Dr. Amy Mason Sckipp, the ninth- and tenth-grade orchestra director at William Floyd High School, was one of only 12 conductors selected to attend the 7th Annual Conductors Institute held in Shenyang, China, this past summer. She was also just one of three Americans and one of two women participating in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Dr. Sckipp will recount her experiences in the December edition of School Music News published by the New York State School Music Association.
“I was honored to be included in this conducting adventure in China,” wrote Dr. Sckipp. “I learned so much about what I thought I was demonstrating in my own conducting and how to improve upon my skill set.”
This workshop, under the direction of Maestro Dr. Donald Portnoy, the Ira McKissick Koger Endowed Chair and Professor of Fine Arts at the University of South Carolina Department of Music, provided Dr. Sckipp and her contemporaries the opportunity to conduct the Shenyang Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal and performance. This workshop was designed to help aspiring conductors improve upon their art and ultimately lead professional orchestras.
In addition to being able to work with and lead the professional Shenyang Symphony, conductors received daily critique sessions in order to polish their skills.
“I have enjoyed 20 years of success with competitions and performances,” Dr. Sckipp noted. “I can still grow. We can always strive to be better. In the music world, we associate the word ‘maestro’ with conductors. We may not associate the word with teachers. However, teachers are conductors, and all can strive to be maestros.”
Dr. Sckipp concluded about the experience, “We should practice our conducting in the mirror just as we would practice our instruments in the mirror. We should attend classes or workshops that will help us enhance our conducting skills. We are teachers. We are maestros. Reflect on how the teacher as the conductor is the maestro of the classroom. Refine your skill of conducting as if you are leading professional musicians because some day, they may be,” referring to how students may become professionals one day and should be treated as such from the beginning.
A native of Pickens, South Carolina, Dr. Sckipp began her music studies with piano at age 7 and entered her public school’s orchestra program in the fifth grade. She studied music education at the University of South Carolina where she participated in the highly-acclaimed USC String Project. She worked closely with pedagogues, Ms. Pam Tellejohn-Hayes, Dr. Robert Jesselson and Dr. John Bauer and performed with the USC Symphony and Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Donald Portnoy.
Dr. Sckipp graduated with honors from the University of South Carolina in 1997, and was awarded the prestigious Peabody Award for Education. She received her M.A. (Master of Arts) in Liberal Studies from Stony Brook University, and earned both an Ed.M. (Master of Education) and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) in Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her doctoral research described the perceptions of string orchestra teachers who do not claim orchestral string instruments as their primary instruments of performance. She hopes her research will benefit the public school string orchestra programs in America. In addition to teaching, Dr. Sckipp is a freelance violinist and violist and has served as a guest conductor for festivals throughout the state of New York. Most recently, Dr. Sckipp has been invited to direct the South Carolina All-State Orchestra. She is very excited to return to her native state for this great honor.