The conductor not only "keeps the beat" and keeps everyone together, but also studies the musical score so much that it is memorized. This can be literally thousands of measures of music, and keeps "the score in his head - not his head in the score" so that he/she is free to make eye contact with the musicians and draw every possible drop of expression from the performance.
While a conductor probably plays at least one instrument, he/she knows much about all the instruments. They must also be physically fit...take a pencil, hold your arm out at shoulder level, and try to direct through a song on the radio...it is not easy!
At some point, I want to make this block, with the pants bunched around the ankles and humorous boxer shorts revealed (or a tattoo, LOL). Can you tell I grew up watching a lot of Bugs Bunny and Loony Tunes cartoons?!? (including the "Rabbit of Seville" and Wagner's "Kill de Wabbit")
Choral directors usually don't use a baton, as voices are easier to mold and direct expressively with hands.
In addition to studying and memorizing many scores for each concert, the conductor is always searching out new music.
To conduct is to be more than just being a two-legged metronome, more than just an indication of tempo...the whole body is used to interpret the music through baton flourishes, body positions, and facial expressions. It can seem like an interpretive dance.
The conductor can take certain liberties with tempo and dynamics, and can emphasize instruments and musical motifs as he/she likes. This is why listening to two different conductors recording the same piece of music can be so interesting and different.
In the past, great conductors were composers as well. Until the early 1800's, they might be the concert master or harpsichord player, directing while playing.
The level of conducting difficulty depends on the kind of musical work being performed. Operas and ballets may be the most difficult - not only does the conductor direct the orchestral musicians, but has to be concerned with singers, actors, soloists, and dancers.
To conduct a ballet, the conductor must have a sense of "muscle memory" that allows a piece of music to be conducted at the same tempo each time. This way the dancer has no surprises!
The tuxedo worn by the conductor is usually all black, but I chose a dark gray for the pants so that the coat and pants wouldn't meld into some sort of bizarre musical jumpsuit.
Most of the famous conductors of the 20th century were older men, with stylish, gray hair. I chose to make my conductor youthful, with the kind of face, hair (and body) that could cause a young, impressionable, female woodwind player to miss entrances due to staring and swooning (guilty...).
This is probably not the final block arrangement, but it is fun to see them all together, and I wanted to see what they would look like with no sashing, which is a popular setting in antique Baltimore album quilts. The setting and outer borders are my next concern.
If you would like to read more about this project, read here. Now that all the blocks are done (so that GOOD photography can be done), it won't be long until the block patterns will be available for purchase. Stay tuned! (ha-ha...get it?!? "tuned"?!?)