What to Wear?!

December 29, 2007 at 07:42 PM · Hello friends,

Well, auditions are rolling around fast and, although my repertoire is in its final stages, I am now presented with the problem: what to wear for those auditions, anyway??

I've read and heard different opinions on this and have come to the conclusion that, while appearances do matter and you want to make a good impression, you don't want to be so made up that that's all they remember about you. So....Girls, what did you wear for your auditions? Pants or skirt? A dress? I guess it's probably safe to stick with black?

Guys are welcome to respond as well.

Replies (100)

December 29, 2007 at 08:53 PM · I've always worn black for my auditions. Lately I've worn a long, dressy skirt (the one I have has some neat flaring at the bottom), a comfortable but dressy knit blouse, and FLATS. Heels are cute, but I've never regretted the comfort and stability of ballet flats :) Black gauchos also look elegant. Simple is good I think.

December 30, 2007 at 08:27 AM · Yeah I always perform in flats too unless it's a chamber or orchestral concert, in which case I'm sitting down and it's kinda fun to wear heels. So what you're saying is pretty much wear what you'd wear for a concert?

December 30, 2007 at 12:16 PM · I've always envied the ladies for not having to wear jackets to perform. When I hear them talking about whether say, to wear sleeves or go sleeveless, I think "if only I could just wear sleeves!" When I'm running my own show at a recital, that is, in fact what I do. I've got to find a tailor to custom-design a very comfortable jacket.

December 30, 2007 at 12:16 PM · I know I'm not a girl (though I have been confused for one a few times before), I'd say the best thing to wear is something that you're comfortable in, and you know you can play in. Concert gear is good, because generally you've played in it before so you know if it's going to restrict you (which if it's good concert gear, it shouldn't). You ladies also have a far greater range of shoes to choose from, where as for guys it's pretty much dress shoes. Thankfully, I feel comfortable wearing a suit and tie, but I would also consider doing an audition in jeans and a smart shirt. Best to go with concert gear though, especially if it's not a blind/screened audition.

December 30, 2007 at 04:38 PM · I was once at a Seattle Symphony Concert where the great soprano Jane Eaglen did a "fashion show" for the audience. She literally changed her concert attire for every different aria in the program. (Keep in mind, she is VERY big). :)

December 30, 2007 at 04:44 PM · I did my auditions in a jean mini skirt and a really cute polo... not the best fashion decision I've ever made but I got into all the schools I auditioned at!

I think the most important thing to remember here is that you really want to stand out and make an impression. I hate when people wear all black because it doesn't show any creativity whatsoever, we are artists after all! Play in something that shows off your personality while still looking like you spent some time to look presentable. At the end of the day nobody is going to be commenting on your clothes unless they were horrible.

And no one likes playing in heels! From a pageant girl, there is NOTHING more amazing for a musicians posture than playing in heels. I play better because it effortlessly straightens out your lower back and gives a greater range of motion to the upper back and shoulders. Just make sure you clock some time practicing in them before you wear them onstage.

Good luck!!!

December 30, 2007 at 07:39 PM · Here is a suggestion from a 55 year old man.

Your clothing should cause the listener to focus on the performance not the performer. Looks fade (take it from me) but great playing can go on into a performer's old age. Focussing on anything else is a way to court disappointment when people quit responding to your appearance because your playing was never quite as special as your physical charms..

From a man to a woman, let me tell you that the most alluring women have have a high degree of modesty in dress and deportment. They are gracious in the deepest meaning of grace and graciousness. They exude an aura of taste and refinement. Modesty bids me to go no further...

December 30, 2007 at 08:23 PM · Jane Eaglen? If she was the same as when we did Wagner with her, then those costume changes must have taken quite a while...

December 30, 2007 at 08:27 PM · yes, the costume changes took a while so the programming was "strategically" done to accomodate this need. LOL

December 30, 2007 at 08:38 PM · This summer I was at a masterclass (at a summer festival I went to). The guy giving the class was a very prominent violinist, often discussed here. The girl who is quite beautiful, played the concerto quite well but ignored the character of the composer totally. For the next 10-15 minutes, she was chastized in front of about 200 people, (many of them violinists, with other quite prominent teachers/players in attendance) for being too pretty and using her body for the performance.

Now, I can understand that sometimes a girl might use her looks to her advantage, but from what I saw that day, there seems to be a school of thought among the older, shall we say, more eastern trained, that if you are a beautiful woman, you should be more covered up, and unless you play more precisely how something should be played, you'll be blamed for using your looks.

I definately thought she could have played differently, but if I'd gone up on stage and played that same concerto (which I have performed), and played it in that manner, then the guy giving the class would have criticized my musical choices without any reference to how I look.

So, if you're a good looking girl, I would advise you to be somewhat careful because you never know whether you're going to make someone mad, or the total opposite, (which certainly isn't unheard of), which can be a big advantage in an audition situation.

Performance wise, I absolutely think that if you've got it, flaunt it. Of course there are matters of good taste, but I see no reason why a beautiful woman should ever feel like they should be modest just because some grouchy 50 year old bald guy has trouble focusing on the music. There's enough very good looking violinists with a great deal of artistic credibility who perform in very fashionable outfits, so I see no reason why it should be frowned upon.

December 30, 2007 at 08:40 PM · Goodness, what a weird criticism...I've heard people criticized (rightly and wrongly) for "ignoring the composer's intentions", and I've heard violinists criticized (usually wrongly) for "just using their looks to sell tickets", but that's the first I've heard of someone combining the two.

Regarding the original question of what to wear for auditions, I would say think simple, afternoon-formal, and most of all elegant. For my various auditions I usually wore a simple black skirt or pants and a nice blouse of some silky material with a pretty pattern. Easy on the shoes--auditions are inevitably nerve-wracking and the last thing you want to be thinking about is how much your feet hurt.

