Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Charisma, Conductors, and the Affective Communication Test

Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Charisma, Conductors, and the Affective Communication Test

Article excerpt

Abstract

The following study analyzed results of ensemble conductors of the Big-10, Big-12, and Pac-10 athletic conferences (N = 96) taking the Affective Communication Test (ACT) of nonverbal expressivity or charisma. Results indicate that conductors fall into two 'clusters' of charisma scores - those who appear to be lower (p = .13) than the general population norm and those scoring significantly (p < .01) higher than the norm. Further analyses revealed a trend that men scored higher on the ACT than women (p = .17) but there were no differences in scores between conductors of choirs, orchestras, and wind bands in the sample (p = .43). There also appears to be a weak, yet significant, trend (r = .28, p < .01) for conductors with higher scores to believe more strongly in the importance of a conductor's charisma.

Charisma, Conductors, and the Affective Communication Test

The art of conducting has seemingly always been linked to a conductor's charisma. Leonard Bernstein, whose larger-than-life personality created a lasting image of the modern conductor, was widely praised for his charismatic podium antics. Harold Schonberg (as cited in Bowen, 2003, p. 253) wrote "The conductor ... above all must have ... the mysterious thing known as projection; the ability to beam his physical and musical personality forward into the orchestra and directly backward into the lap of every listener of the audience. All great conductors have a remarkable power of projection." Carl Flesch (1958) added that "When all is said and done, conducting is the only musical activity in which a dash of charlatanism is not only harmless but absolutely necessary (p. 23)." However, there is scant evidence of any existing link between conductors and personal charisma other than in the subjective eyes of performers being conducted and the audience in attendance.

The present study seeks to find quantifiable evidence of whether conductors of college musical ensembles share a common (self-reported) charisma that is significantly different than the general population. It further examines whether there are differences in charisma based upon the sex of the respondent, the type of ensemble they principally conduct (band, choir, or orchestra), or how important they perceive charisma to be.

Charisma is commonly considered an individual's ability and need to motivate, lead, or educe the dedication of others. The study of charisma has long had quantifiable difficulties, principally stemming from two factors: conceptual ambiguity (what charisma actually is) and the lack of a standard and well-suited measuring tool. To this end, Friedman, Prince, Riggio, & DiMatteo (1980) designed the Affective Communication Test (ACT) to measure "individual differences in expressiveness" (p. 333). The researchers hypothesized that expressiveness is the essential trait of those people with exemplary charisma; those people able to motivate, move, and enthuse others. The ACT takes the form of a pencil-and-paper, self-report evaluation consisting of 13 questions. Subjects indicate the degree to which each statement is accurate. For example, one item asks "At small parties, I am the center of attention" while another asks "I dislike being watched by a large group of people" (Friedman et al, 1980, p. 335). Based upon a sample of college undergraduate volunteers between the ages of 16 and 53 (N = 311), the ACT was found to have an internal consistency of .77 and a test-retest reliability (over a two-month time span) of .90 (? < .001). This consistency and reliability led Friedman et al. to the conclusion that the ACT was a valuable tool for determining the expressivity of an individual or a group. Having established baselines for mean scores (M= 71.3) and standard deviations (SD = 15.2) for individual expressivity, Friedman et al. began examining various subsets of society. They found expressivity related significantly to the success of lecturers, perceived political charisma, acting (both training and experience), the choice of future occupation, and success of those employed in sales. …

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