Summer Conducting Seminar sets sail with H.M.S. Pinafore

posterIn what has become a fun summer tradition, the CSU music program, in collaboration with Opera Fort Collins apprentice artists, will present the Summer Conducting Seminar Final Concert on July 18. Participants in the seminar, a master’s program designed for secondary music educators in band, orchestra, and choir, perform a concert-staging of a musical or operetta annually, and this year they will present Gilbert & Sullivan’s hilarious satire H.M.S. Pinafore.

About the Summer Conducting Seminar

The final concert is directed by working music educators from around the country earning a master’s degree in music education with a specialization in conducting through the program. Begun in 2007, the first graduating class co-conducted a concert production of No, No, Nanette. Since then, the program has given highly entertaining public performances of Bye Bye Birdie, The Music Man, Mame, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Secret Garden.

The Summer Conducting Seminar is part of a three-year master’s degree that is completed online with the exception of three two-week summer residencies at CSU. Students begin by singing in the onstage choir in their first two summers, giving them knowledge and experience in conducting a high school musical. Each summer performance showcases apprentice artists from Opera Fort Collins, including many CSU graduate vocal students, in the major roles.

“These concert productions have served as thesis projects for our graduating classes,” explained Leslie Stewart, director of the Summer Conducting Seminar. “We have found that Gilbert & Sullivan operettas seem to offer the most opportunities for our students to get experience conducting recitative, which is an important curriculum goal for this program.”

Recitative conducting, the type found in many Gilbert & Sullivan works, is unlike any other kind of conducting, and so serves as a distinctive teaching form in the program.

“You only have control of the larger ensemble [in recitative], while the soloists on stage creating drama are singing in a somewhat measured, but highly flexible-paced style,” explained Wes Kenney, professor of conducting at CSU. “It requires the conductor to show the ensemble when to play – often just a chord here and there, sometimes in and out of tempos, but always with the idea that the drama is the main point.”

Many alumni of the program say it has helped them become better music teachers, particularly with the ability to earn a master’s degree without having to leave their teaching positions.

About H.M.S. Pinafore

posterThis year’s concert-staged performance selection of H.M.S. Pinafore, directed by Opera Fort Collins Artistic director Brian Luedloff, is a comic opera in two acts that takes place, as the title suggests, aboard a ship. The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is promised to marry a high-ranking naval officer, but is in love with a lower-class sailor. Despite her intentions to honor her father’s wishes of marrying the officer, Josephine and her lowly sailor plan to elope. While the captain soon learns of their plans, a surprise revelation changes the course of the story dramatically, as is the case in many Gilbert & Sullivan plots.

All in great fun, the story pokes at the ideas of patriotism, party politics, the Royal Navy, and the rise of unqualified people to positions of authority. Received with much success when it opened in 1878, H.M.S. Pinafore ran for 571 performances – the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time. Its extreme popularity, the fourth operatic collaboration of the Gilbert & Sullivan duo, became one of the works that dominated the musical stage on both sides of the Atlantic for more than a decade, and continues to be performed today.

Performance: Saturday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. Griffin Concert Hall, UCA
Tickets are $10 for the public. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at All tickets are subject to a $1 ticket fee for both online and at-the-door purchases. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended to avoid lines and further at-the-door fees.