Undergraduate instrumental conducting curricula: A survey of the operational curriculum and pedagogical techniques relative to balance, blend, and intonation

Fred David Romines


The purpose of this study was to examine general demographics, operational curricula, and teaching methods utilized to approach ensemble concerns of balance, blend and intonation. A questionnaire/opinionnaire was sent to 150 colleges and universities who had a minimum of 200 music majors enrolled and were accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Seventy respondents (47%) completed the survey. Seventy percent of respondents had 20 or more years of teaching experience, 71% earned terminal degrees, and 40% had taken 6 or more conducting classes. Of the respondents, 84% indicated they conducted a wind band and 22% indicated they conducted a symphony orchestra. Although 83% of respondents stated that it was essential and an additional 17% stated it was very important for students to conduct a live ensemble, 61% of students did not conduct a lab ensemble and 10% of students did not conduct a peer ensemble. Of students who did conduct a peer ensemble, 54% conducted for 10 minutes or less per week. A disparity existed between what conducting instructors believed was optimal and what they were able to provide for students. A large percentage or respondents (77%) indicated that basic conducting technique and rehearsal procedures should be addressed in undergraduate instrumental conducting classes. Limitations identified by respondents to addressing rehearsal procedures included time constraints and references to other music courses. Of the respondents, 50% addressed instrument deficiencies, 63% addressed warmup exercises, 69% addressed tuning procedures, and 83% addressed error detection/correction. In the areas of balance, blend and intonation, 67% of the respondents provided instruction and 33% of respondents did not answer the questions or stated "not applicable" to their course. This differed from those who stated that presenting the concepts of ensemble tone quality (balance, blend and intonation) were essential (49%) or very important (33%) with a cumulative of 82%. Finally, respondents reported methods of conveying necessary information for developing skill in the areas of balance bland and intonation.