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Pedants may insist Beyond the Baton is not what every conductor needs to know, because real talent will have no need for a manual on how to make your way as a maestro. But let’s face it, the majority of conducting talent worldwide isn’t in the superstar category. And for anyone wanting to get their head round what may be involved in creating, developing and maintaining a career – as opposed to a fitful succession of dates – this could hardly be a better guide. Indeed, initial wonderings as to why OUP should have published a ‘mere’ how-to handbook were swept aside in the sheer scope of what Diane Wittry (music director of two less familiar US orchestras) provides.

Too many musicians still enter the profession with only the woolliest idea of how far they need to manage their careers – and this is a terrific roadmap for those with eyes to see. Immediately, for example, the role of that fundamental attribute – persistence – is underlined. And yet this is not just a guide to such mainline stuff as musical training, ‘being organised’, negotiating contracts and planning repertoire for different contexts. There’s advice in such areas as how to handle orchestra board members (‘it is good to attend as many board meetings as possible’) and the thoroughly modern awareness conductors must have of their part in raising the funds that keep orchestras going.

As useful as anything is the guide to ‘resources’, which occupies a third of the book’s total length – a one-stop directory to all manner of information about artist managers, competitions, music publishers and collections, grants, festivals and so on. There are even specimen guest conducting contracts to pore over. And there’s an intriguing guide to repertoire planning in themes.

Digest this and at least you can’t say you were never warned about the challenges ahead.

ANDREW GREEN Read the full review on Agora Classica


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