Score Preparation with Robert Houlihan | Academic Festival Overture

Conductor Robert Houlihan on score preparation in advance of conducting Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture which is part of the repertoire for the 2023 IAYO Orchestral Conducting Course. We advise following your own copy of the score which is available for download at


Alan Cutts’ ‘Music Visible’ Conducting Books Available Online

‘Music Visible’ is the title Alan Cutts  gave to a three-part course book he wrote for use with his students studying conducting as part of their degree course at CIT Cork School of Music. It was never meant for publication but as a conducting tutor it is unique in its combination of practical guidance and heart-felt inspiration for all those engaged in this most complex and vital aspect of music-making. The well-thumbed paper copies still treasured by Alan’s former students testify to its lasting value. It has therefore been decided to make it available online for any and every would-be conductor.


Download “Music Visible: Book 1” & “Music Visible: Books 2 & 3“.

“Alan was a man of very great integrity in everything he did. As co-founder of County Wexford School of Music I worked closely with him for almost 20 years. He was an outstanding teacher and conductor and founded Co Wexford Youth Orchestra and Co Wexford Youth Choir.“
– Eileen Herlihy, Co-Founder of County Wexford School of Music

Born in 1950, Alan grew up in London, becoming familiar with the standard orchestral repertoire, but developing a particular attraction to the post-war avant-garde. It was Joseph Weingarten whose endlessly painstaking teaching at the piano brought him to a fuller understanding of the 19th century piano repertoire. George Hurst’s summer conducting classes were an ongoing source of inspiration, while two hours with a pupil of Bela Katona set him up for years of reward later on teaching beginner and grade violin.

Alan came to work in Ireland in 1979 with Wexford Festival Opera and the following year, established the Wexford School of Music with Eileen Herlihy to develop music education in the county. It was during this time that Alan began a long period of creating arrangements and teaching materials which are still widely used today. Performances were as director of the Wexford Festival Singers, the Wexford Youth Choir and the Wexford Youth Orchestra.

“Alan was always so helpful to me when I started teaching at the County Wexford School of Music. He advised me on repertoire for the County Wexford Youth Orchestra when I took over in 2007 and we performed many of his arrangements in Ireland and abroad. I visited Alan after attending Canford Conductors School over 2 summer periods and he presented me with a copy of his conducting books and explained each one in detail. I still use them regularly and will continue for a long time. Anne McLeod gave me a present of a couple of his batons after he died and it is an honour to use them when conducting orchestras.”
– Emily Redmond, current conductor of County Wexford School of Music Youth Orchestra

Alan continued in Wexford before coming to Cork in 1997 to work with CIT Cork School of Music, taking choirs and string orchestras, and teaching conducting and orchestration on the degree and post graduate courses. His former pupils all speak so highly of Alan including Tom Doyle, current lecturer in Conducting, director of the Senior Orchestra in CIT Cork Sc hool of Music, and one of Alan’s last postgraduate students. Following Alan’s sudden passing in February 2016, Tom took over his conducting classes and the bedrock of the material he uses comes from Alan’s teaching.

“It is with immense pride and great privilege that I, as a former student of the late Alan Cutts’ for over fifteen years can say, that he had a defining influence on my life’s decision to pursue a career in music. A profoundly inspirational and deeply committed musician, music educator and conductor, his genius brought the teacher-pupil relationship in performance music education to a whole other level and he invested selflessly of himself in nurturing my love of music and passion for music education. Long may his legacy live through the work of all of those he influenced throughout his life.”
– Rosaleen Molloy, National Director, Music Generation

Conducting Rhythmic Exercises

Download a set of rhythmic exercises as pdf.

Range Checker

Handout on ranges of orchestral instruments. Download.

Range Checker

Handout on ranges of orchestral instruments. Download.

Twelve “Don’ts” for Conductors by Pierre Monteux

  1. Don’t over conduct. Don’t make unnecessary movements or gestures.
  2. Don’t fail to make music. Don’t allow the music to stagnate. Don’t neglect any phrase or overlook its integral part in the complete work.
  3. Don’t adhere pedanticallu to metronomic time. Vary the tempo according to the subject or phrase and give each its own character.
  4. Don’t permit the orchestra to play always a boring mezzo-forte.
  5. Don’t conduct without a baton. Don’t bend over while condecting.
  6. Don’t conduct solo instruments in solo passages. Don’t worry or annoy sections or players by looking intently at them in difficult passages.
  7. Don’t forget to cue players or sections who have had long rests, even though the part is seemingly an unimportant one.
  8. Don’t come before the orchestra if you have not mastered the score. Don’t practice or learn your scores on the orchestra.
  9. Don’t stop the orchestra if you have nothing to say. Don’t speak too softly or only to the first srands.
  10. Don’t stop for obviously accidental wrongs notes.
  11. Don’t sacrifice ensemble in an effort for meticulous beating. Dont hold sections back in technical passages where the urge comes to go forward.
  12. Don’t be disrespectful to your players. Don’t forget individual rights as a person. Don’t undervalue the members of the orchestra simply because they are “cogs” in larger “wheels”.

Recommended Reading

Adey, Christopher: Orchestral Performance. Faber & Faber, 2012.

Adler, S: The Study of Orchestration. Available as a book and also with a set of accompanying multimedia discs with examples.

Berlioz, Hector. On Conducting: Theory of the Art of Conducting, found in Treatise on instrumentation. New York: Kalmus, 1948. Download as pdf.

Boult, Sir Adrian Cedric: A Handbook of the Technique of Conducting, revised edition. Oxford, Hall the Printer, 1968.

Demaree, Robert W. and Don V Moses: The Complete Conductor. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice­Hall, 1995.

Michael L. Friedmann: Ear Training for Twentieth-Century Music. New Haven, Ct, Yale University Press, 1990.

Galkin, Elliott W.; A History of Orchestral Conducting. In Theory and Practice. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1988.

Grosbayne, Benjamin: Techniques of Modern Orchestral Conducting, second edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973.

Leinsdorf, Erich: The Composer’s Advocate. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

Malko, Nikolai and Elizabeth A. Green: The Conductor and His Score, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice­Hall, 1975.

McElherhan, Brock. Conducting Technique: For Beginners and Professionals, revised edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Olivér, Nagy: Partitúra-olvasás – Partitúra-játék. Budapest, Zeneműkiadó, 1975

Prausnitz, Frederik. Score and Podium. New York: W.W. Norton, 1983.

Rudolf, Max: The Grammar of Conducting, third edition. New York. Schirmer Books, 1994.

Scherchen, Hermann: Handbook of Conducting. London: Oxford University Press, 1933.

Schuller, Gunther. The Compleat Conductor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Wagner, Richard: On Conducting. London: W.Reeves, 1897. Available to read online here.

Weingartner, Felix: On Conducting. New York: Kalmus, n.d.


A series of articles by Tim Reynish as available at

What A Music Conductor Knows About Leadership: Hugh Ballou from

Mystery of the maestros: what are conductors for?from The Guardian.

Theory of Conducting: Formal Analysis on blogspot.