December 30, 2007 at 09:39 PM · Mr. Slack - Thanks. That sounded like something my dad would say, which is a compliment. I really respect and admire him. It does help a girl to hear the other side of the story...

Ben and Raphael- Well I always wondered how guys can play with bow ties? How do you do it? And I really do sympathize with you guys having to wear jackets. I can't imagine performing in a shirt, some sort of tie, and jacket. Playing the Sibelius is hard enough without all that...

Pieter - Wow what a story. It really is something to think about though, that's why I asked this question. Personally I like to wear different colors or cool top/skirt/pants/shoes combos for recitals and concerts, but it can be tricky to find something comfortable (that I like) that looks great as well as compliments the performance. Very interesting that you noticed that trend. Thanks for giving me your take on it.

As for performing in heels...I have nothing against low or medium heels, actually they can be comfortable and look cute, but I most definitely am not comfortable in anything too high when playing a recital (standing up) or any sort of solo. Not fun.

December 30, 2007 at 10:26 PM · Always a dress, always strapless and always in heels. The rest is up to you :-)

December 30, 2007 at 11:38 PM · I haven't been on for quite a while...but couldn't resist this question! It's a pet issue of mine!

I think for classical performances/auditions a woman should stick with the basics - something up to date that fits well and is comfortable with no chance of 'wardrobe malfunction'. If you want to jazz it up a bit, you might want to try jewellery that doesn't interfere with playing, maybe an unexpected shoe (nothing over the top though), or do something chic with your hair, etc.

Dressing too casual says 'I don't care' about YOUR rules or tradition. Dressing too trendy suggests short-sightedness.

We make our first impressions in 30-60 seconds. And those impressions take much longer to change. This isn't a time I would choose to be my own person!

Woman in this instance are much more apt to make wardrobe mistakes than men (with their admittedly limited options). I've seen women falling out of their blouses, wearing fuzzy clothes that should have been retired years ago, wearing functional but totally out of date clothes, wearing flip-flops etc.

With so many options in clothing available to us presently, there is no excuse not to have a serviceable audition/performance outfit.

And you can go as expensive or as cheaply as necessary...Walmart carries perfectly serviceable black slacks/skirts and whatever else is needed. Even the used clothing stores will appropriate clothing if you have the time to browse.

December 31, 2007 at 01:36 AM · "For the next 10-15 minutes, she was chastized in front of about 200 people, (many of them violinists, with other quite prominent teachers/players in attendance) for being too pretty and using her body for the performance."

In other words, she got jumped by a gang of homely biotches. Guaranteed afterward they went off and sulked.

On a serious note, dark green leisure suit with combat boots. Always worked for me. Available at finer thrift stores.

December 31, 2007 at 02:50 AM · Oddly enough, the bow tie doesn't bother me. The important thing there is that since the top button must be closed, the neck size of the shirt has to be big enough. But that darn jacket!

I don't envy the balancing act in heels - but I must admit that I love the look when you ladies do so!

December 31, 2007 at 04:51 AM · The trick is to get a jacket tailored with high arm holes, and fine fabric. Most garments are made with super100s-120s. If you can get something of the 180 or even 200 variety, it helps. It's obviously quite expensive, and I'd have more than one set made to rotate if you use it often.

December 31, 2007 at 06:52 AM · A professor once told me:

Violin playing is 80% looks and 20% actual violin playing.

December 31, 2007 at 07:12 AM · Hey Lauren,

For all of my auditions I wore black dress pants and a dressy black blouse. You want to wear something you're comfortable in that looks professional - like you take your performance seriously! - without distracting and going over the top. So avoid flashy, big bangle earrings or overly flashy/revealing blouses!

That's my two cents anyways!!

December 31, 2007 at 08:42 AM · "A professor once told me:

Violin playing is 80% looks and 20% actual violin playing."

Here I've been thinking that Oistrakh's success was due to his incredible technique and transcendant artistry, and all this time it was his looks. Illuminating.

December 31, 2007 at 09:38 AM · Pieter, if it's not true, then those top-rank pros wouldn't have felt they had permission to berate that poor girl. And you know plenty who'd have a career stunted by their looks. People are preoccupied with looks, and not just in fiddling. You might want to believe music is something that places you above other human beings, but it's only one more human enterprise.

December 31, 2007 at 01:20 PM · Re the jacket - also with or w.o. internal shoulder pads, which can be removed, the sizing in that area is usually very stiff.

A professor once told me:

Violin playing is 80% looks and 20% actual violin playing."

Yes, I think that was Professor Fernando ("you look mahvlous") Lamas, or possibly Assistant Professor, Billy Crystal!

December 31, 2007 at 01:35 PM · Ms. Meinzer, Perhaps a look at your picture explains your professor's comment. You are definitely an eyeful. Are you also an earful?

December 31, 2007 at 03:02 PM · Well Corwin, she's a teenage college student at a pretty well regarded music program. I would imagine she probably makes a pretty nice sound!

December 31, 2007 at 02:53 PM · Pieter, "looks" doesn't necessarily mean attractiveness, I suspect what the proffesor meant was partly how the violinist looks on stage, presence, poise etc. Maybe.

December 31, 2007 at 03:14 PM · (cough)If it's 80% looks, she's at least 80% it (cough)

December 31, 2007 at 03:39 PM · Bilbo, indeed.

I hope that this is taken in the most generous way possible but if Ms. Meinzer's playing matches her appearance then a career is a sure thing on the grounds of her playing alone.

December 31, 2007 at 03:46 PM · I think that one needs to think of what one wears as sort of "marketing for oneself." In that sense, what are you trying to "sell."

People in IT dress down, because it's cool to dress down in IT. Bill Gates looked like a nerd and made lots of money so that's what's cool.

