Master of Music in Conducting and Artist Diploma in Conducting
What Makes San Diego State University Unique
Students accepted into the Graduate Choral Conducting Program at SDSU will be expected to help maintain the high standard of excellence within the School of Music and Dance (SMD). Under the ARTS ALIVE SDSU umbrella and as part of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, the SMD is often called upon by the University to be public ambassadors on campus, in the surrounding community, and in the city. Graduate students are expected to play an important role in contributing to the culture within the SMD and University.
Upon successful admission to the program, each student will assist the Directors of Choral, Orchestral, and Wind Studies with all primary area ensembles (Choral, Orchestral, and/or Wind) as member and/or Assistant Conductor. All students will receive secondary applied study in another conducting area. Students will have the opportunity to assist with undergraduate conducting classes and either be given or expected to create conducting opportunities both on- and off-campus. These opportunities range from chamber music to pit conducting musicals or operas to choral/orchestral concerts presented at local churches or other venues to new music ensembles.
Guaranteed Podium Time and Practical Experience
Depending upon previous teaching experience, every conducting graduate student will have the opportunity to direct one of the on-campus ensembles during their time of study at SDSU. As Director or Assistant Conductor of any SDSU ensemble on campus the normal duties and responsibilities that come with a position of this nature would be maintained and upheld in a professional manner. Responsibilities include musical decisions such as programming and possible collaboration with other ensembles (choral or instrumental), recruited or curricular, and all administrative duties such as attendance, seating charts, program notes, constructing the actual program for concerts, advertising/promotion of the ensemble to increase membership, assigning section leaders, securing venues for concerts, organizing run-out performances at schools, and other projects and duties that surface.
Not a “Read All About It” Education
Learning by doing, through real-life experience, is the best way to learn and retain valuable information as a budding young conductor. All graduate students will focus on gesture, movement, score study and analysis, rehearsal techniques, literature, programming, logistics and administrative aspects, and advocacy. In addition, choral conducting students will focus on warm-ups, group vocal technique and pedagogy, and sung-language/diction.
In many of the strongest and most reputable Masters and Doctoral Programs, the focus on analysis of scores, music history, and theoretical knowledge sometimes outweighs time spent on the practical side of being a conductor. While the aforementioned aspects of being a complete conductor are vital, practical experience and mastering the teaching of music is often an afterthought. At SDSU, communication through gesture, the solidification of rehearsal techniques, and recognizing, analyzing and employing effective teaching skills will be a priority. Conductors are teachers. If a conductor cannot communicate to an ensemble gesturally (non-verbal) or verbally, then quality music making will never be attained. Conductors who cannot teach and demonstrate how music can be performed through gesture and non-verbal communication are ineffective. A graduate in conducting from SDSU will be equipped with musical, theoretical, historical, gestural, physical, psychological, philosophical, administrative, and practical knowledge necessary to succeed in a career as a Conductor (Academic, Semi-Professional, or Professional), Music Educator, Church Musician, Choirmaster, Professor of Music or Conducting, or the like.
Applied Lessons – Individual and Group Format
Conducting students will receive individual and/or group lessons on a weekly or monthly basis, respectively, depending upon where they are in the curriculum. During these lessons, the content could include reflection and critiques on a previous rehearsal lead by that student, gesture, analysis of scores, discussion of sung-language/diction and I.P.A., rehearsal techniques, warm-ups, or anything else pertinent to that particular student’s needs. In a group lesson format, open discussions about working with gesture, group vocal techniques, observations, reflections, and other general and specific topics occur among peers, guest clinicians, and professors. All students will receive secondary applied study in another conducting area at some point in their studies.
The Audition Process
After an initial email inquiry with the appropriate conducting faculty and/or Graduate Coordinator, the first –and best– thing a prospective student can do is to assemble and send a 15-30 minute DVD/YouTube video to the corresponding Choral, Orchestral, or Wind professor that displays the candidate’s ability to run a rehearsal and conduct in performance (for Choral Conducting, please include a vocal warm-up with a choir as well.) From there, the corresponding SDSU professor will either encourage or discourage (with ideas for improvement or change) applying to the program.
If encouraged to apply, then apply to the California State University System by February 1 by visiting our Graduate Admission’s page. Then, use the same link to learn about the rest of the application process and dates. All students must apply to the CSU system and SDSU’s Graduate Program, and be sure to be in steady communication with the SMD via email or Decision Desk. After review of applicants, the top candidates will be invited to campus for an audition/interview. (See below for further audition details)
Audition Requirements for Choral Conducting
The preliminary round includes a cover letter, current resume, list of repertoire conducted. Materials should be sent directly to Dr. Matthew Nielsen, Interim Director of Choral Studies, at the below email address and to the Graduate School (do not include the DVD or YouTube videos for the Graduate School). Please send the information via email to Dr. Matthew Nielsen, Interim Director of Choral Studies
Apply to the California State University System by February 1 by visiting our Graduate Admission’s page. You’ll find details on what you need to submit, which includes letters of recommendation, transcripts, and other requirements (GREs, for example).
