Alice on Composing & Conducting

Here’s a thought Alice Parker shared with me during one of our conversations last year. 
Like Alice, I spend my musical life switching between writing music for others and conducting music by others. After a lifetime of this, Alice says that for her composing and conducting are 2 sides of the same coin. She can’t imagine one without the other.

  • When she composes, she conducts to feel where it’s going. She uses her skills and training as a conductor to understand the music’s direction.

  • When she conducts, she is bringing back to life what was there before it was on paper. She uses her knowledge of the compositional process to imagine the piece as it was in the composer’s head.
If you are a full-time conductor, take some time to try writing a piece for your choir. You’ll gain insights as you try to write down your ideas.
If you are a full-time composer, try getting in front of an ensemble and conducting other people’s music. Learning to shape the interpretation based on the notation will influence the way you write things down in the future.
I became a conductor a bit by accident, and am delighted to find that the two halves of my musical life inform each other so very well.


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