People in law tend to wear suit and tie. They are dressed to kick some butt in a professional setting.

I think that if one is playing for a college audition, it is probably a good idea to look like you have a formal/professional side in addition to being able to play. As a music student one has to be prepared to take a certain amount of flack. Having a professional side really helps to enable you to do that. You are going to be dealing with the faculty presumably for the next 4 years. In what way do you think they'd want you to behave over the next 4 years? Dress in a way that conveys that. I think most people's suggestions so far are in that approximate ballpark.

If you're trying to market yourself to a record company, flaunting ones looks may or may not be a bad way to go. That depends on who you are and where you are in your career. I think, as Corwin suggests, you better be prepared to back it up with your play if you do.

December 31, 2007 at 05:08 PM · Pieter Viljoen wrote,

"Here I've been thinking that Oistrakh's success was due to his incredible technique and transcendant artistry, and all this time it was his looks. Illuminating."

That would be funny, except for the cruel, sexist, and public exchange with Sung-Duk Song about Jane Eaglen.

There really is a double-standard for women. If you dress or move in a way that is considered too provocative, or if you are simply too beautiful, then you are not serious... or you're even "asking for it." Sound familiar?

And if you're overweight or conventionally unattractive, you're fair game for public insults.

December 31, 2007 at 05:29 PM · Hear, hear!

December 31, 2007 at 05:42 PM · Amen to that, E. Smith! It really is a rock-and-a-hard-place situation...

December 31, 2007 at 06:08 PM · It's so much easier to dress if you're male. Slap on some loafers, some khakis, a dress shirt and you're done. End of story. Men's pants even have pockets - very practical. Form-fitting is inconsequential. Weight is a potential issue only if you're overweight by 20% or more.

I'd guess that 90% of opera singers, male or female, are typically 100% overweight.

December 31, 2007 at 06:51 PM · Of course I know it is important, many of the newer crop look at least half decent by current popular culture standards. The point is though, that no matter what you think of say, Hillary Hahn or Znaider, no matter how they look, they can still play better than 99% of competition regulars.

The winner of Sibelius might turn out to have a big career because she is just stunning.

E smith; I think I've been an equal opportunity commentator in that regard. My comment about Oistrakh (where I simply replied saying that his looks had nothing to do with his career) was no more "cruel sexist" and whatever other melodramatic distinctions you'd like to attach to it than me saying that if Ms. Eaglen is as I remember her, a concert full of constume changes might take quite some time. Just keep in mind that it was me who brought up that anecdote from this summer.

December 31, 2007 at 06:41 PM · Insulting a woman for her weight is in bad form.

It is bullying. It is cowardly. It is mean and stupid and small-minded. And it wouldn't matter so much ("sticks and stones...bones") except that this sort of bullying is not only tolerated, it is often encouraged or at least tacitly supported and as a result it is a form of systematic negative baseless discrimination.

Of course it becomes difficult to resist, with respect to the Hollywood types and their surgeries, and yet even they are people, even if they do make a mockery of themselves.

Actually, bullying is stupid in any case. I never could see the need nor the attraction to habitually saying mean things to people/about people. How does it make one's world a better place?

Not to get too philosophical, but the impersonal internet is a totally contrived place: It is easy to make comments here, to hide behind a cloak of anonymity or merely of distance. Some people write things that make me say "eeew" and yet would that person say those things in person? Perhaps not. But because this internet leaves a written legacy, it is in some ways even more damaging. It doesn't just "go away" like an off-color comment spoken in private. In fact this post will live on in google for ever.

So what to wear? What you feel is right. Also, it is always possible to ask first! If all else fails, there's always Amy Vanderbilt's book.

December 31, 2007 at 06:51 PM · "E smith; I think I've been an equal opportunity commentator in that regard. My comment about Oistrakh was no more "cruel sexist" and whatever other melodramatic distinctions you'd like to attach to it than me saying that if Ms. Eaglen is as I remember her, a concert full of constume changes might take quite some time. Just keep in mind that it was me who brought up that anecdote from this summer."

Pieter, I recognize that, and I thought your Oistrakh comment was funny. Of course I have a chip on my shoulder about proper dress because I look like a penguin.

December 31, 2007 at 07:02 PM · I'm no adonis either but I have a sense of humor, and I didn't agree that violin playing is 80% looks, because with the level of the top players being as it is, that just doesn't make any sense.

December 31, 2007 at 07:20 PM · If it were 80% looks, then wouldn't BOND and LAMPENIUS have shouldered aside all the great artists (oh, but that is sex appeal, not necessarily looks. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And not that there is anything wrong with sex. appeal.)

I think some of this is like politics. Genuine people are a joy; we sense genuineness and gravitate towards it. If someone is genuinely beautiful or friendly then ok then.

December 31, 2007 at 07:13 PM · E. Smith, You DO NOT look like a penguin not that I have any objection to penguins.

Back to the original question, Would it work if we treat auditions like a job interview? Presentable, neutral, while looking pleasant?


December 31, 2007 at 07:37 PM · Ihnsouk,

Have you clicked on my profile photo?

December 31, 2007 at 07:46 PM · Now I have. Very funny!


December 31, 2007 at 07:59 PM · Back to the original question, Would it work if we treat auditions like a job interview? Presentable, neutral, while looking pleasant?



Yes, I would think that's exactly right.

December 31, 2007 at 08:20 PM · Maybe a little more stylish than "neutral", but I wouldn't risk anything too revealing or uncomfortable. Also, this may seem obvious, but sometimes the smartest people miss the obvious: test drive the dress before you wear it out.

December 31, 2007 at 08:34 PM · Wisdom.

I believe, if I am not mistaken, that E. Smith is the mother of some very talented and beautiful young performers and she knows, from a mother's perspective, whereof she speaks.

