Let's be honest. In the world of classical music, there are few rock stars. And more often than not, if there is a rock star to be found, it's most likely the conductor.
Take Gustavo Dudamel, for example. He's the young, brash, and energetic Venezuelan conductor who took the classical world by storm in 2004 when he won the International Conducting Competition for conductors under 35. The guy is a whirling dervish, all energy, gusto, and intense facial expressions.
At the same time, there isn't a single "right" way to conduct. An over-the-top conductor can distract from the music, while someone who's too restrained and passive may not get the most out of his musicians. Needless to say, the craft is an art. In a way, Dudamel has helped to reinvigorate the role of the conductor and, due to his relative youth, made it an intriguing career choice for young classical music students.
Of course, all top-tier music schools offer classes in conducting studies, but news out of New York suggests that more schools are shifting toward a more experiential approach. Mannaes College at the New School recently announced the creation of the Julius Rudel Award for Conducting Studies at Mannes College, a program that places select Mannes conducting students in residence with the Buffalo Philharmonic (BPO).
Funded through a bequest from the estate of Julius Rudel, the late, renowned opera and orchestra conductor and Mannes graduate, the program gives students the opportunity to serve as conductors and learn about the inner workings of a professional orchestra under the tutelage of BPO Music Director and Mannes College alumna Joanne Falletta.
Rudel was a kind of rock star in his own right. As a seventeen-year-old Jewish boy, he escaped Austria after the Nazi invasion and moved to New York, where, after studying conducting at Mannes, he joined the New York City Opera where he remained for 35 years. And the connection with the BPO is no coincidence either. Rudel accepted the position of Music Director there in 1979.
The college announced the creation of the residency at its February 19th concert at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.
As for the "greatest conductor ever?" Well, the BBC conducted a poll and the winner, at 21.1 percent, was Sir Simon Rattle. Feel free to drop this juicy tidbit at your next Upper West Side dinner party.