On the plane tomorrow to Salt Lake City. Over the course of two days, I’ll have two orchestra rehearsals, a vocal rehearsal, a class and a concert. As time allows, I’ll try to take in a city I last set foot in 41 years ago.
And now a word about rehearsal etiquette. Composers aren’t supposed to speak directly to orchestral musicians, unless asked to by the conductor. If you want the second clarinetist to play a tad louder, you tell the conductor “I’d like the second clarinetist to play a tad louder,” and let Maestro translate your wishes to the musician in question. Presumably that’s because the musicians have to experience the conductor as the ultimate authority in rehearsal, which is especially tricky when the composer is in the room. After all, how can the conductor know the piece better than the composer? Truth is, it’s easy for the conductor to know the piece better than the composer, because the composer has moved on to other works since completing the piece, while the conductor has presumably been immersed in the work at hand over the last few weeks or more. But I’ve known conductors who have gone out of their way to belittle the composer in rehearsal, as if they felt the need to unquestionably establish their authority. Unfortunately, they usually end up looking pretty weak in the process.
Most conductors, of course, are incredibly gracious, generous with their time and absolutely sublime colleagues. I haven’t yet met Robert Baldwin, but our frequent online exchanges (he’s programmed music of mine in the past) have assured me that he’s a very meticulous, pleasant, thoughtful guy, so I’m expecting to have an easy time working with him. I’m looking forward to our collaboration, and to hearing how these singers and instrumentalists tackle the challenges of Cool Night. I have to tip my cap to all of them – it is certainly not an easy piece to nail down.
And Mr. Baldwin has just begun a term as Interim Dean at the University of Utah School of Music. I went down that road in 2003-04, so I know he has more on his hands right now than anyone can be expected to juggle. Another cap tip.