December 31, 2007 at 09:20 PM · Though I make it a policy not to take wisdom from penguins, I would make an exception in this case... ;)

December 31, 2007 at 11:18 PM · Re Ms. Meinzer, I must respectfuly agree with my colleagues, Jim and Corwin. (Jim, Corwin and Raphael all in agreement at the same time? Is this one of the seven signs?)

But seriously, if the "M" stands for Marin, and I think it does, then she is an earful, as well. On the Ricci master class DVD, she leads off with a fine performance of the Prokoffieff #1!

December 31, 2007 at 11:21 PM · This thread will reach 100 responses !

December 31, 2007 at 11:28 PM · Beat me to the punch.

December 31, 2007 at 11:41 PM · 1) Indeed I can hold my own musically. I go to IU on scholarship and am finishing my BM in performance in only 3 years. And yes, in fact, the M.E. does stand for Marin Elizabeth. Only if I remember correctly my performance in the Ricci masterclass was a number of years ago and does not come close to what I can do now... at least I'd like to hope my college education has done something for my playing! ;)

2) The 80% is to be taken somewhat tongue in cheek. However, my personal belief is that appearance plays a much larger role in violin playing than anyone realizes. A person with a great deal of actual physical attractiveness, poise, and personality who plays just as well as their less attractive counterpart will always come out on top. I know from both violin and pageant experience, thank you!

January 1, 2008 at 12:15 AM · Marin - to go a bit off topic, but on a serious note - how do you recall liking that master class experience with Ricci? On the DVD, it's often hard to understand his speech. Was he clearer in person? Also, as I recall in the interview with him (on the last DVD of the set) he mentions at one point (on the subject of tuning) that if a student comes in with his violin tuned higher than his, he'd just as soon tune up to the student. Yet when you and others played for him, his violin sounded lower.

January 1, 2008 at 01:00 AM · Be comfortable, in every sense of that word. Wear something that will allow you to play the violin in a physically comfortable way; and also wear something that makes you feel like yourself, not like you are donning another persona or faking something just for the audition.

I've found that in every kind of audition or job interview, if you have to fake something, or "reign it in" or "punch it up," it's not the right fit for either you or your employer/teacher.

January 1, 2008 at 01:00 AM · The masterclass with Ricci was an interesting experience. He was very hard verbally to understand, but what you aren't seeing on the DVD is a lot of the nonverbal communication that I felt between us. I learn almost completely nonverbally, so it worked for me. However that time, and other times I have spoken with him he has always been a little difficult to decipher.

On the subject of tuning, the day of the class there wasn't a lot of time for all of the students who wanted to play, which I'm sure is why he wasn't tuning to each of us. I'll review the DVD again and check it out. Let me know if you have any other questions.

January 1, 2008 at 01:42 AM · "I know from both violin and pageant experience, thank you! "

It's a pageant where they emphasize the talent portion of the competition.


January 1, 2008 at 02:08 AM · Marin,

If you couldn't play, it wouldn't matter if you were Miss Universe. You wouldn't win a violin competition.

The next logical question is, when your looks fade, which they will, they do for everyone, what then? What's your backup plan? Do you have one?

January 1, 2008 at 02:19 AM · I'm with Laurie on this one. Dress the way you'll dress for your performances and what will allow you to play the way you must play!

Dress in a manner that will not distract from your performance/playing.

January 1, 2008 at 02:19 AM · Jim- Talent counts for 30% of your score in the Miss America system, so it's helpful to know your stuff. But mostly what I know how to do on stage I learned from playing violin. :)

Terry- I've never implied that my looks are my sole redeeming quality. They are what they are, and they have been both a blessing and a curse to me in my lifetime. However, as we have stated above, I know how to play violin. I've never questioned my abilities musically and neither have my teachers. But if you have it, and I have it, why not flaunt it? If you haven't noticed yet, we live in a world obsessed with youth and beauty, and the way I present myself has only furthered my success in all parts of my life. And a back up plan? I am receiving my degree in violin performance after much thought and years of weighing my options, but I also have partially completed Bachelor's degrees in political science, Arabic, and business. At 20 years old, I don't think I've done too bad, and my most attractive qualities, with poise and attitude among them, will never fade. In short, I know the pretty girl stereotype that I may be associated with, and let me tell you, my brains stretch FAR beyond my beauty. I know I don't always seem like a nice girl in my messages, but playing devil's advocate among a bunch of music nerds is always a fun place to be, whether it be in music school or on the internet. Take it as you will.

January 1, 2008 at 02:28 AM · On orchestra performance clothes - I have made for both my daughter and myself separates with black stretch velvet on top. The fabric looks "matte" under the lights and looks elegant, it is light-weight and washable, and one can move in it just like one is wearing a T-shirt!

On the jackets issue for the men - the one poster is correct - one wants a jacket cut as close (high) as possible under the arms. That enables one to lift one's arms with fewer restrictions. If you want to feel sorry for somebody, check out the jackets worn by Scottish Highland Dancers! They have to dance in (for the men) formal jackets with a black bow tie, or (for the ladies) closely fitted velvet jackets with silver buttons/braid. Also, in highland dance, one has to lift one's arms quite high! The secret (on the ladies' jackets) is a completely different cut for the sleeve, and the use of a "football gusset" under the arm.

January 1, 2008 at 03:23 AM · Speaking as an insider, how is the Miss America contest rigged? Got to be rigged somehow. You know it's rigged, I know it's rigged. Out with it. Expand that to all pageants. I don't care about any particular one.

