No Conductor, No Problem: Navigating A Conductor-Less Concert, Part 1


There are no how-to or step-by-step instructional checklists for preparing a conductor-less concert on Wikihow, eHow, Pinterest, or Wikipedia. But generally concertmasters who find themselves in the position of leading a concert without conductor have some kind of prior experience of leading from the concertmaster chair.

This experience generally comes from a variety of chamber music experiences or previous conductor-less concerts. So when planning an upcoming conductor-less concert for my orchestra in Chattanooga, it occurred to me that it might be interesting for non-musicians to know the extent of preparation that goes into a concert, especially a conductor-less concert!

I’ll be sharing a three part article series offering a behind the scenes view of the preparation that has gone on, and is still going on, for an upcoming Chattanooga Symphony chamber concert featuring Haydn’s Symphony #31.

The three parts will be broken down into:

  • Orchestra librarians hold the key to everything!
  • Talk to the experts, become enthused.
  • Seeking Haydn, keeping score.

My goal is to offer this behind the scenes preparation as a new way to enhance a concert experience for concert-goers. Much like planning a dinner party, guests usually only experience the food and socializing. By understanding the process and planning, the ingredients and time, appreciation becomes a valuable element of joy.

Coming up in a few days: why should I talk to my librarian friends first when seeking a path towards a conductor-less concert?

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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2 thoughts on “No Conductor, No Problem: Navigating A Conductor-Less Concert, Part 1”

  1. A conductor-less concert is a lot less challenging than a conductor-less rehearsal. If you’ve done your job well, 90% + of your work as a conductor is done when you hit the stage for the concert. Depending on how much commentary the audience is used to from the stage, that can usually be covered by an orchestra or staff member and doesn’t require a conductor. On the other hand, preparing for rehearsal and the art of effective rehearsing itself is very difficult to execute as a playing participant in the ensemble. It can be done, e.g. Orpheus, but it involves a lot more than an expressive concertmaster in performance.


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