Posted by stick slave on October 29, 2003 at 13:10:34:
To me, for someone to be conducting music they must be doing so with the same absolute precision that I am attempting to play the music on my instrument. I classify everyone else as merely an "arm waver", "dancer", or perhaps a combination of both. The precision (just like what is expected of my playing) must not only achieve near perfection in time, but also in tone, volume, and expression. Fine orchestras can play extremely well - even offer monumental performances/recording - in front of the vast majority of "dancing bears", but thrive under the rare "conductor".
In my lifetime, I've witnessed three or four conductors and played under two or three.
I do not consider very many big name music directors to be "conductors".
One who comes to mind right away is James De Priest. During a set of rehearsals many years ago, I watched him take a so-so professional orchestra's string section and - with only a few one-word verbal cues and rest with his face, arms, hands, fingers pull out a world-class performance. (He has polio, so no "dancing".)
Another is Paul Phillips, the conductor of an extremely-fine-but-not-world-class student orchestra, the "Meadows Symphony Orchestra" at SMU. Coincidentally another physically severely crippled man, he always pulls everything out of that orchestra that can be obtained. There is never any doubt as to his musical intentions...and his conducting strategies very cleverly play to the strengths and weaknesses of the players without the typical patron being aware of this.
Realizing that I mentioned two of (probably) 500 folks under whose stick I played (or observed) over the years, I encourage you to name conductors from your life experiences that measure up to this caliber.
Here is a picture of Paul Phillips.