Conductor as Musicianship Mentor

Awarding Institution

University of Sydney

Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Associate Professor Dr Jennifer Rowley

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Dr Neil McEwan

Peer Review

Before publication

Staff Classification



This study investigates the conductor’s role as musicianship mentor through the rehearsal and performance process of three works for choir and orchestra. The concept of mentoring is examined through three research stages that parallel the three recitals. In the first stage, twelve participants rehearsing and performing Bach Cantata BWV 182 were asked about their experience of being mentored by the conductor. Questionnaire and focus group data showed that the conductor’s musicianship mentoring role was significant to their progress. They found five musicianship elements most important: inner hearing, musical memory, sight-singing, intervals, and solfège. Of these, solfège was perceived as foundational to developing the other four. In the second stage, the conductor’s self-mentoring process was analysed using a three-part self-reflective journal during preparation for a performance of Fauré’s Requiem. Part A and C explored the core relational aspect of mentoring, while Part B reflected on the conductor’s self-mentoring process. In the third stage, four of the original twelve participants were asked about their self-mentoring process during the rehearsal and performance of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: Mass for Peace. Participants reported that they had acquired the skills to enable self-mentoring and become early-career mentors over two years between the first and third recitals. Inner hearing, sight-singing, intervals, and solfège were again highlighted, as well as ensemble singing and conducting. Participants felt solfège and sight-singing would be most beneficial in the future. The conductor as musicianship mentor model demonstrates the importance of self-mentoring to mentors and mentees, particularly mentees emerging as mentors. When a pedagogically sequential voice-based musicianship program is intentionally aligned with an ensemble performance program, the resulting synergy has a unique, purposeful, and powerful impact on the teaching and learning environment.