The main character of my Perceval novels is Evan Quinn, a conductor. He’s six feet three inches tall. As I watched the Minnesota Orchestra rehearsal earlier this week and the concert yesterday, I was thinking a lot about Evan and his height. Why? I was watching a tall conductor at work this week.
During my initial research on conductors and conducting, people I spoke with asked me to describe Evan. Without exception each time, they told me that Evan could not be tall because conductors are short. They told me I must change Evan’s appearance and height so that he would be a “real” or “authentic” conductor. A (short) conductor also brought this up during an interview. He had expected that Fuertwangler, a tall German conductor, would conduct slower than a short conductor. In other words, his height determined the action of his hands and his energy. The short conductor was surprised that Fuertwangler had no problems with fast tempos.
I was astonished by this belief that height had anything to do with conducting. Height discrimination in music? Nonsense. In defiance, I refused to change Evan. It is interesting to me how often I have run into this — people wanting me to change a character to match their beliefs. I wondered if they also wanted to change the real people around them whom they encountered daily. Unfortunately, tall conductors, i.e. taller that six feet, are rather rare. I believe Klaus Tennstedt was taller than six feet. And now Mischa Santora, the conductor whom I was watching this week, is much taller than six feet.
So, Evan stands tall at six feet three inches and conducts with the energy of a short conductor….