January 1, 2008 at 03:25 AM · My wife is a member of the local symphony chorus. You can look me up to find out what local means. About a year ago a new member of the violin section was playing in a concert in a sleeveless, strapless outfit. Suddenly she had a very serious wardrobe malfunction. My wife had a straight view of the unfortunate event and was amazed at how deftly this violinist used her right elbow to repair the malfunction and hold things together while continuing to play away.

In the meantime there have been several concerts with the chorus and said attractive young violinist has always appeared in something quite safe (and my wife says) quite stylish and attractive.

January 1, 2008 at 03:37 AM · I played in an orchestra once where our concertmaster played a concerto solo. She was wearing a strapless dress, which looked quite good on her but didn't fit so well up top. The anticipated calamity never occurred, but we in the first violin section had a bit more of a view (from the back and slightly to the side) than we would have liked. Apparently, according to my contacts in the audience (my parents), the whole violin section looked pretty nervous--we were all afraid the damn dress was going to fall down.

Moral of the story: wear straps, for the love of all that is good and holy...!

January 1, 2008 at 05:13 AM · "If you've got it why not flaunt it"

No matter what one is wearing such an attitude is the opposite of modesty. It gets in the way of artistic communication. In today's world it can take one on a great trip. Ultimately it reaches a dead end.

January 1, 2008 at 03:49 AM · Marin,

Yes, I realize my question was provoking. And your answer shows that you've thought about it more than a little bit. Just curious how you'd respond. Sounds like you've got loads of potential, much of it already realized.

Your response doesn't make me think you're either nice or not. It's not possible to know someone's character in that short a time.

I hope to hear more about how things go for you.


January 1, 2008 at 08:07 AM · M.E. Meizner,

dont listen to the haters. they're just jealous.

ha[ppy new years.


get over it.

January 1, 2008 at 02:29 PM · Haters? Pieter is this your knee-jerk technique for stifling a discussion that you don't like? It won't work. Ms. Meinzer made an assertion and we all have a right to respond. No one has attacked her. She is a very smart and beautiful woman of demonstrated musical capacity. She also said "if you have got it flaunt it". This is an assertion that is open to debate and discussion. It would be patronizing to Ms. Meinzer to ignore her assertion and treat her like a child who didn't know better. She is too intelligent to ignore.

I think that "flaunting it" is bad no matter who does it and what they flaunt. For example, I think that some violinists of great technical capacity flaunt it to the detriment of their music. I'll name names if they come here (or anywhere and say) "if you've got it flaunt it".

I am impressed that, in spite of her obvious technical accomplishment, Hilary Hahn is a very restrained in her demonstration of her technique. She has much to flaunt but she does not. Does anyone doubt that Heifetz could have dominated a technical repertory that he never played? (Paganini's Nel Cor, Ernst's Erlking all the Caprices etc). I think that this reflected a certain modesty. Think also of Szigeti. He wrote a book on violin playing citing numerous examples from music he never played in public. Modesty? I think so. This modesty also made them great musical communicators.

No Pieter, debate is not hate.

January 1, 2008 at 03:31 PM · Corwin,

I think your comment very much has legitimacy. But I also think it really is hard to say what's going on with the "flaunting it" comment because it is just the internet.

By saying "flaunting it" on the net one can be interpreted as being very direct and honest. Would that be appropriate if it were in a serious interview or on a CD jacket? How about for an email at work? Absolutely 100% not!! Talk about alienating one's audience! Do we know which position she comes from? Maybe, but maybe not. She does say that she may not be coming across as a very "nice" girl. Because of that, I give her a pass. Am I right - well, maybe not, but I did ask 3 kinda "nasty" questions. And I appreciate an honest answer.


January 1, 2008 at 03:17 PM · Corwin, an interesting point. The difference is that flaunting techniques interferes with musical integrity while flaunting looks may not. I have a one track mind and I could never do two things simultaneously, playing well and looking good. But I have seen people doing it successfully. That said, I wonder how the player feels if their audience paid more attention to their looks than to their playing? If I spent hours preparing to be heard, I don't think I will be happy when people spend more time to look.


January 1, 2008 at 03:32 PM · Terry, What do you mean "just the internet"? Does it mean we don't have to be responsible for our words because it is "just the internet"? (Aside: I don't think that Ms. Meinzer has been irresponsible but some folks appear to want to excuse her from responsibility. I'll let her debate it, evade it or plead off at her choice.)

Merriam-Websters defines flaunt as "to display ostentatiously or impudently" That fits my sense of the word.

January 1, 2008 at 03:50 PM · "Flaunting it" has nothing to do with anything. You're just expressing your preference of lifestyle and morality, which is fine, but don't let it confuse you in this case.

If Ms. whoever's recording was made wearing a bikini, could you tell it from the record? :) If she was getting it on with the producer after the sessions could you tell it? It's totally meaningless in reality.

January 1, 2008 at 03:41 PM · Ihnsouk. A performance, as Ms. Meinzer aptly notes, is much more than just what we hear. It is also what we see and everything else we sense. If a performer entered stage with attendants, a ruffle of drums and a trumpet fanfare would they possibly have an impact on the musical experience that followed? I think so. It would have an impact if the performer came in wearing a a floor length gunnysack and a paper bag over the head.

Taste isn't something one can slather on or imbibe. It is part of one's core and it effects all aspect of one's personality.

January 1, 2008 at 04:02 PM · Corwin, I agree with that a performance is more than what one hears. My question is would I want it to be more than that? No, unless the fanfare was what I wanted to communicate. If I am interested in musical communication, I would make every effort to remove distractions.

Jim, As far as a bikini is not on the cover of the CD, it doesn't make an issue. But if a soloist performs in a bikini distracting fellow musicians in the orchestra and the audience, it beats its own purpose namely making and communicating music in my opinion.


January 1, 2008 at 03:52 PM · Corwin,

Yes, one needs to be responsible for one's words on the net. But at the same time the value of a site like this is to be able to hear others' perspectives in as honest a form as possible. So I try to tolerate a reasonable range.

