Symphonies & Sports

How is a conductor like a quarterback? CBS News Cultural Correspondent Wynton Marsalis shows how Alan Gilbert’s conducting of the New York Philharmonic compares with Tom Brady’s quarterbacking of the New England Patriots. Marsalis is a master teacher. When Marsalis on Music, a series explaining music fundamentals to middle school students, came out on videotapes in 1995, I got them for my piano students, who especially loved “Why Toes Tap” in which he demonstrated rhythm with a basketball. It’s a joy to see Marsalis making more connections between music and sports. Leslie and David, thanks for sharing this wonderful feature.

Now watch Leonard Bernstein conduct with minimal effort–thanks, Marjo! 

How is it so easy for Bernstein?

  1. It’s the fourth movement of a Haydn symphony that the members of the Vienna Philharmonic know very well.
  2. The form is a Rondo; the A part keeps repeating.
  3. The rhythm is regular and constant.
  4. Bernstein was a genius; the orchestra respected him and he respected them. Plus, he has a very expressive face.

Another great conductor is Valery Gergiev, who conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra with similar restraint and superb results. Marsalis notes how advance preparation enables both conductors and quarterbacks to lead their concerts and games with great finesse. Perhaps there are lessons for parents here–planning ahead as much as possible and knowing when to drill and when to let go.

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