One complaint that occasionally arises about classical music is that the musicians onstage look "bored," or that they don't smile enough.
And generally we musicians take some exception to this; after all, it does take keen concentration to play in a symphony orchestra! Of course orchestra musicians will look like we are concentrating, and we may not be smiling. Producing this kind of music is not a circus act, after all!
But somewhere in between these extremes I think there is a point to be made. I must confess that at times I have noticed orchestral musicians behaving as if they were completely unaware that they were on stage, giving a performance. Sloppy dress, poor posture, scowling, failing to acknowledge the audience, 'mailing it in,' looking bored -- I've seen this, and it's a problem when it happens. I don't think it's a matter of needing to smile constantly, but orchestral musicians need to be engaged and aware that they are making an appearance and trying to connect with an audience.
When I was in college I was in an orchestra at Disney World, and before even the first performance, they absolutely drilled into us the idea that we were "on stage," from the minute we walked out of the break room and into the park, and certainly when we were actually standing on the stage. They demanded that we make an effort to deport ourselves well, look alive, "bring it," be aware of what other musicians were doing, be aware of everything going on onstage, smile when appropriate, clap when appropriate, play our best, look our best. Yes, you are performing the whole entire time you are on stage!
A colleague of mine, speaking of this issue, recalled the conductor of a student choir telling his students that when they weren't singing, it was their responsibility to model the type of behavior that they wanted from the audience, that they should look engaged with the music.
These seem like good starting points.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Is this even an issue, or not? How much should musicians be expected to "perform," beyond playing the music required? Please participate in the vote, and then in the comments please share your thoughts on how orchestral musicians can best engage with an audience, what you feel musicians are doing right and any specific ways we can improve. Feel free to offer examples of orchestras who are making it work and what they are doing!
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