Reach for the Baton Conducting Workshops

Athenry Music School held a series of conducting workshops called Reach for the Baton in 2023, these workshops were an exciting opportunity for beginner or emerging conductors to gain tuition and experience with world class conductors in a live music setting. Reach for the Baton’s Artistic Patron was Eimear Noone and Sinéad Hayes was the workshop leader.

Katie Feeney, an emerging conductor, attended Reach for the Baton, below she writes of her experience. Katie is a soprano and conductor based in Galway. She graduated from the University of Galway’s BA
Music course in 2022. She has shadowed Sinéad Hayes’ work with the Luminosa String Orchestra and is preparing for postgraduate music studies.

“I attended the Reach for the Baton workshops at the Irish Chamber Orchestra building in Limerick in January 2023. The workshops ran smoothly, thanks to Katharine and Sinéad. The workshop was aimed at musicians with all levels of conducting experience, and the workshop’s leader, Sinéad Hayes, adapted to
each of our abilities on the day. The workshop began with a helpful introduction to the hand patterns which I found was an excellent way of settling the group into the atmosphere. There were nine participants in the Limerick workshop, all of whom were active musicians ready and eager to learn. We were given worksheets that we could fill out freely as a way of remembering and soaking up all we were learning as the day went on. Sinéad introduced us to recordings of well-known conductors and we had an open discussion about their technique, what we admired about their work and what we may do differently. It was an insightful and eye-opening conversation that encouraged us to think and use our own experiences as musicians to decide our opinions on the conductors’ styles.

Together, we analysed the scores we would later be conducting. I found this part of the workshop particularly helpful. Seeing firsthand how Sinéad marks her score was a great lesson for budding conductors. After a short break, we were introduced to the string quartet. The musicians were very pleasant and patient with each conductor, and most importantly, they were very receptive of the conductor’s gestures. During the last part of the session, each participant spent time with the string quartet, conducting a piece of their choice from the repertoire chosen for the workshop. I
conducted Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The time conducting the string quartet was greatly enhanced by the preparatory work the workshop offered. Sinéad stopped and started each participant, providing constructive tips and helpful advice, always remaining encouraging and positive in her suggestions. I had the chance to conduct the whole first movement and, by the end of my session in front of the quartet, I could feel a new sense of confidence and assuredness in my conducting.

I am currently beginning my career as a conductor, and the Reach for the Baton workshops allowed me to conduct professional musicians live with advice from established conductors. This was not only a great way of enhancing my musical abilities with like-minded people, but it also provided me with a recording with professional musicians I can use for future conducting auditions and course applications”.