Today I spent my afternoon in Järvenpää watching the Wind Band Conductors Competition which is organized in connection with the Nordic Wind Band Conference. 18 applicants from 9 different countries are competing over small cash prizes and guest engagements with five professional Nordic wind orchestras. I had time to see half of the first round candidates who all had 10 minutes to conduct excerpts from a new piece by Timo Forsström, "Life in Capital City" with our number one band, the Finnish Guards Band.

To be a good wind band conductor is not an easy task, for many reasons. One of the reasons was highlighted by the music selection today. The fast movements of Forsström's piece have long sections that are built around the groove created by the drum set and the percussion. During those moments it is completely useless to conduct with a forceful beat, because all you can do is confuse the players if you are not absolutely precise. Not many candidates had figured this out, and only one of them had the courage to dispense with beating altogether - unfortunately the rest of his work with the excellent Guards Band was unimpressive.

The task on this first round of the competition was to conduct sections of the first and second movements uninterrupted, and then rehearse the third movement. There seemed to be some confusion over the last task, since the chairperson of the jury worded it "You MAY rehearse" which leaves it to the discretion of the candidate whether to rehearse or not. Almost half of them chose not to. I think it would be unfair to disqualify those people because they "didn't rehearse" since the wording was so vague - especially since some of the technically most advanced conductors belonged into this category!

Just to name one favorite - I think the Russian candidate Igor Goncharov absolutely set himself apart from the others by his beautiful interpretation of the slow movement from "Life in Capital City". It just proved how much difference good musicality coupled with good conducting technique can do, even when not a single verbal instruction has been given. There were other promising candidates as well, so I am hoping to see them pass to the second round and do an excellent job with the Holst 1st Suite tomorrow.

UPDATE! Here is the list of second round participants:

Yun Song Tay, Singapore
Christy Muncey, USA
Zoltan Gyimothi, Hungary
Andrea Gasperi, Italy
Igor Goncharov, Russia
Tanja Räsänen, Finland
Juuso Wallin, Finland
Anna-Leena Lumme, Finland
Eero Lehtimäki, Finland
Kaapo Ijas, Finland