Female conductors at Windsor workshop hope to inspire young women to lead music

Conductors from around the world are in Windsor for a week-long workshop aimed at teaching conductors how to help children connect with classical music.

'I hope this helps opening up doors for other kids'

Conductors from around the world are in Windsor this week for a workshop aimed at helping kids learn about classical music. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

As the sound of classical music swelled through the Capitol Theatre in Windsor Wednesday, conductor Dana Zimbric turned around to find a crowd full of tiny fingers tracing her every move.

The sight made her smile, especially as she watched several little girls beaming as they copied her directions for the orchestra.

"I like to think some of those girls out there today maybe are wishing they'll be a conductor someday," she said. "For a long time there weren't a lot of women in classical music."

Zimbric travelled all the way from San Diego to take part in the Conductor's Guild Workshop hosted by Windsor Symphony Orchestra director Robert Franz.

Dana Zimbric wants kids to get active and let music move them, literally. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The week-long lesson is meant to teach conductors how to help children connect with classical music.

"When these kids come to us it's often their first time experiencing the power and intensity of a live orchestra performing for them," explained Franz. "Experiencing that music and having the tools to really begin to understand what's happening on stage is really empowering for them."

Conductor Lessons

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Featured VideoThis conductor wants young girls to know they can lead an orchestra, too.

The director said the key to engaging kids is "active listening" — giving them something specific to listen for. That and allowing the conductors to turn around and engage with their audience to talk about the music.

Music provides a "great opportunity for kids to explore the world around them," Franz added.

Conductor Mercedes Diaz said she hopes to inspire young women to become conductors. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Zimbric takes the "active" part of Franz's instructions literally. One way she hopes to show children how much fun an orchestra can be is by encouraging kids to let the music move them.

"I have found that kids are very physical and the way they react to music is very natural," she said. "If you give them a body part or something to move with the music they make that physical connection as well as the intellectual connection."

Mercedes Diaz is originally from Spain where her love of instruments help her discover her dream of becoming a conductor. Now studying for her doctorate in contemporary music in Bowling Green, Ohio, she also travelled to Windsor for the workshop with the hope of passing on that passion to the younger generation — especially little girls.

"When I grew up I didn't have the experience of seeing women conducting," she said. "I hope this helps opening up doors for other kids as well."​