Playing without a conductor is not a new concept, but it’s also not a common one — especially in Houston.
“I noticed that was something that the city didn’t have,” says violinist Natalie Lin, founder of the KINETIC Ensemble, which is in its inaugural season. She notes that other major U.S. cities have conductorless groups, such as New York City’s Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Washington, D.C.’s Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra.
Lin explains that shedding the conductor allows every musician of the 16-member string orchestra to give their artistic input. It also means that everyone has to stay alert. It’s their responsibility to recognize the cues.
So does that help improve musicianship?
“Oh my god, incredibly,” says principal cellist Max Geissler, laughing, adding that the experience demands the skills used in playing chamber music. Ultimately, that has a lot to do with having a strong connection between the musicians during a performance.
“You have to communicate every little detail,” Geissler says. “And that clarity can only help every aspect of your music-making.”
KINETIC’s members consist mostly of grad and undergrad music students at Rice University. Their next concert is Sunday, January 14th, at 4 p.m. inside Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Houston.