If I hadn't thrown out the "3 nasty questions" I'd probably more closely share your viewpoint. You're right that a "flaunting it" attitude would interfere with musicmaking. But a music career is not just about musicmaking. The business side may require a certain amount of "flaunting." There's a lot of cheesy marketing, etc. that goes on that's part and parcel of being a professional musician. In many cases it grosses me out, but it's there. Avoiding that part of it is the tremendous luxury you and I have of being serious amateurs.


January 1, 2008 at 03:53 PM · Back in the not too distant past when Greece had a King, one of the Royal Princesses fancied herself a pianist. She studied with Gina Bachauer and occasionally traveled with her. At one of Ms. Bachauer's performances , the conductor (who was of Greek heritage) learned of her interest in the piano and invited her to perform with the orchestra. It was agreed that she would play a Bach two piano concerto with Ms. Bachauer the following season. (At least this is what was reported in the newspapers)

I was in the audience when the day arrived and the beautiful princess made an elegant entrance (with a somewhat more dowdy Bachauer) to a standing ovation. The performance started and she did okay in the tuttis's but she was overcome by nerves so Ms Bachauer played both her own solo passages and the Princess's. At the conclusion there was another standing ovation--conclusive evidence that there is much more than what we hear in making an impression on an audience.

The performance was a kind of extreme ostentation and impudence. 'Look, I don't have to be good to appear on stage. I just have to be a beautiful princess.'

Ms Bachauer on the other hand played frequently in my hometown and it was always just about the music.

January 1, 2008 at 04:25 PM · Terry, There certainly is self-promotion and self-assertion in building a successful career but crossing the line into ostentation and impudence (i.e. flaunting) should never be necessary.

January 1, 2008 at 04:32 PM · It can be kind of painful to acknowledge some people have it all, I think.

January 1, 2008 at 04:36 PM · Corwin, Again I agree with you that there are more than one way to impress people. Being a purist, I'd like it better if people are impressed in the way I set out to if it were up to me. If I prepared a masterpiece, I wouldn't think that I'd be happy if the audience talk more about the color of the dress than the color of the tone. I am not talking about what works, rather what would satisfy an artist.

Jim, I don't know if it's that. To take the heat out of the discussion, shall we consider money instead? Would you feel fulfilled if the hall got packed because an expensive refreshment is offered following the concert?


January 1, 2008 at 05:06 PM · As someone who is always part of the audience, I feel the appearance of the performer matters to a great extent. Personal looks aside, if I'm at a concert, or listening to a chamber music presentation, I apppreciate if the musicians are dressed formally. Likewise if at an opera, then the performers really need to be dressed as in the period of that opera (the singers). I think that if you are going busking, then more casual clothing is appropriate.

January 1, 2008 at 06:37 PM · often, the harshest critic of a lady dressing on the provocative side comes from another lady, more likely an older one. wink.

guys are usually very supportive, no matter what:):):).

unless you have made it, err on the side of being conservative and tasteful.

when going to a classical concert, we are really not that interested in physiology.

January 1, 2008 at 06:55 PM · "but didn't fit so well up top. The anticipated calamity never occurred, but we in the first violin section had a bit more of a view (from the back and slightly to the side) than we would have liked."

I've never had Fear of the Human Breast.

Perhaps that's the problem with this culture. Fear of Nurture. Why is a woman's body demonized?

January 1, 2008 at 07:21 PM · corwin... relax. get over it. she's a young girl in college.

Sometimes people take stuff way too seriously, and maybe not every girl believes in the 1930s sensibilities of what it is to be a woman (interestingly in this case, as defined by some 50 year old man.) If every great mind or talented person in the world believed in this constant of modesty, many things would not be as they are now (and not for the better.) Countless great artists and performers lived lives that I can now see you'd find highly objectionable. I'm not talking about M.E. specifically (in this regard of greatness or what is beautiful), I'm talking about this patriarchal arrogance of some guy on the internet deciding how a young girl should act.

January 1, 2008 at 07:53 PM · Bilbo, I'm not "afraid of the female breast" either (I have a pair after all), I was afraid of the pandemonium that would have ensued had the soloist's dress fallen down.

January 1, 2008 at 07:56 PM · Ms. Meinzer are we to take you seriously or should we take Pieter's advice and give you a pass for being a young girl in college.

Does the word "young girl" seem a bit patronizing to you? It does to me. I feel obliged to take you seriously as someone who can play Prokofiev No. 1 in a master class with Ricci, attend IU on scholarship and get dual degrees. I think you can hold your own in a civil discussion. Pieter doesn't seem so sure.

January 1, 2008 at 08:02 PM · Pandemonium LOL!

(Actually in all seriousness I don't think it would get quite to that point...at least as long as the audience were as civilized and "cultured" as we like to think ourselves;0) On the other hand, how a person comes through an embarrassing situation of one sort or another can build her character and the audiences' admiration. Think of it as the Acid test for Character)

January 1, 2008 at 08:07 PM · This thread is becoming Idol-worship.

January 1, 2008 at 08:17 PM · My idol is becoming Corwin. I seriously think he's brilliant. I doubt I'd agree with him on a whole lot of issues, but he gets my respect for rational reasoning alone.

January 1, 2008 at 09:01 PM · O yes Corwin, that's exactly what I meant. What surpassing intelligence. Let's have a moment of silence for Corwin's unbelievable wisdom.

My issue isn't specific to anyone here, it's this entire idea that everything in music must always be so modest and stolid.

Let me give you a few examples of great artists who often lack modesty.

Paganini and Liszt, by all accounts, were not modest performers. Their contributions to music and romantic performance practice are quite remarkable.

