The Instrumentalist

Articles April 2020

Director, Check Your Stance


A humorous look at conducting quirks and a strong argument for recording video of your rehearsals.

From the December 1976 issue.

    “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as others see us.” So spake the Scottish bard Robert Burns. Many directors would surely make some changes in their conducting mannerisms and techniques if they could see themselves in action as their audiences see them. Devoid of aesthetics, their deportment may actually detract from the performance of the group.

    In my case, a photo of me conducting a small elementary school orchestra from a fairly high podium led to a change. Because I am a little over six feet tall and have added a few pounds to my fighting weight of younger years, the photo showed me towering over those little kids like King Kong. I no longer use a podium, and I try to shrink a little.

    So, directors, see if you fit into any of the categories depicted below.

Toy Soldier

    Strictly mechanical. Does it run on a battery, or is it wound up before each performance?


    Exaggerates all cues, all dynamics. Strictly on an ego trip. Convinced that the audience came only to watch him.

Traffic Director

    Tries to cue every section on every note played. Point, jab, point, jab. Players find it funny at first.

Jumping Jack

    Great fascination for the audience members, who can anticipate each graceful, leaping bound.

Big Bird

    Both arms flapping continuously in perfect symmetry. May become airborne at any time.

    Note: All the foregoing depictions are the result of observing directors within my school district only. With this statement you can be safely assured that I am not describing your conducting style but rather just the mannerisms of a few misguided unfortunates. And, of course, my own directing techniques are impeccable.


Dwight G. Kier

     Dwight G. Kier taught in Longmont, Colorado. The illustrations are by Frances Jones Hartman, who accompanied Kier’s students at contests and concerts.


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