, so it shows the first second, when we see the video, it has your face.

Chaowen: 7:39
Sometimes people don’t have the patience, or the time to look through the video with the multi camera to find what they want to see about you. And you don’t want to miss out an opportunity just because of that. So this is one of the common question that I got to I got asked a lot. So people will ask me, Hey, I have a much better sound quality or a much better performance. But the video is not showing my back like not showing my friend, should I submit it in place of the one that I have with my face. But either the sound quality is not good or the performance was bad.

Chaowen: 8:23
I would always say you have to look at it from a view of sending a package. Most of the time, you are asked to submit at least two contrasting videos. And you want to kind of evaluate where you are in terms of your materials. So say if this one you are debating is not of the best quality in terms of the sound or in terms of the performance. But you your connection was so good that you were very expressive. And you have another conducting video that shows you with a more dry and cut preparatory state maybe like a piece that shifts the meter a lot. So you show your techniques. And this will be a good complement to to send a good package, then I will say use it. But don’t don’t just send a better quality one only because that one has better audio quality. You want to make sure that you’re conducting is also good enough or you’re conducting in that better quality footage has some unique things about you other than the other footage that you have so you are representing yourself well.

Chaowen: 9:52
Question number two, was this the repertoire matter? And if so, what should I put out there?

Chaowen: 10:00
So, for this question, and also for a lot of the questions that I’m going to discuss today, the context is very important. So it really depends on what kind of things that you are applying for. If you’re just starting out and you’re applying for a graduate program, say a master’s degree or doctoral degree, or sometimes even if you’re applying for a masterclass or summer festival, it might not matter that much. Because we understand, if you’re just starting out, you probably have limited footage. Also, when you finally get a chance to conduct the ensemble, you probably don’t have many choices in terms of repertory, right, you are either assigned a piece by your teacher, or it’s whatever this ensemble can play. Or if you’re putting together an ensemble just to record the footage, you have to find something that your players can successfully perform. So we understand that if you’re at the earlier stage of your career, that it’s whatever repertoire that you have available. But if you are going to a more advanced level, you are at a later stage of your training or career, I would really encourage you to think more carefully about the repertory that you put out there.

Chaowen: 11:36
On one side, you want to have at least some standard repertoire that people know, you don’t want to send materials of only premieres of your composer friends works. Because it’s hard for people to judge if the conducting was good without knowing the music, right. So you want to at least have some very stranger ones. And now I’ve learned the hard way, I would avoid putting out repertoire that is a little controversial. You know, some pieces are very unique, that people have strong opinions on how the piece should be done, and those opinions can be very personal and very different from person to person. So I won’t put something out there and giving people a chance to not like my conducting because of my musical choices.

Chaowen: 12:43
I learned this the hard way because I had a footage that I’m so proud of. And I thought that’s one of my best conducting ever. And I’ve been sending this out for competitions for masterclasses for jobs for quite a while until one day I got a feedback, which is rare, you don’t always get feedback about your materials. But I got feedback from a fellowship program that I applied for that I didn’t get. And they commented on the musical choices about that particular piece. They were like, This is not the right tempo for this particular one. And this piece should be more sarcastic, while your take was to standard or like too polite and other things like that. And it got me thinking, oh, so people do have very strong opinions about this piece. And while this is my best conducting, I am putting myself in a somehow awkward or weaker position for criticism.

Chaowen: 13:50
And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that criticisms are bad. It’s what got us improve and make us better. But when people don’t agree with your musical choices or your interpretation, sometimes it’s very hard for them to look beyond those bias or disagreement and see values in your conducting or in your thinking process in your artistic visions. So I learned the hard way I stop putting this out there and I start by doing some other more kind of safer choices. And I talked to a few colleagues and they all agree with me. So this is something that I learned recently that I would put some repertoire that the orchestra sounds good. And that shows my musicality, and the way I move the musicians rather than something that is so specific, that people would disagree with my choices in conducting.

Chaowen: 15:00
So this is my answered about the repertoire. And another thing that I wanted to point out is, if you’re getting a few friends together to record a session for you, you want to make sure that you find a good repertoire that the musicians will sound good. You know, they are pieces that sound harder than it actually is. And there’s some other ones of the other way around, you know, you want to make sure if because you when you’re put in a reading session, you probably don’t have a lot of time to rehearse. So you want something that is site readable, and is effective, that has something that is challenging for conductors, such as tempo change, transition, you know, like showcasing your, your strength. So think about that.

