Conductor James Rose designs his own head-baton to help fulfil a lifelong ambition

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Disabled conductor, James Rose has been developing a specially-designed head-baton as an accessible aide to conduct using head movements. After working on several prototypes, Rose is now ready to take the project a step further, with a funding application to Arts Council England. Joe Turnbull chronicles his progress thus far.

A photograph of conductor James Rose wearing a prototype head-pointer baton.

Conductor James Rose with one of his prototypes.

Rose originally trained in broadcasting and has produced a number of films, as well as being an accomplished performer and actor who has worked with Graeae Theatre and performed in the London 2012 ceremonies. For the last four years he has been training as a composer and conductor.

In 2012, he began adapting his head pointer to work as a conductor’s baton. Rose recalls that he first had the idea some 18 years previously after getting a head pointer to help him operate computers at age 9: “after a few weeks of using the head pointer, I began thinking as to whether I could conduct music using my head… as you do!”

Although the initial prototype worked, allowing Rose to conduct a string quartet, the head pointer covered his face. With the advice of fellow composer and conductor John Lubbock a second prototype was devised allowing Rose’s chin to show his face; an important adaption considering the emotion displayed by a conductor is essential in directing the other performers.

However, the aluminium construction was heavy, would become unbalanced and caused Rose headaches. Going back to the drawing board for a third time, Rose made a design using plastic materials and baton element protruding from one side, which also did not obscure his face. Rose would like to improve the aesthetics of this latest design but it works from a practical perspective.

Armed with his new headgear, Rose is ready to tackle ever bigger and better conducting projects. With the help of a pending Grants for the Arts bid, Rose hopes to take his conducting to the next level by working with a string quartet at the Royal Academy of Music, in partnership with established conductors, Sian Edwards and John Lubbock in February 2016.

Whatever the outcome of the bid, DAO will be following the progress of this budding talent, and Rose will be chronicling his ongoing journey in a series of forthcoming DAO blogs. Watch this space.