Concert stage etiquette

October 7, 2006 at 04:16 AM · I know this might sound silly but can someone go over the usual actions of a performer when he enters and exits the stage? When does he shake hands with the conductor and concertmaster in relation to bowing??


Replies (27)

October 7, 2006 at 07:18 AM · Greetings,

shake hands with the conducter on the down bow and the concert master on the up bow....

Bad hair day,


October 7, 2006 at 07:10 PM · hehe

October 7, 2006 at 07:21 PM · personally, i like to walk across the stage with a grim demeanor, and when i get to the edge of the stage, i greatly prefer to trip violently and fall into the audience in the front row. but hey, to each his own...

October 7, 2006 at 08:18 PM · C'mon you guys, be nice and give him some real advice. When I had to solo with my youth orchestra I didn't know exactly what to do either, so I'd be curious what an experienced person has to say about this.

October 7, 2006 at 09:01 PM · Whenever I see a soloist they come out, bow, shake conductor's hand (sometimes), play... afterwards bow, shake conductor's hand, shake concertmaster's hand.

October 7, 2006 at 09:45 PM · You come out, bow cordially, play, finish, bow, shake conductor's hand, shake concertmaster's hand, bow again, walk off and on as needed.

October 7, 2006 at 11:13 PM · Greetings,

after a cocnerto I make a point of shaking the conducter shand before taking a bow. I really want to make the point that the enterprize has been a collaboration.



October 7, 2006 at 11:54 PM · I haven't been in the soloist position with an orchestra. (Well.. once 100 years ago. :)

However... as an orchestra member... I liked it when a performer gave a quick recognition to the orchestra as well as shaking hands with conductor and concertmaster. Of course... I imagine that one hopes the applause continues long enough for those things to happen. :)

October 8, 2006 at 02:11 AM · I like to shake my own hand, but then I've never soloed with orchestra.

October 8, 2006 at 12:13 PM · Very elegant suggestions. And don't forget to do what football players do when they score a touchdown (get down on one knee and stare meaningfully at the ground, followed by high-stepping around and giving strange handshakes to the conductor and the concertmaster, followed by throwing your violin into the audience and jumping into them with arms open wide).

:) Sandy

October 8, 2006 at 04:51 PM · Seriously though:

1. First things first. Make sure your pants are zipped. And remember, onstage is NOT the time or place to fix that wedgie.

2. Walk out with a smile - act like you're happy to be there. Shake the concertmaster's hand. Bow to the audience. Count to 3 before you stand back up. Try not to think about the fact that you are now sticking your butt in the concertmaster's face.

3. It's OK to tune onstage. Some say it's rude to turn your back on the audience while you do so; I never cared. You could poll teachers / colleagues / friends to see what they think.

4. Take a moment (a short moment) to collect yourself: deep breath, relax shoulders, that kind of thing. Nod to the conductor that you're ready.

5. Play your piece.

6. When you're done: big smile, whether you're happy with it or not. Shake hands with the conductor, then the concertmaster, BEFORE bowing to the audience. (You can also acknowledge the orchestra before bowing if you want; it's not necessary but is considered a nice gesture.) Head down, count to three, come back up smiling.

7. LEAVE THE STAGE. A lot of soloists like to stand there basking in the glow, which makes you look like an attention hog. Leave 'em wanting more.

8. Return bow: if you're alone, acknowledge the orchestra, bow, smile, and leave. If you're with the conductor, do the big public handshake thing. Let him/her bring the orchestra to its feet. (If you have just played the Brahms, applaud for the oboist. This applies to any orchestra member that the conductor asks to stand.)

9. Afterwards: smile and say thank you to any & all compliments, no matter how you thought you did. If someone says it was good and you say "No it wasn't," you are basically calling them ignorant. If you say "Yes, I was rather wonderful, wasn't I," then you look like a jerk.

10. Go out with friends, get drunk, and leave your violin in the restaurant or a taxi.

October 8, 2006 at 11:57 PM · Good advices!

October 9, 2006 at 12:21 AM · Daniel: View the DVD's of the greats in concert--Heifetz, Oistrakh, etc. There are several out that continue from the moment they come on to the stage, play, end and leave. The older greats were in unison on their "stage temperment". Seeing is worth a thousand words. Plus you get to see great playing--a bonus. Of course then adapt to what makes you feel comfortable. Good luck Charles Bott

October 9, 2006 at 02:22 AM · Walk out with your arm in a sling. Wincing and affecting great effort, slowly remove it. Then, with a determined look...pass gas.

October 9, 2006 at 04:12 PM · As long as we're talking about stage etiquette:

How [Not] To Behave During A Performance

(You have to go to about 1'40" to see the really good stuff)

October 10, 2006 at 08:10 PM · Daniel,

This is a great question--one that unfortunately many fail to ask prior to performing. That said, it is really the violin teacher who is responsible for knowing and passing on this information to his/her students. Many do not and while the playing is the most important part of the performance, poor stage etiquette can really make an audience feel uncomfortable about what might otherwise be a fantastic performance. Practicing good stage etiquette is easy and can have great benefits!

