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The Art of Orchestration

A Maestro’s Perspective on Creating a Symphony

In the world of classical music, the symphony conductor plays a pivotal role in shaping and bringing to life the rich tapestry of sound that is a symphony performance. Renowned conductor, Scott Weiss, has a career spanning decades and an impressive repertoire of performances leading orchestras worldwide. He graciously shared his insights into the intricate process of creating a symphony performance.

Weiss, currently serving as the Music Director and Conductor for the Aiken Symphony, speaks passionately about the collaborative nature of symphonic music. “Conductors in the 21st century consider ourselves to be realizers of a musical composition as opposed to recreators or interpreters of the music. For me, after conducting hundreds of pieces, I can see and feel how I want to honor a composer’s piece for an audience.”

The journey of crafting a symphony performance begins with a thorough understanding of the composition itself. Weiss emphasizes the importance of delving into the historical context, knowing the history of a composer and grasping the cultural milieu in which the piece was created. Weiss spends hours every day at the piano becoming intimately familiar with the nuances and subtleties that make each composition a singular masterpiece. He has also spent countless hours working with the Aiken Symphony selecting and working with each individual musician performing with the orchestra. 

Weiss emphasized the importance of building trust and engaging in a collaborative dialogue with his musicians. Rehearsals become a forum for exploring ideas, experimenting with interpretations and finding a collective voice that honors both the composition and the musician's individual history. Weiss is more focused on fostering an environment where creativity can flourish than imposing his will and vision on the orchestra. “I have my hands on the reins, but I am more along for the ride and just guiding them; if something goes awry, I can grab those reins and make corrections.”

A conductor’s gestural language is also a fundamental aspect of communication during rehearsals and performances. He recalled his teacher telling him prior to his first conductor’s performance, “Whatever you do, don’t stop.” At the time Weiss was confused by the statement but when he first stepped up to the podium and this massive wave of sound hit him, it was overwhelming;  he understood what his teacher meant. Continuing to move and gesture this non-verbal communication to his musicians is important because it conveys emotion, phrasing, dynamics and tempo.  

The conductor-musician relationship is a symbiotic one, where trust and mutual respect are paramount. Weiss discussed the importance of musicians being passionate about their work and really believing in the importance of practicing their craft in preparation of a performance. He wants his musicians to be as passionate as he is about being the very best and achieving a high level of precision and musicality in every performance. Weiss expressed a quote he is endeared to, “If you want to be a great conductor, stand in front of a great orchestra.”

Weiss is a true advocate for the importance of the symphony and a love of classical music. He consistently voices that anyone can come and enjoy the concerts. Weiss and the Aiken Symphony are a true treasure in Aiken. They transport their listeners to different emotional realms and evoke a myriad of feelings and memories. Weiss discussed how he is sound-driven and how the sound, colors and textures of what he does fuel him in every performance. He loves the interaction he experiences with his orchestra and with the attendees of each concert. You can tell that he measures a performance by the emotional impact left upon both the musicians and the audience. The success of the Aiken Symphony is an undeniable testament to the enduring power of orchestral music in the hands of this skilled conductor.


 

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