Conducting Apprenticeship | Vocal Arts Program


In 2010, NEC and the Handel + Haydn Society announced a new conductor apprentice program that would pair students in NEC's prestigious orchestral conducting program with H+H's Artistic Director Harry Christophers or a guest conductor for a mini-apprenticeship.

Unmatched anywhere in the United States, the program offers the students practical experience working with a stellar period instrument orchestra and chorus on core Baroque and Classical repertoire under the tutelage of world-renowned specialists in the genre.“The Apprenticeship, as well as the Vocal Arts Program, is a natural pairing of NEC and H+H,” says Conservatory President Tony Woodcock. “The programs match the oldest performing arts organization in the US with the country’s oldest independent music conservatory and draw upon the special strengths of each—H+H as a fount of lived and living music history and NEC as a teaching institution.”

Conducting students learn period performance and choral conducting techniques not covered in conventional American conducting degree programs. Each apprentice studies a program’s repertoire in advance, meets with Harry Christophers or the guest conductor for at least one 30-minute session to review rehearsal plans and address artistic questions, and assists H+H’s conductor during rehearsals and performances. At the end of the concert schedule, the apprentice completes a Q & A regarding the experience.

Before my experiences with Handel and Haydn, I had taken some courses in Baroque performance practice and observed rehearsals with small chamber ensembles but never with a group the size of H+H. I guess you could say I was familiar with the concept while being new to the execution. My time with H+H has made me much more conscious of certain parts of performance practice but more than anything it’s shaped my approach to music in general.—Matt Szymanski, ’13 MM

The apprenticeship supplements the training the young conductors receive from Hugh Wolff and enhances their practical skills, knowledge, and musical insight, thereby assisting them to be thoughtful, versatile and successful conductors. For H+H, the program allows today's experts to share their knowledge and help train the next generation of professional conductors, thereby providing continuity and renewal of the musical art.

The main takeaway I hope to incorporate into my work in the future is the approach towards the score itself as a source of information. Since spending time observing H+H in rehearsal I’ve found myself spending more time asking questions about the composer’s true intentions while studying score. –Matt Szymanski, ’13 M.M.

Alumni of the program include New York Philharmonic Assistant Conductor Joshua Weilerstein, Kansas City Symphony Associate Conductor Aram Demirjian, and Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Conductor Lio Kuokman.

(In photo top: Nathan Aspinall '15 MM and H+H Artistic Director Harry Christophers during break in rehearsal at Boston's Symphony Hall. In photo bottom: Earl Lee '15 GD and former H+H Music Director Grant Llewellyn. Courtesy of H+H/James Doyle)

The Vocal Arts Program

Working with K—12 school children, the program provides students with the intensive preparatory music instruction and academic guidance necessary to audition and apply to college successfully.

Through private instruction and classes, and numerous performing opportunities, students gain an inside view of the music field by attending performances and interacting with professional musicians. The Vocal Arts Program is a collaboration between H+H, NEC, and Boston Latin School and comprises five youth choruses.

It was in the choral room at Boston Latin where I discovered the power of choral music, and it was in my lessons at New England Conservatory Preparatory School where I fell in love with composers like Bellini and Faure, and thought to myself, ‘This is it. I want to have a career in the world of music.’—Soprano Jessica Toupin (Dracut, Mass.)

Auditions are generally held in January and late spring. Please call the Associate Director of Education Bill Pappazisis at 617-262-1815, or send him an e-mail.

Founded in Boston in 1815, the Handel and Haydn Society (H+H) is considered America’s oldest continuously performing arts organization. It will celebrate its Bicentennial in 2015 with a series of special concerts and initiatives to honor 200 years of music making. Its Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus are internationally recognized in the field of Historically Informed Performance, using the instruments and techniques of the composer’s time. Under Artistic Director Harry Christophers’ leadership, H+H’s mission is to enrich life and influence culture by performing Baroque and Classical music at the highest levels of artistic excellence, and by providing engaging, accessible, and broadly inclusive music education and training activities. H+H’s Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus present live and recorded historically informed performances of this repertoire in ways that stimulate the musical and cultural development of our Greater Boston community and contemporary audiences across the nation and beyond.

(In photo above, bass-baritone Dashon Burton converses with VAP high school students. Courtesy of H+H/James Doyle)