First, under the right circumstances, the conductor should actually exit the stage prior to the violin solo piece. The conductor should then serve as a shadow to the soloist and yield to him/her at every turn. The soloist should take command of the stage while always being the gracious guest.

Therefore, there is no need to shake the conductor's hand in this scenario because he/she is following the soloist on stage. It is NOT necessary to shake the concertmaster's hand prior to playing. In fact, it is not appropriate for several reasons: A handshake in this context is a "thank you" and, at this point, the orchestra (via the concertmaster--"team captain" of the ensemble) has not done anything yet to thank. Reserve your thanks for after the performance when you are appreciating their wonderful hospitality and accompaniment. Also, by shaking the CM's hand before playing, you are snubbing the audience's applause for you, the soloist.

[If the conductor has remained on stage and has personally introduced the soloist (i.e., invited him/her to the stage), a handshake is absolutely appropriate here because the soloist is now, in affect, "thanking" the conductor for the warm welcome--then bowing to the audience.]

Make every effort to tune BEFORE going on stage, but if you must tune with the oboe, FACE THE OBOE PLAYER regardless of where your back may be in relation to the audience. The KEY here is that you and the oboe are communicating with one another. This is appreciated by both the oboe player (tells him/her you are really listening and you really appreciate the note!) and the audience--the audience gets it! Eye contact is not necessary during the entire act of tuning, but always face the oboe and, when finished, give a nod and a smile.

There are essentially TWO schools of thought with regard to the order of bows at the end of the piece.

1. The soloist is absolutely entitled to bow FIRST after playing, then shake the conductor's hand, then the concertmaster's hand, followed by a nod and a smile to the wind instrument that may have had a solo (Brahms, Barber, etc.), and finally a second bow before exiting.

2. The soloist can instead finish playing, immediately extend a hand to the conductor, then shake the concertmaster's hand, and THEN BOW. (I prefer this method because, as a previous post stated, it is a way of acknowledging that this was a team effort--collaborative.)

At this point, immediately following the (final) bow, it is CRITICAL to exit the stage promptly (i.e., do NOT linger!) You will increase your chances for a curtain call dramatically if you exit immediately. If you linger, the audience becomes confused and their applause may even die before you leave the first time!

The conductor should follow you off stage. You should then promptly return and the conductor should follow but at a distance. It is NOT necessary for you to move all the way to centerstage, but instead, be in front of the second to last stand of first violins (approximately). After your first bow during the first curtain call, the conductor should (again, from a slight distance) ask the orchestra to stand. You, the soloist, should nod to the orchestra in thanks and then bow once more.

IF you are summoned to the stage for a SECOND curtain call (GOOD FOR YOU!), you MUST GO ALONE. The conductor should stay in the wing. That said, if you have prepared an unaccompanied encore, this would be the time to exercise your own judgment as to whether the audience wants you to play again. (HINT: If it's a standing ovation, that's a good sign!) If your encore requires orchestral accompaniment, the conductor should be in visual range of you off-stage, ready to emerge on your signal.

Hope this helps! Don't be afraid to tell the conductor how you want this done! Don't be bullied! YOU are the show!--but be gracious. You want to be invited back!

All the best,


October 10, 2006 at 10:38 PM · Greetings,

Peter has just about sewed it up I think. It is importnat to get these things into your ehad (which is why you posted..) because if you do something a little odd it won`t cause any problem but it can throw people which is not what you need.

I saw an example of this about a year ago. An early twentieis Japanese solosit walked out ons atge after the conducter. Took a bow to the audience applause. Then turned to the conducter who had just turned to the score witha view to getitng itno the music. She thurst her hand out to be shaken more or less at his back. Fortunately he caught it out the corner of his eye and swivelle dround to complete the shake. It got a good laugh but it isn`t the way to start a performance,



October 10, 2006 at 11:24 PM · If anybody here has had protocol drilled into them, it would be Peter. One thing isn't clear though. At the first curtain call, where does the conductor ask the orchestra to stand from? If he's following the soloist out, and the soloist stops near the back of the firsts, he's in a physically awkward position to do that, with the soloist between him and the orchestra. I assume he would continue walking past the soloist to closer to center? That would put him in a better position for doing that and for following the soloist back off.

October 10, 2006 at 11:57 PM · Another example of what not to do...

Yes, I know, it's a pianist, but still-- a lesson to all of us: you can never be TOO well prepaired.


October 11, 2006 at 01:44 AM · Jim,

Great question! (I was a bit worried that I was unclear there, sorry.) Okay, here's the deal:

Regarding the first curtain call and the soloist moving to a position roughly in front of the last few stands of firsts--the conductor should actually move UPstage (away from the audience) slightly--just behind the firsts or between 1st & 2nds. The conductor should participate in the applause. After the soloist bows once, the conductor then gestures from his side position for the orchestra to stand.