Chaowen: 15:55
And the other way of finding good repertoire is to look at other conductors’ repertoire choices. So I will Google people’s websites, you know, people kind of around you, around where you are in your career. And do look at your website and see what pieces they have out there on their website to get an idea, what are the good pieces as a demo showing your conducting ability.

Chaowen: 16:25
Next is about rehearsal footage. So people get asked to provide a rehearsal footage. And I generally try to avoid those. And I’ll tell you why in a minute. But if you are really sending out rehearsal footage, be very, very, very careful of the materials that you’re sending out.

Chaowen: 16:56
First of all, you want to make sure that you’re speaking, if you do speak, is loud enough, and it’s audible, and it’s understandable. Sometimes, depending on where you place, the mic, microphone, or the camera, you might not sound loud enough or clear enough in your footage, at that disaster, to present to whoever that is watching your footage. You want to make sure that everything you say, can be clearly understood in your footage, if you’re sending out any rehearsal footage, add captions, if needed. But captions should only be, you know, a supplement instead of in place of the words that we should be hearing.

Chaowen: 17:54
Another thing is, you want to make sure that the rehearsal is good is effective. So it’s useful to give a lot of context. Well, people don’t always read them, I promise you. But for those who read them, it’s nice to give a lot of context of what kind of rehearsal this is. So you would I would encourage you to put in as the title card, within the video saying this is the first round through or this is the final dress rehearsal, we kind of where you are in the rehearsal stage to understand better, what group what kind of group this is.

Chaowen: 18:43
And I would really encourage you to check out Episode 19, where I talk about how to run effective and efficient rehearsal by using your voice well, you don’t want to send a rehearsal footage with all the mistakes that I mentioned in that episode, such as, if you talk over musician still playing. Do you know once you finish or once you stopped conducting, there’s always going to be a musician or two that played a lot longer than everyone else. And you don’t want to be talking over someone else still playing.

Chaowen: 19:23
You want to make sure that your voice is loud enough. And it’s clear as we said to the minute go, and you want to be addressing very basic things before you talk about style and phrasing and all other things. What does that mean? If they are still wrong note round rhythm in the piece that you haven’t corrected yet. Then just go ahead and talking about the phrasing and the style. This is more romantic than the other is a really bad idea.

Chaowen: 20:03
The next question that people really want to know the answer is, what do people look for?

Chaowen: 20:11
Again, depending on the program that you are applying for, and your stage, there are different things that people generally look for. And people have different priorities. But in my mind, they are at least three different areas of things that we look for in conducting videos.

Chaowen: 20:35
The first part is your knowledge of the score. The second part is your conducting techniques. And the third is your connection with musicians, your interaction with them and your personality. And depending on what you’re applying for, this areas would weigh differently. For example, if you’re just applying for a graduate program, or masters class, master class, or even a summer festival, the teacher might be looking for someone with good personality, who can connect with musicians, other than good conduct and techniques, because that’s probably something that they can teach you, where they can help you with bed. If you are applying for a job already, then people do expect that you have certain conduct and techniques that you can get through rehearsal or performances without having difficulty because of your own lack or bad techniques, if that makes sense. So that’s diving a little more into this three areas. First, is knowledge of the score. And that also includes your musicality, your musical ideas, and if you’re a good musician or not.

Chaowen: 22:09
Some people will ask, okay, how do you know if I don’t know the score? Well, let me ask you, Can you tell if people talking to you don’t know what they’re talking about?

Chaowen: 22:23
I think it’s pretty obvious, right? We can really tell. We know, everybody knows. And if you don’t know, and you’re faking, you know, some people would have their eyes rolling. Or one obvious thing is some people would look down to the score a lot, when they should be really connecting with the musicians or directing the music.

Chaowen: 22:48
You know, you know it, or if they miss the entrances, they acknowledge something after it happens, instead of bringing in a musical element beforehand, we know this thing is it’s very, very obvious.

