The Quiet Conductor: Succeeding in an Extroverted World

Marci Major

This session offers a multi-faceted examination of the phenomenon of introversion as it exists among some conductors in the seemingly extroverted profession of choral conducting. It also addresses practical ways in which characteristics of introversion can be successfully accommodated among both conductors and singers who share similar characteristics.

The profession of choral conducting seems to favor extroverts. Factors such as the “power of personality” and “conductor magnitude” are often cited as being important factors to conductor success, implying that an outgoing personality is key to being a leader. As conversations about extroversion and introversion gain popularity in mainstream media, however, research increasingly suggests that introverts are powerful thinkers, productive doers and are on the rise in seemingly extroverted professions.

Some might argue that extroversion and introversion occur on a continuum where people can exhibit characteristics of both. However, it also begs the questions: 1. At what price do these conductors make this change?; 2. Is it possible to bring introverted strengths into a rehearsal, helping deter some of the negative side effects, such as teacher burnout, associated with an exclusively extroverted approach?; 3. How can conductors learn to compromise keeping true to themselves and their natural behaviors?

In this session, the presenters examine:

  • The extroverted nature of the profession (e.g. demands from choristers, administrators, boards, etc.);
  • The need to find time to re-charge and rejuvenate, as well as suggested means of accomplishing that (e.g. introverts need time alone; summers may not be the only or appropriate antidote);
  • Ways to allow the introverted personality to function in rehearsal (e.g. reflection can be shared with singers and enable them to broaden their experience and invest more widely in the process);
  • Suggestions for young conductors, in particular, to stay true to their personalities while building quality programs (e.g. encouraging singers to develop motivation; means of student empowerment and engagement; focusing on quality of repertoire and experience);
  • A new perspective for considering choral participants, including suggestions for implementing rehearsal strategies that fulfill the needs of introverts and extroverts alike.

The theme of the ACDA Easter Division Conference 2018 is “Building Bridges.”  We believe that this issue of introversion and extroversion affects many conductors of all types of ensembles, and conductors at various stages of their careers. Furthermore, the single focus of the completely extroverted approach is short-sighted in that it can lead to a “director centric” choral rehearsal, which does not necessarily empower or engage choristers, either in the process of learning/music making, or in making choir a central part of their daily lives in the present and future.  Techniques discussed in this session can help to build bridges between the gaps of multiple learning styles and social interaction preferences.