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RNZAF Conductor Keen to Join Wairarapa Music Scene

27 October 2011

RNZAF Conductor Keen to Join Wairarapa Music Scene

Six months after moving from Wellington, Featherston resident and Director of Music for the Central Band of the RNZAF Owen Clarke is keen to get involved in the Wairarapa music scene.

“It’s a vibrant scene already and I’d like to add to that especially in the youth area,” says Owen.

His career with the RNZAF has seen him conduct and play abroad in places as diverse as Gallipoli (for Anzac Day), East Timor (to help develop a military band) and London. In New Zealand he leads the Band on an annual tour across the country.

It was while Owen was at Otago University that he was introduced to conducting. At the time he was studying the trombone. Sometimes Owen was asked to stand up the front to conduct or lead a group of musicians and then later, while overseas on a quest to further his trombone study, he sat in on some conducting classes that led him to the Czech Republic to complete an intensive conducting course before returning to New Zealand to complete his Post Graduate Diploma in Conducting.

Owen says it’s hard to put a finger on what it takes to be a good conductor. “You’ve got be a patient and be good with people. You work with people who have different personalities and they’re all quite strong, especially good ones, and rightly so. You’re job is to bring it all together.

“An individual might think they’re playing their instrument loud or soft enough, or fast or slow enough, but standing back you have an overall perspective of how the music should sound.”

So what does a conductor do? “It might look like we just stand up there and wave our arms but it’s a lot more than what you see in a concert, most of the work happens behind the scenes during practice.”

Conductors develop their own style, some are flamboyant and some are subdued but there are basic techniques. “Part of what we do is show how many notes there are in a bar. There are some set patterns but you work out your own style. You’ve got two hands and only one of them is needed to form the pattern, the other one can show players when to come in.”
Often the sign of a good conductor is that you don’t have to explain what you’re doing too much, says Owen.

Owen still plays the trombone in local brass bands and occasionally the Vector Orchestra but his work with the RNZAF as Director of Music comes first.

You can see Owen conducting the Central Band of the RNZAF at Air Force Proms on Sunday 6 November, 2.30pm at the Michael Fowler Centre. Tickets $20/$10 from 0800 TICKETEK.

Air Force Proms is made up of a group of musicians from the Central Band of the RNZAF. The Band currently has 65 members, many of which are full-time professional musicians, who work in Wellington with groups including the Vector Wellington Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Many of these musicians teach at schools in the Wellington and Hutt Valley areas. Past and present students of the Massey University and Victoria University music schools, now the NZ School of Music, account for a large number of the Band’s members.

The Band undertakes weekly rehearsals, donning uniform for official occasions such as street parades, Cathedral services and Guards of Honour for the arrival of foreign dignitaries at Parliament and Government House.

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