Chaowen: 23:07
The second part is certain conducting techniques, as and as I said, if you are applying for an educational setting, this is something that perhaps some teachers don’t care about that much, if they are going to teach you their techniques. I spoke with quite a few teachers having a graduate program, there was told me that they are looking for a good musician, and someone that they will love to work with, and feel that they can help. So for an educational setting, they are not always looking for the best conductor.

Chaowen: 24:00
I remember I got this wrong, like 20 years ago, when I was applying for programs, I would think, Oh really, that person got into that program. He was really bad, or she can’t even come back. She can’t even keep the tempo. While I forgot the factor that the teacher it’s not about who was the best candidate, but about who the teacher wants to work with as a student. So they are for sure, looking for someone that they can help or be a good as as be a good team member for their program.

Chaowen: 24:40
But as I said, if you’re applying for something that have a higher level, say, a job or a fellowship with a professional organization, they want to make sure that you have at least decent enough techniques that you are not suffering that your musical ideas are not suffering because you can’t communicate well with the musicians. So having a certain techniques are is important. And, as Alice Farnham said, in the previous episode, connecting techniques is not something that is separated from the music. It’s something that you use as tools to serve your musical ideas. But it is something that you can improve from.

Chaowen: 25:36
There’s nothing wrong about learning the distribution of your beat, you know, just like string players learn bow disciplines, they learn how to distribute the bow. So if they speed up and put in more weight, it produces a different sound. And conducting is like that, when you move your hand, or if when you move your baton, at different speed, with different weight or resistance. For travel, when you travel through a different distance, it provoke different sound. And you want to make sure that everything you do physically, is for the purpose of serving the music making.

Chaowen: 26:24
So that’s all I’m going to say about techniques because there are different schools, and we can all wait, we can, all of us can continue working on having better technique, knowing the music better, being a better musician, and all that.

Chaowen: 26:41
And the last part is about how you connect with the musicians. And we can tell is you are really connected with a musician’s if they are willing to play for you, if they are reacting to your gesture, and you’re conducting and your leadership. And we sometimes see a little bit of personality as well. You know what, for example, once I saw a friend’s conductive video that she posted on social media, and my first impression was, oh, gosh, she seemed so insecure in that footage. And why was that? She looked down at the last beat of every single bar.

Chaowen: 27:27
She knew the score, really. And she was really connecting with the musicians at times. But that flow really got disrupted, and interrupted, because she looked down literally, every single bar. And there was really, really no use of that. While it only showed that she was still very insecure about what she was doing.

Chaowen: 27:59
So that’s what I meant that we see your personality a little bit, sometimes a whole lot. You know, there are people conducting with great gestures, camera posing phases. While it has very little to do with the music, but it looks great. That’s another type of conducting as well. So depending on who is evaluating the videos, and what you’re applying for, I think this three areas, one, your knowledge of the score, or you miss Scality, two, you’re conducting techniques, and three, how you connect with the musicians and your personality way differently, and our evaluation.

Chaowen: 28:51
Lastly, before we wrap up, I want to remind everyone to please double check, triple check your spelling of the composer and the piece. You can’t imagine how many typos or errors that we see in those spelling’s and it’s just, it just set a really, really bad impression about you.

Chaowen: 29:20
And another thing is, put your best work first. People don’t watch a whole lot of the videos. To be honest. Sometimes people only watch 20 seconds or 40 seconds less than a minute or so. So you want to make sure that the very beginning of your conducting video is interesting enough to attract people wanting to see more and about you. You should and can cut and edit as long as you’re not changing the tempo, you know, or changing the sound of the ensemble but you certainly can and should start somewhere in the middle, in the end, it doesn’t have to make musical sense.

Chaowen: 30:08
It can be in the middle of a phrase in the middle of a section, but show your best first. And I wanted to encourage everyone to please check the very first episode of the podcast about the basic rules about conducting videos. And also episode number eight, I talk about running effective and efficient rehearsals by using your voice well. And make sure that if you are submitting a rehearsal footage, you are not exposing yourself to bad mistakes.

Chaowen: 30:48
All right, here we go. And I will see you next week. Again, with an interview with a dear friend. If you have any ideas of what you want to hear in the soul episode, or if you want to know any tips about conducting about the career about the industry, please feel free to reach out to me. I can be found and theconductorspodcast@gmail.com Or you can find me on social media send me a DM or so. And thank you again for tuning in with me today. I will see you next week at the same time, same place. Bye for now.