Eugene Ysaye was quite the hedonist.

Violinist Ida Haendal, widely regarded as this great artistic force, is probably the most outrageous dresser I've ever seen. I've seen her perform several times now. The first time was in a pink and green dress with white shoes. Her ever cemented hair coiffed almost ridiculously, her hands, neck, and ears adorned with garish jewels. The last time I saw her, she wore Python leather shoes, with an outfit that made her look not quite unlike a lizard. Did anyone question her integrity? Her modesty? No, in fact, people like Corwin fall over themselves, leafing violently through their thesaurus to find more superlatives to heap onto the praise.

My problem isn't with ME Meinzer, I don't know what she looks like nor do I even know how she plays. It's my rejection of these ideas that there's a sort of code that should be followed. This is art. We choose to see live performances, not listen to CDs or go to a completely dark room. There's an element of performance at hand, and part of that can be ones more physical expression. I never advocate imposing ones personality on a work. I believe that naturally, you play a piece, and when you connect with it, your individual technical and aesthetic personality traits manifest themselves organically in the playing. That being said, I see no reason why people should not be allowed to dress as they wish. Who cares about modesty? As I've said before, many of the composers we like were sexually devious, againist the church and many conventions of society. Why now has it turned into this conservative, static pantomime? I cannot believe that some of the greatest revolutionary thinkers in all of human history have now become the dominion of old, boring, completely unoriginal thinking people who want to take everything back to antiquated conventions and meaningly codes of ethics. "Great spirits often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds." You know who said that.

And no, I don't consider "young girl" to be offensive. Many of my friends are girls. And as I am 22, and young, they'd be young girls. It has nothing to do with their intelligence or talent (because I'm lucky to have many, many talented and intelligent friends), but rather the very fact that they are young, and still at a stage in their lives where I think it's not so essential to conform slavishly to the whims of 50 year old men. Among the friends I have from summer festivals and music school, are many good looking girls who attend great academic schools, and some of them, can play the violin as well as anyone here (much better, in most cases). Despite their intelligence, and in some cases, world class talent, they still like to do things that normal people do, and yes, some of them, heaven forbid, like to dress up in something besides a burlap sack when they play. Not one of them thinks like Corwin does, and having spoken to them about this issue of "modesty" and "poise", they're usually quite offended by the whole idea. Like I said, I don't know M.E. at all, but I sympathize with her, since I have friends who deal with this kind of opposition all the time, and I'm more inclined to think as they do.

January 1, 2008 at 08:58 PM · gotta love it, its the second thread in the last couple of weeks that went where no thread has gone before. It just keeps catching me by surprise.

As regards the flaunt it or not - there's tasteful flaunting, and for once I agree with Pieter (not that I've publicly disagreed with him, :) art can have an element of the flauntist. I love yehudi Menuhin for his everlasting humility, but he's not the only performer I love. I think Jim was right - its hard to accept that some people have it all - me , I'm barely 5', weigh a little more than I should, and I'm approaching fifty. And I'll probably be 70 before I can even think about prokofiev. If I had a choice of paying to see me or Marin tomorrow, I'd choose ...

January 1, 2008 at 08:41 PM · To begin I would like to state that the original intention of this thread was to discuss clothing and outward appearance in performance. Never in my use of the word 'flaunt' did I associate or imply it with music, technique, or the instrument.

Secondly I refuse to be passed off as a child, and I expect the same respect and contemplation for my comments as is given to those who are my senior. There is a great amount of responsibility I must assume for my words, as I am more than aware that this page will pop up in a google search of my name which is slightly ominous considering I'm at the start of my career.

Outward appearance to me is so pivotally important to me because I approach it as a way to express my personality. I am obviously not a typical violin student and I have never felt obliged to change who I am to correspond with the environment around me. Believe me, my appearance has caused my musical capabilities and my intelligence in general to be question many times in my life.

I have watched classical music struggle my whole life, and I don't blame kids for not wanting to get involved in a such a pretentious, judgmental world. The true key to keeping classical music alive for future generations is to make it accessible and comfortable for people who look all different kinds of ways. My personality doesn't belong in long, conservative, black clothing, and believe me, neither do the personalities of kids today.

January 1, 2008 at 09:43 PM · sharelle - "Having it all" depends on what you value. Say the best looking man in the world was the best poker player. To guys playing poker he has it all. To me, he has nothing, maybe not even a good zero :) In some endeavor where everybody is a teenager, or even in their twenties, be suspicious.

"I don't blame kids for not wanting to get involved in a such a pretentious, judgmental world. "

Honestly, I've begun to think that it's turned into basically a refuge for the pretentious and judgemental. It probably started around the turn of the 20th century. It's a convenient place for quite a few reasons.

January 1, 2008 at 09:25 PM · Pieter--wow, good post. I agree.

January 1, 2008 at 09:29 PM · Google Transparency. Some have it, some flaunt it, some strive for it, others eschew it, and some gain it but none can shake it once they have it.

How transparent am I? If someone types my birthday in this thread, I guess I'm done for.

And vcommie posts seem to come to the top of the dogpile on google for some reason.

January 1, 2008 at 09:45 PM · A nice black skirt, black pants, or kahki pants. Pick your blouse based on your choice.

January 1, 2008 at 09:37 PM · Pieter, 22? I'll give you my young boy pass. Prattle on. I have no further comment for you.

Ms Meinzer and I entered the conversation at the invitation of a young high school student who is preparing for college auditions. We both offered our opinions which diverge. In spite of this Ms. Meinzer has been gracious, direct and intelligent in her replies. We can beg to differ on some issues but I appreciate her thoughtful replies. I suspect she doesn't really mean "flaunt" in the dictionary sense that I cited.

