Make your goal as a conductor this one word: less.
What must you do to encourage musicality from your singers? Do this and nothing more.
Can you discern between necessary and unnecessary work? Try less.
The biggest goal I set for myself as a conductor this year was to be offstage for most of my choir’s concert in June. We’ve made progress on that goal, with performances in the last two days that saw me standing in front of my ensemble with hands at my sides. I was a safety net, but they drove their own performance.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend who is not a conductor, but a wise observer of conductors. He agreed that the best conducting is often the least, and when he stands in front of choirs, rather than trying to wave his hands ineffectually, he simply expresses the music physically, with excellent effect.
There is a point when the conductor conducts expressively not to elicit a sound from their choir, but because they fear what would happen if they don’t – a loss of control, a different interpretation, a musical mistake.
Don’t let fear drive your conducting. Do less and see what happens.