What a conductor actually does on stage

It’s more than just dancing around.

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If you’ve ever seen an orchestra perform you’ve probably had a difficult time looking away from the person dead center on the stage – the conductor. It’s hard to miss someone as they swing their arms around pointing at the musicians that seem to be focused instead on their music stands. So what exactly is the conductor doing?

We decided to ask James Gaffigan – a conductor who recently guest conducted the New York Philharmonic in Central Park – just what it is that makes a conductor so necessary and how their actions shape the performance.

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