First Round: DVD or private YouTube video(s) and Application
Submit a DVD or private YouTube video(s) that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to run an effective vocal warm-up, rehearsal, and performance. Video footage should be taken within the previous two years.
Second (and Final) Round: On-campus Interview/Audition
A final round will consist of an on-campus interview discussing the candidate’s conducting and educational philosophies, diagnostics exams, and an audition conducting at least one of the choirs on campus. The diagnostics that will take place on the audition day could include: identifying intervals played on a piano, vocalization to assess voice range/color, etc. (serving as your audition for the auditioned choirs on campus), aural chord analysis, language and I.P.A. skills, and piano skills (please bring something that will show your ability and be ready to sight-read a simple hymn on the piano). The interview and diagnostics portions of the day will end with a discussion of the candidate’s score preparation for that day, and sight-reading (most likely a motet and 20th century piece, tbd).
Admission to the choral conducting concentration requires successful completion of various departmental requirements in ear training, written theory and music history, along with Latin, Italian, French, English and German diction. These will be tested after acceptance and when the candidate arrives in the August of the first year of study. If review courses are needed, it is then that they will be assigned and taken. Lastly, undergraduate or graduate credit in a course in vocal pedagogy must be presented for graduation.
Send all Choral Conducting inquiries and materials to: Dr. Matthew Nielsen, Interim Director of Choral Studies, SDSU School of Music and Dance, 5500 Campanile Drive, MC 7902, San Diego, CA 92182
Audition Requirements for Orchestral Conducting
Admission to the instrumental conducting program is selective and candidates must be invited for an on-campus interview and audition. Applicants should first complete all steps outlined on the graduate admission information page and additionally submit a 15-20 minute video recording that includes rehearsal segments (camera facing conductor) and performance. Copies of printed programs from concerts conducted must also be included. All materials need to be received by the School of Music and Dance by February 1. Successful applicants normally have at least one year of conducting experience in a public school, university, community college, or selective youth ensemble setting. Upon receipt of the candidate’s materials, applicants will be notified if they are to be invited for an on campus audition and interview.
Audition Requirements for Wind Conducting
Admission to the instrumental conducting program is selective and candidates must be invited for an on-campus interview and audition. Applicants should first complete all steps outlined on the graduate admission information page and additionally submit a 15-20 minute videotape that includes rehearsal segments (camera facing conductor) and performance. Copies of printed programs from concerts conducted must also be included. All materials need to be received by the School of Music and Dance by February 1. Successful applicants normally have at least one year of conducting experience in a public school, university, community college, or selective youth ensemble setting. Upon receipt of the candidate’s materials, applicants will be notified if they are to be invited for an on campus audition and interview.
What if I do not have significant field experience as a conductor, teacher, church musician, etc. should I still apply?
While it is recommended students come into a Masters degree with at least 2-5 years of experience, please do apply if you have less! If, after interview and on-campus audition, a potential graduate student shows incredible promise as a conductor but does not possess field teaching experience either as a music educator, church musician, community chorus/instrumental director, vocal instructor, private teacher, or the like, there is a chance for acceptance based on potential. If a student like this is accepted, that student would be immersed in remedial courses or activities acting as an Assistant to fellow student conductors and to the Director of their corresponding area during their first semester of study, at least. After the first or second semester, this student would then be assigned to the appropriate ensemble for them to direct in order to gain experience, but also be an effective conductor of the ensemble. (See below for further details.)
Can I complete a Masters degree as a PART-TIME student?
SDSU is open to the idea of accepting well-qualified students on a part-time basis who possess significant experience and who may hold a position in the field already, but is unable to leave this position. Graduate classes and some performing ensembles are offered in the evening which allows a student to successfully navigate through the curriculum in a timely fashion. Typically, it takes two years (four semesters) for a full-time student to graduate, and it is not impossible for an evening student with a daytime job to do the same. SDSU will address part-time inquiries on a case-by-case basis.
Is there a residency requirement?
Full-time students are expected to be on campus daily and will perform with the SMD’s top ensembles. Part-time students are expected to be on campus during the times their classes meet and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
What is the difference between a “Masters of Music” and “Artist Diploma?”
The Artist Diploma is a terrific option for a student who desires initial training prior to pursuing a Masters of Music (MM), or prior to pursuing a doctorate. (i.e.- It may serve as a “Pre-Masters,” “Pre-doctorate,” or a “Post-doctorate” depending upon the student.) The MM has more coursework and more required units with the same performance requirements. The Artist Diploma has less coursework and more performance-oriented requirements. The Artist Diploma allows students further study in conducting, coursework, literature, ensembles, and other areas within the discipline without the extensive writing involved in an MM curriculum yet is an awarded degree, for example.