Philadelphia Ballet Orchestra apprentice conductor Andrew Samlal with musicians during a rehearsal for George Balanchine's “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS.

In Tuesday’s (1212/) Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Dobrin writes, “In rehearsal for The Nutcracker, Beatrice Jona Affron stops conducting [and] starts gesturing to a young conductor who has taken over the podium, messaging cues about things happening in the ensemble … Step by step, bar by bar, this is … how the deceptively complex art, craft, and psychological game of being a conductor gets passed from one generation to the next. Last week’s Nutcracker coaching session is part of a new program at Philadelphia Ballet shepherded by Affron, the company’s longtime music director and conductor of the Philadelphia Ballet Orchestra. The company hosts one or two aspiring professional conductors each season to sit in on rehearsals, assist with musical and operational grunt work, and be mentored by Affron. The ballet’s run of The Nutcracker this month publicly reveals the fruit of the program’s labors. Na’Zir McFadden, the program’s first laureate, is conducting Act I in 13 of the company’s 31 performances, and the two current apprentices are leading several performances of the overture … After his ballet post, [McFadden] landed a plum: assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He’s 23 years old…. Young conductors can’t simply pull together 60 … or 100 of their closest friends to try out ideas for a Mozart or Mahler score. So experiences like the one offered by Philadelphia Ballet’s apprenticeship program are prized.”