this picture in a recent review of the Boston Symphony - "Disgraceful!" he said.Last week, a Violinist.com reader brought to my attention
At first I couldn't understand the problem - the picture shows Joshua Bell, accepting what looks like enthusiastic applause for a performance with the Boston Symphony, the conductor Anna Rakitina also applauding, beaming at the soloist. Then I started to look around at the orchestra. Hmmmm. They don't look very engaged. Sure, sometimes the photographer catches you in an off-moment, but it seems like most of them were having an off-moment here...
Certainly, orchestral musicians can't be smiling all the time, and what we do takes concentration. Performing orchestral music can be physically tiring, and perhaps classical music is more "art" than "entertainment." But I would maintain that it remains "performance," and with that comes an element of - well, performing!
I can't reproduce the Josh photo (it's linked above), but here's an amusing stock photo that illustrates the idea: one person looking bored, another chatting like no one is watching, the cellist literally yawning in the background...
In general, I have noticed orchestral musicians sometimes behave as if they were completely unaware that they were on stage, while giving a performance. Sloppy dress, poor posture, scowling, failing to acknowledge the audience, 'mailing it in,' looking bored.... 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. To be fair, some groups seem more aware of this than others.
Which brings me to the question, are classical musicians really taught stage deportment? Were YOU taught stage deportment? Personally, I wasn't really schooled on this until playing for more of a pops orchestra, at Disney World, where it was definitely about entertainment. We had costumes, we were told to smile, to clap, to applaud and to absolutely always be "on-stage" when on stage. It might sound extreme, but the ideas did stick with me.
So what should our behavior on stage be, as classical musicians? Should we act like we are on stage, from the moment we walk on, to the moment we sit back down? Is there any room for a little socializing on stage? Does it matter what we wear, and whether we comb our hair? Is it okay to start chatting with our colleagues while the soloist is taking ovations, or do we stay in the moment, perhaps look at the soloist, applaud also, etc.? Where are the lines?
Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts about stage deportment among classical musicians - what is the standard in your community, and what you feel it should be? Is it something you were taught? Do you feel there is any general consensus about it?
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