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Conductor's Toolbox, The | Transforming Yourself as Musician and Conductor | Richard Sparks

What do coaches, master teachers, and studies of the psychology of learning have to teach us about conducting? It turns out, quite a bit.

In this concise yet insightful volume, Richard Sparks draws from years of experience in the professional choral world and from his time teaching at two leading universities to help choral conductors transform their craft and create truly artful experiences.

He gains inspiration from legendary college basketball coach John Wooden and shares striking and refreshing parallels between coaching sports teams and conducting music ensembles.

Sparks draws equally from research in the fields of teaching and the psychology of learning—and what a conductor can take from those areas as well.

Just as an artisan builds a set of skills and learns the tools of the trade, conductors too must build a box of tools to help them learn, understand, and interpret music; lead rehearsals; and conduct.

The Conductor’s Toolbox conveniently and succinctly compiles these tools. Highlights include:

  • Assessing yourself and your choir
  • Using modeling
  • Developing good habits in yourself and your choir
  • Learning and teaching new skills
  • Rehearsing more efficiently
  • Teaching fundamental elements of music
  • Selecting repertoire that improves your and your choir’s skills
  • Improving your planning and pacing of rehearsals

This book is for the young conductor starting out who wants to build a truly solid craft. It is also for the experienced conductor who wonders how to move to the next level, reenergize, and grow.

Richard Sparks was Professor of Music and Chair of Conducting & Ensembles at the University of North Texas from 2009–2019, and he served as Director of Choral Activities at Pacific Lutheran University from 1983–2001. He has founded and led a number of professional choral organizations and guest conducted ensembles including the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and the Swedish Radio Choir.

Choral Music Skill Building Evaluation Form. This evaluation form, created by Alan Davis and available here as a free PDF download, touches on many of the skill building ideas discussed in The Conductor's Toolbox.

"A unique and deftly effective instructional reference guide and manual that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collection, "The Conductor's Toolbox" should be considered essential reading for anyone seeking a career in orchestral conducting in any form or format."

—James A. Cox, Library Bookwatch, October 2019