Monday, June 11, 2012 | 2 a.m.
With a commanding flick of his wrist – a motion perfected during a career leading some of the world’s finest symphonies – conductor David Dworkin focused the attention of a group of 30 Henderson senior citizens on the tip of his baton.
The seniors – using chopsticks as batons – mirrored the maestro’s movements, and with a quick “one, two” count, Dworkin launched the group into an hour-long aerobic odyssey that mixed music, exercise and a whole lot of fun.
“With your left hand I want you to bring in the woodwinds and the strings,” Dworkin said Friday as he coached the crowd at the Cottages of Green Valley through Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.” “Beautiful. Now listen for the trumpets. Hear the timpani.”
Dworkin spent Thursday and Friday in Southern Nevada teaching “Conductorcise” to several groups of seniors.
The class mixes exercise and musical appreciation, as Dworkin – a Julliard-trained clarinetist who has also conducted for the Philharmonic on the Hudson and the Manhattan Symphony Orchestra – showed the seniors the basics of conducting and encouraged them to swing their arms as much as possible to get their heart rates pumping.
“When you move, you’re creating blood circulation that goes to your brain,” he said. “You’re jump-starting the brain. Music brings people alive.”
Emily Sherwood, executive director of Cottages of Green Valley, said the community offered conductorcise classes two or three times a week using videos. The residents, she said, were excited to have Dworkin teach them in person.
“It’s a good thing for seniors. Especially those that can’t stand, they can still do it in a wheelchair, so you’re reaching a bunch of audiences,” Sherwood said. “And who doesn’t like music?”
Dworkin said he came up with his conductorcise programs about 10 years ago as he looked for something to keep himself occupied as he transitioned out of performing as a professional musician.
He’s since taught classes around the country and around the world, to groups ranging from preschoolers to senior citizens.
His Friday class in Henderson took the seniors on a ride through music history, covering famous composers like Johann Strauss and John Phillip Sousa, and touching a variety of genres, from polka to the waltz.
Throughout, Dworkin mixed in jokes and pieces of music trivia as he encouraged the audience to listen to the music in a new way.
“That’s an oboe, can you hear that?” he said during an Edvard Grieg suite. “We all know the melody, but I want you to really listen. I’m going to point out some of the colors the composer is using.”
Even at 78 years old, Dworkin is an irrepressible bundle of energy. Friday, he bounced to the rhythm of the music continuously, jumping up and down during crescendos, imploring his audience to join him in feeling the music.
“I want all of you to make a little noise and just let go,” he said. “Good. Terrific. More energy. Woo-hoo!”