This past week, our music department had the honor to welcome Dr. Jeffrey Boeckman from the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa as a conducting guest artist. His time here started with a Conducting Symposium in the Robert B. Gaw Theatre where he was able to give an incredible experience to local Malaysian conductors and music students. The ISKL Wind Ensemble—in collaboration with the Catholic High School Band—combined as one ensemble for the conductors to work with. In this event, six local conductors presented themselves as “conducting students” for the day, and were very courageous and vulnerable as “students” themselves while given feedback by Dr. Boeckman. It was a learning experience, not only for the conductors, but also for the band students. We were able to see music through a completely different perspective as a result, and can now relate with our conductor, Mr. Miles, in a whole new sense. In the end, band students learned that musicians need to “listen louder than we play” and that it is important for all musicians and conductors to breathe as one.
Then, on Tuesday, during ISKL Tri-M music honor society’s weekly meet-up, Dr. Boeckman held a conducting workshop for students. He started the session with a very unique approach for the first 30 minutes: conducting in silence. This turned out to be a focal point of this workshop as we later learned; the role of a conductor is to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently without speaking. And thus, by commanding our focus even without using the essential aspect of speech, Dr. Boeckman was able to draw our attention to this focal point of the art of conducting. In addition, later on in the lesson students learned to use a variety of facial expressions, small but effective hand gestures, breathing together, and eye contact to further communicate with the musicians. We also learned of the “trust” between conductors and musicians in an ensemble, in that their starting gestures must match the three most important features of their conducting: tempo, dynamics, and style. The musicians trust the conductor, and the conductor must fulfill the trust put in them by the musicians in an interdependent relationship.
Lastly, Dr. Boeckman was a guest in multiple ISKL music classes during the week, offering advice and opportunities of introspection for ISKL music teachers and students. Other than multiple valuable learning points, one of the most memorable, and most important key point Dr. Boeckman stressed was, “It’s not about ME, it’s about WE”. In fact, Dr. Boeckman stressed that if we were truly playing well, we should not be able to hear ourselves playing at all, as we would be blending well with others. We also learned that conductors are not supposed to be metronomes who just provide the tempo, but rather they are there to inspire and energize the ensemble in order to lead the ensemble into playing their interpretation of the music as best they can.
Music has always been an intrinsic aspect of our lives, and we believe that Dr. Boeckman has helped consolidate that even more. He was really engrossing, engaging, and an absolute pleasure to work with.
~ Submitted by the ISKL Band Council- Yik Khai Yew, Hye Won Yoon, and April Ong.