Conducting: your experience

The conducting programme at the Academy provides a comprehensive and integrated programme for you to examine the art of conducting and the role and responsibilities of the professional conductor.

It is designed to provide you with:

  • a strong technical foundation
  • the ability to be both self-aware and self-critical in all aspects of your craft
  • a better understanding of the complex relationship that exists between conductor and performers.

The programme begins with a focus on technical and rehearsal skills which are developed in classes with two pianos, with small ensembles and with orchestra. Following this, you will have opportunities to integrate your work into other departments at the Academy, including early music performance, opera, contemporary music, and education and outreach. Symphonic music will form the basis of continuing technical development throughout your studies.

After two years of intensive study and experience, you will be fully prepared to help musicians make music, motivate and inspire them to the highest level of their abilities.

Professors

Our conducting professors include internationally renowned conductors and celebrated pedagogues. With expertise in conducting in all musical contexts, from small chamber groups to full opera productions, our team of professors have the knowledge and experience to equip you for active and diverse careers.

The Academy has one of the most exciting performance schedules in the world, with many visiting conductors and soloists of international renown coming in regularly to work with our students. As a conducting student at the Academy, you will have opportunities to meet and work with some of the leading figures in orchestral music.

Conducting Faculty Classes and Activities

In addition to weekly individual lessons, as a conducting student at the Academy you will participate in:

Conducting and Baton Technique

You will learn and practise beating patterns, and the means to communicate your musical intentions through gesture.

Concerts and Collaborations

The Conducting Faculty regularly collaborates with departments across the Academy. You will work with singers from Royal Academy Opera and from the Vocal Faculty. You will work on twentieth-century and twenty-first-century repertoire, and on premieres of new works by Composition students. You will conduct a variety of ensembles in rehearsals, workshops and concerts within the Academy and have opportunities to organise your own projects.

Rehearsal Observation

The Academy regularly invites highly celebrated and famous conductors from all over the world to conduct orchestral and operatic performances with our students. You will have many opportunities to observe their rehearsals and often the Head of Conducting will organise lessons or discussions with visiting artists, which allows you to meet and interact with leading professionals.

Repertoire classes and Masterclasses

These take place throughout the year and students analyse, discuss and practise core repertoire under the guidance and expertise of Academy professors, Visiting Professors, composers and guest artists. You will study a broad range of styles including contemporary music, early music, concerto and mainstream repertoire.

In recent years, our students have had conducting masterclasses with the late Sir Colin Davis, Ilya Musin (St Petersburg Conservatoire), Jorma Panula (Sibelius Academy), Claus Peter Flor, Yuri Simonov, Lutz Kohler (Berlin), Sir Roger Norrington, the late Sir Charles Mackerras, Leonard Slatkin, Kenneth Keisler (Michigan), Carl Topilow (Cleveland), Gunter Kahler (Weimar) and Thomas Baldner (Indiana).

Aural, Keyboard Skills and Score-reading

In these classes, you will be able to hone some practical skills necessary for good rehearsal technique, such as fluency in instrument transposition and baton technique, as well as studying important sources such as original manuscripts or personal scores belonging to conductors such as Sir Georg Solti,  Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Colin Davis. Keyboard skills are not an essential requirement for entry onto the programme but there are opportunities to develop these should you wish to do so.

Seminars

In addition to these regular classes and tutorials, a series of ‘professional development’ seminars are arranged, in which Academy professors and outside experts are invited to work with our conductors for example, in history and performance style, for analysis and for programme building and planning. There are also sessions with Patrick Russill (Head of Choral Conducting) where you have a chance to gain experience in choral repertoire and conducting.

Notable alumni include

Paul Brough Principal Guest Conductor, BBC Singers
Jessica Cottis Assistant Conductor, Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Richard Farnes Music Director, Opera North
Rumon Gamba Chief Conductor, Aalborg Symfoniorkester
Edward Gardner Music Director, English National Opera
Christian Ludwig Leading international conductor
Susanna Mälkki Principal Guest Conductor, Gulbenkian Orchestra; chief conductor of Helsinki Philharmonic from 2016
Ludovic Morlot Music Director, Seattle Symphony; Chief Conductor, La Monnaie, Brussels
Paul Murphy Principal Conductor, Birmingham Royal Ballet
Ilan Volkov Leading international conductor
Martin West MD and Principal Conductor, San Francisco Ballet
Mark Wigglesworth Music Director designate, English National Opera

Royal Academy Opera Répétiteur / Conductor Fellowship

This unique fellowship, designed to support young opera professionals, is an apprenticeship for a répétiteur to study and work as an integral part of Royal Academy Opera. The Fellow will receive intensive on-the-job training, and will have the opportunity to participate in coaching and masterclasses by visiting specialists. The prime purpose of the fellowship is to hone skills and produce a well-rounded professional working to a very high level. The Fellow could also be involved in programming unusual repertoire and developing projects to encourage new audiences. More information about the Fellowship here.