Remember that true art doesn't sate the imagination it excites it. Modesty and restraint in performance, projection, dress, demeanor, intermission interviews, press releases and biographies contribute to the cultivation of imagination. This old man advice is offered for what it is worth to men and women alike. If I am at all typical in your audiences you'll give it a thought.

January 1, 2008 at 10:08 PM · Corwin,

What bothers me is that your thoughts on the matter ARE typical, and I have no qualms about being outspoken on this issue. Thankfully, history shows me that concensus, entrenched in conservatism, is often the final cry of tired, impotent thought.

January 1, 2008 at 11:05 PM · ::And vcommie posts seem to come to the top of the dogpile on google for some reason.::

Robert's coding ensures that whatever you post here will be attached to your name forever in cyberspace.

Great discussion, though. Pieter, the g-word is the problematic part of your post, not its content. You and Marin are articulate and sophisticated men and women, not boys and girls. Corwin, making a condescending point about Pieter's age won't score you any points.

Back to Marin's comment on heels-- I don't think flats are particularly natural or comfortable (no arch support, for example.) Heels can be fine, depending on various factors such as the height of the heel, how the shoe is put together, how experienced you are at wearing them, etc.

About strapless dresses-- you can temporarily sew on a narrow ribbon (sometimes the ribbon loops that are included for hanging the dress on a hanger are perfect for this) to convert a strapless gown into a more secure one. In my observation, the biggest problem isn't wardrobe failure but fear of it. Nothing like watching the soloist nervously tug up her gown during the tutti sections. <-- not that you would wear a strapless anything to an audition, which was the original point of the thread.

January 2, 2008 at 01:58 AM · If you can separate the words from the content then the content is whatever you want. And Corwin didn't start on age, or sneak the word "impotent" in. If the author is as sophisticated as you say...

As far as tops falling down, not a damn thing wrong with that :)

January 1, 2008 at 11:49 PM · "The true key to keeping classical music alive for future generations is to make it accessible and comfortable for people who look all different kinds of ways."

I like this sentiment a lot, and agree with it. But how does a philosophy of "if you've got it, flaunt it" make anything accessible or comfortable for people who "look all different kinds of ways"? Current beauty norms are all about, and only benefit, people who look one kind of way.

January 2, 2008 at 12:40 AM · The first classical concert I ever went to, one thing struck me in a big way. It was the little old hunched over ladies, as I thought of them then, in the orchestra. Until then I had unconsciously associated professional music with attractive people, stars on TV and such.

I thought wow this is serious stuff. Real stuff. It's not looks. But - if you've got it, definitely flaunt it. Have fun. And take lots of pictures :) You'll be a little old hunched over lady soon enough. The only important thing is to be yourself - while enriching yourself as much as you can, any way you can. And girls, if you've got something to flaunt, don't get married until you're 35. Do that for ol' Jim.

January 2, 2008 at 12:52 AM · when I was younger I had a girlfriend who was a serious pianist, and her performances revolved around what dress she was going to wear. If we went out shopping it was all about this dress or that dress. IT was funny. Mind you, she eventually ended up having body image problems and ended up an anorexic. But that is another story.

I say wear what looks, nice and is comfortable. When I was a student it was all about the black dress and the white top with shoulder pads (yes I am dating myself here!). Then I went to some audition in the mid 90's and all the girls were wearing strapless gowns. I thought they were going to a prom or something!

I remember an audition where I showed up in dress pants, a shirt and sneakers, played the piece and walked off. I sat and watched some of the other players. One was a rather overweight girl playing the piano, she wore a sweatshirt which read JUILLIARD....and jeans. we were auditioning for three spots. I got one, the girl in the sweatshirt got one and the pretty girl in the white top with shoulder pads and the long black skirt got one too.

January 2, 2008 at 01:27 AM · Karen- I never implied that everyone needed to look just like me, or that everyone 'flaunts' the same qualities. Some girls think that they have awesome cleavage and wear low tops to 'flaunt' it. Some women have classy tastes that they love to 'flaunt'. At the end of the day, everybody has something they feel they need to show off physically, and if you watch women walk down the street you can usually tell by their clothing choice what that thing is.

Everyone should have a physical characteristic that they love about themselves, and if they don't they need A LOT more self-lovin. How can you do anything well if you don't love yourself!?

Honestly, I've watched a plus size girl win the swimsuit competition at one of my pageants. Let me tell you, that girl was GORGEOUS, would be at any weight, and judging by the way she carried herself she knew it too. That's what 'flaunting' it is all about.

January 2, 2008 at 01:51 AM · I didn't see M.E.'s statements, but I agree with her. I think that was what I meant by wearing what made you feel comfortable. If someone feels comfortable wearing a strapless dress....great. But I don't think you wear it BECAUSE you hope it will get you points. Because, I think people will pick up on that and you will loose points.

I used the examples I did to point out what is good, what is healthy and what is not. I didn't mean to say that the whole clothing thing got my ex girlfriend to be an anorexic.

It goes without saying that we ALL love classical music. There is NOTHING wrong with being pleasing to the eyes. But we also have to remember that we now live in an age where there needs to be a complete package. Elvis was the complete package. they were looking for a good looking guy, who had the voice and the moves....In order to keep classical music moving INTO the 21st century, we need to keep such things in mind.

The only other thing I would recommend is that you play a couple of times in the clothes that you eventually decide on. I played with a singer who wore this strapless dress. She was a pretty girl, but young and not that experienced. She picked a strapless dress and when she inhaled she almost came out of her dress. She spent the better part of the evening holding herself.

January 2, 2008 at 03:09 AM · Oft,I wear my Juilliard Hoddie just to "flaunt" others.

The hoodie has done nothing for me,unless I could play to a regard that may be considered appropiate to the situation involved.

Talk to me when you play or sing at The Met;otherwise---I don't care......

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