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  • Writer's pictureJAM

Classical Vs. Jazz Conducting Style

Friday evening December 8, 2023 UMKC Jazz Studies Program presented a concert in collaboration with UMKC Orchestra in White Hall on campus.

The first two thirds of the program was UMKC Orchestra and the last one third was UMKC Jazz Studies.

What interested me was the sharp contrast between the conducting style of the classical versus the jazz.

The classical conducting style was constant, detailed, and elaborate movements. The conductors expended continuous energy. Body bobbing, arms animated. Lively, spirited, energetic.

The jazz conducting style, on the other hand, was spare, minimal, with understated movements. At some point the jazz conductor even walked off to the side, leaving the student musicians alone to carry on.

Marcus Lewis, Assistant Professor and Eric Hitt, Visiting Professor of String Bass shared the job of conducting the jazz students that night and their easy-going personalities were reflected in the way they led. Their style was less formal, less strict, and lighter.

When the classical maestros were finished conducting, they appeared out of breath, spent, drained.

The jazz conductors, who had eased through their musical numbers, looked relaxed, calm, and laid back.

The flexible jazz conducting style I observed that night mirrored what I like about jazz: bluesy melodies and improvisational solos can help to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of well-being.

Marilyn Carpenter

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