M.M. in Orchestral Conducting

The Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting is one of the four major graduate conducting areas offered at Ithaca College. Graduate conductors in the orchestral conducting program study primarily with Jeffery Meyer, Director of Orchestras, as well as work with other professors in one or two minor conducting areas (choral, opera/music theater, wind ensemble). The degree requires a two-year residency, and the program culminates in two recitals with the symphony and chamber orchestras.

Application Procedure

Applicants are required to submit a video of a rehearsal and performance, a list of compositions studied and performed, as well as other supporting documents as required by the graduate admissions. After an initial screening in late January, a small number of applicants are invited for an on campus audition in late April/early March. Invitations are usually made in early February. The on campus auditions include rehearsal with one or both of the orchestras, an interview, demonstration of piano skills/score reading, preparation of a Bach Chorale in open score, written tests and an aural skills examination. No more than one student will be admitted each year in each area, and each student will be awarded a conducting assistantship.  

Major-field course work includes both applied conducting (score reading, score analysis, and conducting with major ensembles) and three literature courses in the major and minor conducting areas.

Program Information

Graduate orchestral conductors are expected to act as assistants to the IC Chamber and Symphony Orchestra, covering all rehearsals, leading rehearsals in the absence of the Music Director, and assisting with weekly sectional rehearsals. In addition to weekly private lessons, MM students in Orchestral Conducting have weekly podium time with two pianos and/or small chamber ensembles in conducting seminar class and several additional conducting sessions with the orchestras each semester. They also serve as co-Music Directors for the Ithaca College Sinfonietta, a college-wide symphony orchestra that rehearses weekly and performs two programs per year.  One or both of the graduate conductors periodically run an orchestral repertoire reading class for winds, as well as an orchestral repertoire reading orchestra, which expose the conductor and students to more of the main body of orchestra repertoire. There are numerous opportunities for additional conducting with the contemporary ensemble, the student-run string orchestra, composition recitals, all-state activities, and other school and community ensembles. 

Recent repertoire performed by graduate students includes Strauss: Death and Transfiguration, Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, Hanson: Symphony No. 2, “Romantic”, Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Overture, Mendelssohn: The Hebrides Overture, Theofanidis: Rainbow Body, Copland: Appalachian Spring, Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire, Stravinsky: A Soldier’s Tale.

There are normally several guest masterclasses each year. Recent guest teachers have included conductors such as Larry Rachleff (Rice University), Carl St.Clair (Pacific Symphony), Gustav Meier (Peabody); Kenneth Kiesler (University of Michigan), Daniel Hege (Wichita Symphony), Carl Topilow (CCM), and Alexander Polishchuk (St. Petersburg Conservatory, Russia).

The select nature of the Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting program (only one orchestral conductor is accepted each year) sets it apart from other master's conducting programs in the country by ensuring that there is a small number of graduate conductors in residence. Because the numbers are kept low and the ensembles are of high quality, the program can offer a maximum of individual attention and significant conducting opportunities. Students accepted into the program have the rare opportunity to work at a high musical level while enjoying significant podium time and focused individual attention and mentorship by their professors. Graduate students study with the major conductors in all areas, have valuable podium time with the premiere ensembles, and join a serious and committed community of developing conductors.

Who should apply

Conductors who have a good technical foundation with the stick and left hand, have developed their performance skills considerably on one or more instruments, have demonstrable piano skills, good sight-singing and aural skills, familiarity with transposition and Bach chorale open scores, significant experience rehearsing and performing as a conductor, and who show great potential to grow tremendously as a conductor in the two short years of a masters program are encouraged to apply.

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