Q&A with Moores graduate student conductor Cristina Mendoza
Mendoza is a second- year doctoral student of musical arts specializing in instrumental conducting. She taught for 10 years at Nicholls State University in Louisana. She sat with The Daily Cougar to talk about conducting, her experiences at UH and about what she has going on this semester.
The Daily Cougar: How long have you been at Moores?
Cristina Mendoza: This is my second year of the doctoral program.
TDC: What exactly are you pursuing your degree in?
CM: Doctor of Musical Arts degree in instrumental conducting.
TDC: How has your experience with the program been?
CM: This program has really given me more hands-on conducting time than I would have received in other doctoral programs. We have three concert bands made up of music majors and one campus band that is open for anybody who wants to play. As graduate students in the band program, we are assigned pieces (repetior) to play with each band. … We get a variety of experiences and teaching. You don’t see that in many other doctoral programs. You are usually limited to just a few experiences, whereas our professor, David Burtman, really believes in giving us a lot of hands-on experience.
TDC: Can you describe a standout experience you’ve had?
CM: I can remember the first time I got in front of the wind ensemble, which is our top group, and I was assigned the rehearsal all by myself. There were no other teachers in the room, or things like that, and I was terrified to get in front of this excellent group of musicians who were very kind to me — very supportive. … They are all my friends. We work together so much that we all have a great working relationship, and a lot of them are close friends of mine. After I finished that rehearsal, their (reaction) showed me that I was at the right place and that I felt I could really achieve a lot in that group.
TDC: What do you hope to do once you are done with your degree?
CM: After I finish my degree, I would like to find a job teaching at the collegiate level.
TDC: Is it different when you are conducting a classical piece than something more modern or contemporary?
CM: It really can be a different experience, especially if a piece is very familiar — like an older classical piece that you might be familiar with from your past — or (even) if it’s something relatively new you’re not familiar with. So you really have to investigate the score, look at all the instrument parts and figure out who’s important at a particular moment and help the ensemble communicate the emotion and the intent of the music to the audience.
TDC: Is it intimidating being in front of an ensemble?
CM: The more you do it, the easier it gets. I find that having had some experience prior to coming to this program, it makes it a little easier. Although, I do get nervous every time. It’s exciting — the nervousness is more excitement than fear.
TDC: What are you looking forward to in your upcoming projects and performances?
CM: Thursday is the wind ensemble performance, and I am conducting two works in that concert. One is very expressive and lyrical, and the other is up-tempo and in the style of an Irish jig. Those are very contrasting, and I am excited for that performance.