Drawing students from around the world, the teaching of orchestral conducting occupies a very special place at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Music. Offered solely at the graduate level, this curriculum requires substantial skills, both in terms of mastering an instrument and in musical knowledge and experience.
In Paolo Bellomia and Jean-François Rivest, young conductors will be able to rely on teachers with highly different and enriching approaches, offering a broad range of influences and learning tools. Enjoying careers as conductors, these two well-known educators work in close collaboration and pursue the same goals: taking students to a higher level, and inviting them to develop their own musical thinking and distinctive personalities as conductors.
In the conducting studio, teaching focuses on the following areas:
- Enhancement of conducting tools
- Enhancement of conducting technique
- Score study
- The application of this learning in practical conducting workshops
In the class on conducting tools, given by Paolo Bellomia, the focus is on these skills:
- Maximum ear development: detection of errors of every sort (false notes or false intonations, for example) with the aid of a digitized system
- Reading at the piano of the Bach chorales in the four clefs
- Reduction of diverse orchestral scores on the piano
- Study of various transpositions, through the mastery of clefs
- Reading of irregular rhythms: study of different tempo changes through rhythmic modulation, as well as a scientific approach to polyrhythm and its application
Enabling students to discover a scientific approach, conducting technique mechanisms are also studied in depth by way of individual tutoring sessions or in small groups:
- Work on the independence of the two hands and command of the varying geometrization of gestures, for expressing both regular and irregular rhythms
- Awareness and visualization of the various joints in the hands, forearms and upper arms, as well as of the dimensions of the gesture (for instance, in relation to tempi)
- Study of physical areas (position with respect to the different sections of the orchestra)
Another topic addressed in tutoring sessions, score study makes a sound preparation of the work possible. It is based on an appropriate and personal annotation of the score, as well as on an advanced analysis.
A weekly conducting workshop
Once a week, at every stage of their academic journey, students take part in a conducting workshop, with two pianists condensing the orchestra.
In the form of a masterclass, this workshop is an opportunity for young conductors to realize and test, before their peers and their teachers, the learning that has been absorbed. The repertoire tackled is rich and vast, from baroque to the music of today, covering the iconic works of the classical, romantic and modern repertoire. These masterclasses are given alternately by Paolo Bellomia and Jean-François Rivest.
Finally, all this work culminates in appearances leading a number of faculty ensembles, including the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal (OUM).
Excellent career prospects
The Faculty of Music conducting studio has seen a number of its graduates secure conducting or assistant positions at the helm of established orchestras across the country or internationally (Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and the United States), among them Sebastian Cohen, Dina Gilbert, Airat Ichmouratov, Mélanie Léonard, Julien Proulx, David Rahbee and Jean-Philippe Tremblay.