NOTE: Any orchestra should have signals worked out on the front stands of strings whereby, if the conductor is on Stage Right (behind the CM), the principal cellist will nod to the CM as a signal for whatever action must take place. This avoids the awkwardness of the CM having to turn around to see what the conductor is doing. For example, the cellist would signal the CM (a) the moment the conductor appears at the stage door so the CM knows when to stand (orchestra follows); (b) the moment the conductor clears the stage door so the CM knows when to sit (orchestra follows); or (c) when the condutor has gestured for the orchestra to stand from behind the CM.

EXCEPTION: If this wasn't already clear, all the above direction is based on an entrance for conductor/CM/soloist(s) from a STAGE RIGHT door (to the left of the audience). IF the concert hall is arranged such that the entrances are from a STAGE LEFT door, everything is reversed (i.e., soloist stops in front of back few stands of celli, violas, or 2nd fiddles depending on the orchestra setup, conductor can gesture easily to CM from the Stage Left.)

BOTTOM LINE: There are many different kinds of venues out there that have space limitations, strange stage doors, etc. USE COMMON SENSE and try to apply the above direction to your situation. I have been in situations where the conductor insisted on walking out on stage first (before the soloist) because of a very tight space. I said ABSOLUTELY NOT. Someone can move a stand out of the way temporarily if necessary, but the soloist ALWAYS GOES FIRST--NO EXCEPTIONS! That said, if there is a major space constraint, here's the protocol: Soloist enters, conductor follows. Conductor stops when soloist stops to bow and the conductor waits patiently for the bow to be completed and THEN slips past to mount the podium. Do NOT get into a "musical chairs" moment during the opening applause! Get the bows (soloist only!) out of the way and THEN adjust orchestra and conductor on stage. [By the way, to all the conductors out there: PLEASE DO NOT BOW with the soloist!!! This is incredibly bad form. If you look at any old videos of the great conducting masters (great suggestion by a previous post!), you will see that conductors NEVER bow with instrumental soloists. IF, on the other hand, there is a large orchestral work (Mahler, Beethoven 9, etc.) that has vocal soloists as part of a larger symphony where ultimately the conductor is still the focus, THEN the conductor can and should join hands with all the vocal soloists up front and take a big broadway curtain call bow. In the case of instrumental soloists (concerti, etc.), these individuals are the focus, NOT the condutor.

Final Note (but please hit me for other questions!):

I believe in the "old school" of protocol with regard to the order of arrival and departure--to a degree. For example, in chamber music or multiple soloist groups (mixed gender), the players should ENTER the stage in the order they will be standing (farthest player goes first). After bows, all gentlemen regardless of order, should gesture with subtle body language for all WOMEN to EXIT FIRST. The ONLY exception here (in an orchestral setting) is that even when the conductor is female, SHE ENTERS AND EXITS LAST.

Adapt and overcome!



October 11, 2006 at 04:27 AM · As for the orchestra, we have a simple rule: respond only to the conductor. So hopefully, they have the interests of the orchestra in mind (as well as their own)! So it really depends on how long the soloist stays out there. This thread is, I take it, mostly for soloists, so I think Peter's advice holds up. But in case one is not a soloist, know that there are many possibilities. We stand on the first, second, third, etc. call depending on the fame of the soloist, the relative fame of the conductor, whether an encore is prepared, the reaction of the audience, way too many variables for an orchestral musician to keep track of!

In the end, the successful soloists commune with the audience in a meaningful way.

November 5, 2006 at 11:49 PM · Sorry to revive a rather old thread here, but that video (the first one) has disappeared, and a friend of mine's suddenly looking for it. Anybody know where I might locate it now? Thanks!

June 10, 2016 at 07:35 AM · Does anyone know why or when entire Orchestra should or do bow?


June 10, 2016 at 09:19 AM · There is one important thing that everyone has missed.

You come on and then you whisper in the conductors ear (hard luck if he/she is deaf) - and remind him/her to get on with it as the pub (or bar) shuts in less than an hour ...

June 10, 2016 at 11:37 AM · What do you mean IF the conductor is deaf? That's a given! ;-D

June 10, 2016 at 11:54 AM · OK, seriously: Sergio, the conductor decides about that. They all stand if prompted by the conductor, who may first ask a member or two of the orchestra for a solo stand up (eg, as mentioned above, the 1st oboist in the Brahms)

A far as an encore, if it's with orchestra, it will, of course already have been approved by the conductor and rehearsed. If it's a solo encore you want to play, say a Bach movement, make sure that you have the conductor's permission first. Milstein told a story how he once did not and the conductor got very mad at him. Also, if Bach, something no longer than the E major prelude or the last mvt. of the C major. An encore is no time for the Chaconne or one of the fugues. There are planes and trains to catch, beers to be drunk etc.

June 10, 2016 at 12:29 PM · IF deaf!! Nice one Raphael!

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