The joke is old and stale, but here goes anyway:
A tourist in Manhattan is looking for a musical landmark and stops someone on the street to ask for directions. “Excuse me,” says the tourist, “can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer comes without hesitation: “Practice, practice, practice.”
It doesn’t matter if you play the bongos or the bassoon or the sousaphone, if you want to become a better musician you can go off on your own and practice. But what if you’re an orchestra conductor? Do you just ask sixty musical friends if they’ll help out by playing Rachmaninoff for you at the neighborhood auditorium for two hours? “You can’t learn to conduct unless you have an orchestra,” says Neal Gittleman, the conductor of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. “But no one will give you their orchestra to work with unless you know how to conduct.”
The Monteux School and Music Festival in Hancock helps aspiring conductors get the experience they need. The school runs for six weeks each summer and lets conductors work at length with a full orchestra of talented musicians, all while getting instruction from teachers with a sharp eye and discerning ear. In short, it gives conductors something that’s invaluable: the chance to practice, practice, practice.