Monday, February 05, 2007

Creatives at the Top: Management Skills from the Arts

Jonathan Green is the Dean of the college at Sweet Briar College. In this piece from InsideHigherEd, he shares his thoughts on the management skills he received from training as a conductor of music:

"My discipline is music with a specialization in conducting. The longer I have served in administration, the more I believe my conducting training has provided me with the most valuable preparation for my current career. The following examples are not a claim of mastery on my part, but rather observations of the transferability of leadership skills from one field to another.

Time management: Of all college students, the musicians are generally the best time managers. From the very beginning, they are inculcated with the need to practice no matter what other competing responsibilities arise. The great music pedagogue, Suzuki, said, “Practice only on the days you eat.” This is the creed of most successful musicians. Conductors have the added need to run efficient rehearsals. Ensembles have a fixed amount of rehearsal time to prepare any performance, and in the case of professional groups, time really is money. Decisions must be made instantly. The conductor’s practice time is learning scores and preparing for rehearsals: the better the preparation, the greater the likelihood that these split-second decisions will be good ones. The conductor’s performances, in a very real way, are the rehearsals. In a very real way, rehearsals are the conductor’s performances. This is where a cohesive concert is constructed and where the conductor trains the ensemble. Concerts are a public presentation of the results of the rehearsal.

Strategic planning: The conductor must plan the season, each program, and the individual rehearsals with a complex set of goals in mind. Concert seasons must satisfy board members, cultivate ticket sales, and accommodate the repertoire of visiting soloists. Concurrently, works chosen should educate and enrich the players and the audience. The conductor must navigate a balance between challenging and comfortable works, and must do this with a goal of using these works to make the ensemble not only sound their best in performance, but also improve through the experience. With limited resources and rehearsal time, it is imperative to know where the difficulties will be and how they can best be overcome prior to each rehearsal.

Triage: One of the most important skills for any conductor is the ability to triage any rehearsal situation..."

Read the rest of the skill set here.

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