“One more time,” Jordan Casty instructed the musicians as he conducted West Side Story’s “America.”

“But why?” instructor Alexander Beer asked. “As a conductor you need to tell them why, how to improve.”

Casty, one of four Berklee students studying at the Jazz and Rock Schulen last semester, gave more explicit directions. At the same time, he noted that some communication can be unspoken.

Up until recently, Casty saw conducting simply as a required course of study to complete his Berklee degree. It wasn’t until he took the class in Freiburg through Berklee’s study abroad program that he saw it threw a new lens. The confluence of being out of his element and the tiny class size worked to create a new kind of experience for Casty, illuminating just how transferable the skills are to any musical endeavor. “If you’re going to be in a band or interacting with people, you have to know how to communicate to them what you want and be a leader, a figure of trust. Conducting is really helpful with that,” he said.

In addition to conducting, Berklee students have a full spectrum of classes that line up with the Berklee curriculum. There are classes in harmony, counterpoint, and private instruction. Meanwhile, Berklee students get schooled in European music and art history, as well as the German language. And they have a chance to interface with Jazz and Rock Schulen classmates through conducting (Berklee students conduct J&RS musicians) and ensembles.

Lesley Mahoney
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