KATIA MOLFESSI: THE MAESTRO OF UNIQUENESS. [Picture Description. On the left is written the title and on the right there is a picture of Katia Molfessi that balance the maestro's baton on her finger.]

Have you ever observed the movement of a conductor? Have you felt her/his passion while (s)he conducts? How? Does her/his movement or the resulting music captivate you as an audience or musician?

Have you wondered how a conductor could lead a choir when the musicians cannot watch her/his moves? These movements are necessarily guidance that must be detected or seen by the musicians. Have you ever considered how a conductor would lead a choir when the musicians cannot see his/her instructions?

That challenge is what Katia Molfessi had to undertake in the MusicKey Project 2018. Katia Molfessi conducted a very special choir; one different to all others she had ever experienced before.

She encountered a choir composed of both visually impaired and sighted people; diverse in musical and knowledge, from amateurs to professionals. Suffice to say, this was an unusual group of musicians!

Let me elaborate more on the extraordinary accomplishment of this conductor, the maestro of uniqueness…

Here is why Katia Molfessi so special.

[Inside joke: Why? Because I’m happy!]

  1. She is exceptional in her job even when the musicians do not have the music sheets, as Sophie mentioned.
  2. Talented and special. She loves what she does with contagious passion that flooded the choir this week, as Veronica said.
  3. Self-determined and motivated. Her determination guided us through the melody, keeping us on track even during the most intense of practice sessions and giving extra hours where necessary so that we were all on the same page, as Orr noted.
  4. She is a leader. Katia rose fully to the challenge with her own direct and humorous approach to conducting, Orr added. As Deborah noted, she was even able to laugh when it seemed like we would never get it right!
  5. She is more than skilled, considering that we were very diverse; some of us had lots of music experience, others didn’t, and she was handling it so well. Lots of respect for this woman, and a big thumbs up”- Youssri’s words.
  6. She bonded these people to one team and motivated them through rehearsals in just one week!
  7. She led a team of young people throughout their kindergarten behaviour moments…
  8. She overcame physical and mental stresses, holding long rehearsals day after day with the same choir in addition to having her own personal performance mid-week. Not only this, but her feet may still hurt from stomping on the stage to help the choir keep rhythm through the vibrations in the floor!
  9. I give up counting, now. It does not help anymore…

So, there are all the above recognised skills and the way she adapted to her job, in addition to meeting our needs in the small things too, the small things that mean so much!

She was always there when we needed her, rising to the challenge and risk of teaching a choir she did not know in a time pressured environment. This situation is not the typical career experience, demanding that she adjust the way she used the knowledge she has acquired so far and overcome fears she may have had. She acknowledged her limits but did not let them hold her back, instead recognising and meeting both her own and the choirs’ needs.

It is not possible to truly summarise all of Katia’s accomplishments or explain how unique she was through the rehearsals and concert, but it is official… she can conduct a choir even if the musicians aren’t able to watch her!

Because, either way, all of us are able to feel her and in some point, she is able to complete us!

It is no coincidence the last phrase of Ibrahim in the concert:

Thank YOU, teacher!

In this case the word “teacher” does not describe an occupation but an axiom!
Just as Orr wrote “Katia, if we could repeat it one more time, I think we all agree it would be with great pleasure”.

[Special thanks to Sophia Diedrichs, Youssri Mejdoubi, Déborah Kakolobango, Veronica Cosimelli, Orr Bodill, Esther McNeil et. al.  for their comments, advice, and critiques of this work]