Conducting Apprenticeship
in Period Performance

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 music 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 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 writes a short essay detailing 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 M.M. and H+H Artistic Director Harry Christophers during break in rehearsal at Boston's Symphony Hall. In photo bottom: Earle Lee '15 G.D. and former H+H Music Director Grant Llewellyn. Courtesy of H+H/James Doyle)