While carrying 23 units, music student George Osorio is conducting himself quite well. And now he’ll get a chance to conduct others, too. He will lead musicians during “Holiday Inspirations,” an orchestral and chamber music concert presented by the Department of Music on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. in the University Theatre at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Osorio will conduct students from the first university class dedicated solely to orchestra, in “Dance of the Tumblers,” from “The Snow Maiden” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
“One of the characteristics that make this piece a delight to conduct is the fact that there are sections where the brass is featured, which are my favorite instruments to conduct in the orchestra,” said Osorio.
Finding his way to this point, Osorio created some of his own opportunities. He independently studied musical scores and observed experienced conductors until he felt confident enough to give it a shot. In spring 2011, George approached Sylvia Mann, lecturer of music at CSU Dominguez Hills and conductor of the CSUDH Orchestra, about testing his skills, despite the fact he was not enrolled in her conducting class that semester.
“I let him try his hand at the final conducting exam anyway, as we had time for him to attempt it” said Mann, the concert’s musical director and faculty conductor. “Because of his obvious interest and aptitude, I agreed to take him on for independent study this fall. After his hard work this semester, I felt it was time to give him an opportunity to conduct in a public concert. The piece George is conducting is the only one of ‘serious’ classical roots in the first half of the concert. The others are holiday favorites.”
Osorio’s interests in conducting began while in high school. Since then, he’s observed conductors at marching band competitions and formal concerts, which has helped shape his style of conducting.
But Osorio’s interest in music in general began years earlier when he picked up the euphonium, a tuba-like tenor-voiced brass instrument.
“It’s not a really common instrument. I didn’t choose it; it kind of just happened,” Osorio said. “I was in sixth grade, when we were choosing our first instruments. They had clarinets, flutes, and French horns, and trombones, etc. The only openings they had were for euphoniums and the French horn. I didn’t know any of those instruments, but a classmate of mine said, ‘Look, Miss Tory, George doesn’t have an instrument.’ She said, ‘George, there’s four openings for baritone horn. Do you want to play that?’…. I played it, got used to it and I’ve played it ever since.”
Conducting students during rehearsals has helped Osorio mature as a young conductor.
“It was a nerve-wracking experience at first, because I didn’t know how the students would react to a new conductor; whether they would respond to me. However, in the middle of rehearsing, all the nervousness I begin with disappears as I work the music.
“I’ve learned that [being a conductor] requires a plan beforehand, so that you know what to do with the group and have a bag of tricks to use with the students to explain certain ideas when rehearsing music that might be challenging to comprehend at first,” said the somewhat mild-mannered Osorio. “Also, the student [conductor] has to have a dominating personality, even if you don’t have it in you naturally. This helps take control of the ensemble and with that, rehearsals run smoothly.
But it’s not just musicians that a conductor must manage.
“As a beginning conducting student, one of the challenging things is the ability to be able to read many lines simultaneously and know what instruments are playing what lines, and how to listen closely to mistakes and detect them to later fix them,” said Osorio.
An enterprising junior, Osorio is double majoring in music education (euphonium pedagogy and conducting) and Spanish (medieval literature). For the “Holiday Inspiration” concert he will not only be picking up a conductor’s wand but also his euphonium to perform with fellow ensemble members. He will also perform as a member of the CSU Dominguez Hills Chamber Singers during “Gloria” in D Major, a baroque piece by Antonio Vivaldi, and conducted by Mann.
Joining the university’s orchestra on stage will be the Southland Symphony Orchestra. The concert will also feature Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival,” Chip Davis and Calvin Custer’s “Stille Nacht,” Felix Bernard and Dick Smith’s “Winter Wonderland,” and selections from Peter Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite.”
Osorio, who plans to pursue post-graduate studies before a teaching career, has already had one experience conducting on stage. “Holiday Inspirations” was performed at Bethel United Church of Christ in Ontario this past Sunday.
Tickets are available at the door for Tuesday’s performance on campus; $10 for general admission, and $5 for students and seniors.
For more information about “Holiday Inspirations” or the CSU Dominguez Hills music program, contact the department office at (310) 243-3543 or visit cah.csudh.edu/.