Valerie Taylor

Professor
617 747-8599

"In Conducting One, we start off with basic gestures, but I like to have actual music involved as quickly as possible, because otherwise it becomes less interesting. The first piece of music that my students get their hands on is by Maurice Ravel. And by 'hands on' I mean both hands; I want to get all systems going as soon as possible."

"Even if a person never conducts any kind of ensemble after this, the whole notion of getting music incorporated into the body is just so vital. It's gaining that sense of how your body conveys, and not just simply responds to, music. As a result of my vocal training, I try to get people to sing things, because that is the clearest and simplest road to incorporating the music into their own bodies. If they treat it gingerly at finger's length, their musical mojo is not going to be involved. If they sing while they conduct, they can use their body to teach their body."

"At the end of the semester, I give my students little bits of Beethoven's 7th Symphony. The piece is just about 200 years old, but there is just so much unruly life in it. I show them the transition from the slow-ish part to where Beethoven changes meter and starts a little excitement bubbling, and they've got to build a crescendo and take it up, and then there's a sudden hold and a long held-out tone that absolutely stops. They've got to do this cutoff, then hold stock-still for another unmeasured moment of dead silence. Then, with the same burgeoning energy, they've got to do a big sweeping prep to bring in the whole mob of string players absolutely spot on, playing not only together, but vigorously at top volume."

"I show the students two different ways to approach getting off of that held tone. The second way involves something that Beethoven didn't put into the score, but he didn't exactly say I couldn't do. When I demonstrate it, everybody reacts as though their seats were wired for electricity. That grand pause-unwritten, but I think that Beethoven wouldn't mind-makes them realize there's some life in this stuff. By the end of the semester, when my students get that bolt of lightning from Beethoven, the energy level shoots way up and they're buzzed. That is when I feel like I've done my job."

Career Highlights
  • A.B., Harvard University
  • M.M., D.M.A., Peabody Conservatory of Music
  • Conductor, violinist, and vocalist
  • Former music director, University of Wyoming Symphony, Winona Symphony
  • Appearances with Camerata St. Petersburg, Russia