4/26/2019 Peter Durantine

Student Conductors Bring Orchestral Greats and Originals to Common Hour

Without fanfare, Brian Norcross, Franklin & Marshall College’s senior director of instrumental music and conducting studies, presented a performance of various orchestral arrangements conducted by students for the April 25 Common Hour, the last of the 2018-19 academic year.

An encore performance of the 28th annual Conductors Concert, held April 17 in the Barshinger Center for Musical Arts, the concerts follow months of study and practice. Only a few months ago, the students had no experience conducting, a feat of sorts, considering they directed pieces from major symphonies, Norcross said. 

“I’d like to introduce your F&M Orchestra and your F&M Symphonic Wind Ensemble,” he said as he stood before the musicians, seated with their instruments in Mayser Gym. “They will be led by students from my conducting class.”

  • The F&M Orchestra led by the event's first student conductor, senior Parker Neathery. The F&M Orchestra led by the event's first student conductor, senior Parker Neathery. Image Credit: Deb Grove

At Franklin & Marshall, students are not required to major in music to perform or conduct. Just a handful of students in the orchestra and wind ensemble raised their hand when Norcross asked how many were music majors. 

“I think it is of interest, if not amazing, that we have three students who have gone through this program who have gone on to earn doctorates in conducting, a couple more are conducting ensembles, and several are or have been music teachers,” he said later.  

Norcross introduced the first of 15 student conductors, senior Parker Neathery directing the orchestra in a piece of the 2nd Movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”), and stepped back for the audience to enjoy lively and eclectic arrangements. 

View some of the Common Hour concert highlights:

  • First-year Tyler Sauers listens as Norcross’ instructs during conducting class. First-year Tyler Sauers listens as Norcross’ instructs during conducting class. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Sophomore Caroline Becker conducts Hans Zimmer’s score from the 2006 film, “Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest.” Sophomore Caroline Becker conducts Hans Zimmer’s score from the 2006 film, “Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest.” Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Most students in the orchestra and wind ensemble are not music majors, one of the unique aspects to F&M’s music programs. Most students in the orchestra and wind ensemble are not music majors, one of the unique aspects to F&M’s music programs. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Sophomore Ian Kupchik performs his own “Up Through the Gallows.” Sophomore Ian Kupchik performs his own “Up Through the Gallows.” Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • “The conducting class is designed to introduce students to the varied demands of the conductor including score study, determining an interpretation, developing meaningful conducting gestures, rehearsing an ensemble, and finally conducting a performance,” Norcross says. “The conducting class is designed to introduce students to the varied demands of the conductor including score study, determining an interpretation, developing meaningful conducting gestures, rehearsing an ensemble, and finally conducting a performance,” Norcross says. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Senior Yinxi Evan Li conducts Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (“Unfinished”). Senior Yinxi Evan Li conducts Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (“Unfinished”). Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • “Although artistic concerns are always prominent in musical performances, the objectives of this concert are focused on the positive experiences for both the conductor and the ensemble,” Norcross says. “Although artistic concerns are always prominent in musical performances, the objectives of this concert are focused on the positive experiences for both the conductor and the ensemble,” Norcross says. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • First-year Yifeng Darin Xie conducts John Mackey’s “Sheltering Sky.” First-year Yifeng Darin Xie conducts John Mackey’s “Sheltering Sky.” Image Credit: Deb Grove
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