Concert Etiquette: for the Audience

Going to a formal performance or concert is nothing like a sports event or competition. In order to be respectful and support the audience, the best thing you can do is make sure you are using the proper concert etiquette.

What to Wear

When going to a formal performance or concerts, Sunday best is always the best choice. Not too hot or too cold.

Girls: A simple dress, skirt, dress pants, or even nice jeans(no holes) with a  blouse would be simple and appropriate. Some times auditoriums can be cold so it would me smart to bring a light sweater or jacket.

Guys: A good pair jeans with out holes or khakis with a nice shirt(no T Shirts) like a polo or simple dress shirt would be ideal. With dress shoes or work shoes instead of tennis shoes. I would not advise you to wear a hat, but if you do be sure to take it off before entering auditorium.

Before Performance

When buying tickets keep in mind young children. If you will have a young child who may cry or have a fit during a performance, please sit on an edge seat so that you may exit the auditorium as quickly as possible so not to disturb the performers or other audience members.Before even leaving your house make sure you have the tickets with you so you aren’t struggling to get back in time. Please use the restroom before finding your seat. No one likes having to stand up in the middle of a performance because the person in the center of the row has to use the restroom.The isles between seats are always really tight. Don’t be the person who blocks the aisle with your coat, huge purse, and umbrella. When finding your seat the letter refers to the row and the number refers to the seat. If you are struggling to find your seat find someone who works there to help, don’t just sit in a random seat. Some performance halls have a concessions stand to buy snack Or drinks to eat during the performance. So be sure to stop by to get something before entering the auditorium (make sure food is allowed in the auditorium). The best performance venues have a coat and bag check. Use them.

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During the Performance

Before a performance begins, often times the lights will dim. This is your signal to end your conversations, turn off your phone and pay attention. When the performers or musicians enter the stage, do not wave, shout, or yell as the p (even if its your daughter). Be sure to pay attention to any announcements before the show. If you plan to record or take pictures during the performance make sure that it is allowed.

There is nothing worst than getting stuck in front of a couple that wont stop talking or the young child who thinks its okay to put their feet on or kick the back of your seat. Please try to save your comments until after the performance and make sure neither  you nor your children are not shuffling your feet or moving throughout the performance.

At the end of each piece, you should applause respectively but do not whistle, yell, or shout out names. Sometimes a the band will stop playing as if it was the end of  the song, but some pieces of music have multiple parts or sections called movements. Before the performance, it is smart to read through the program and take note of any pieces with multiple movements because you are not supposed to clap between movements. If there is no formal program, (or in the odd chance you didn’t get one) an easy way to know when to clap is when the conductor steps off of his podium or box and faces the audience.

After the Performance

At the end of the program, your level of enthusiasm and clapping represents your appreciation for the performance. If you really enjoyed the performance, a standing ovation is  more than acceptable and highly recommended. In many professional performances, an encore performance has been prepared. If you enjoyed the performance so much that you would like to hear more,  keep standing and continue clapping with the same intensity after the group or soloist exits the stage.  After the encore you should give another standing ovation, but when the group leaves the stage, you should gather your things and leave. Don’t rush, but the longer you hang around and talk in the auditorium the longer the people who work there have to stand around before cleaning up. With that in mind if you got concessions during the performance, please take your trash out with you and throw it away.

Hope this helped! Enjoy listening to music and seeing live performances!

Concert Etiquette: for the Performer

Nothing is more distracting to a performer than bad concert etiquette.  But for a performer, it is very important to have good etiquette on stage in order to put on a professional performance.

The Performer

If you are performing in a group, it is always best to do what your director or conductor tells you to, but if you are not given any specific guidelines on how to present your self during a performance, here are some basic guidelines:

What to Wear

Before I leave my house, I always want to make sure I am appropriately dressed.  Wearing the right clothing is important for the performer to look professional.

For Girls: a dress and a pair of comfortable and practical heels are ideal, but a nice pair of dress pants and a blouse are also acceptable. When playing with a group I try to avoid wearing flashy colors so that I do not stand out in the group. A black concert dress is always the safest route. I advise that you always be sure to wear a pair of spandex shorts under your dresses or the appropriate pair of underwear if you are wearing a  short dress. But if you are a soloist, it is perfectly acceptable to bring out that flashy elegant bright red dress in the back of your closet that you’ve always wanted to wear. You are the focus, show off your playing and your style.

For Guys: Whether performing in a group or a solo, owning several pair of nicely fitted black dress pants is necessary for any performer. But renting a tux is  not. Some groups you will play with will have a particular color of shirt (usually black or white) that they will ask you to wear in the performance along with a black suit jacket. Just be sure that you are wearing an appropriate undershirt as well. Black dress shoes and socks are also very important because most stages are set up to where the front for of the audience is almost eye level with the floor of the stage. You don’t want anyone to notice the pink hearts on your socks. If you wear a tie, please please please make sure it matches your shirt. Two different patters is not acceptable even if they are the same color.

Entering Stage

Normally your director will give you specific instructions on how you should enter the stage and get to your seat. But there are a few things a director should not have to tell you. You should not wave at any one in the audience (even if its your mom or best friend). Stay focused, follow the person in front of you and when you get to your seat, do not sit until everyone in your row is standing in front of a chair. This gives you time to make sure everyone has a chair and a stand so that you aren’t having to switch chairs around or get a stand last-minute in front of your audience. Once you’re seated (with good posture), you can noodle around on your instrument to warm up and test your reed. But when the conductor enters the stage stop all playing. If your conductor has you tune before a performance use that time to really listen to the people around you and across the band for tuning and balance and please spend that time tuning, you already had time to warm up.

During the Performance

While sitting, a good posture with a flat back and slightly lifted chin will make you look professional and helps you produce a better tone by lifting the weight off your diaphragm. Do not cross your legs or angles under your chair, but keep both feet flat on the floor. It is acceptable to tap your toe lightly  while you are playing as long as it is quiet enough that the audience members cannot hear it. But most importantly, if you make a mistake on stage, you can not let it show in your face or posture. You have to recover and keep going as if it never happened. That way you can convince your audience that you played the entire piece perfectly.

Obviously watching your conductor is the best way to have a successful performance without any tears, but it is also important to pay attention and watch your conductor at all times. At the beginning of every piece you should raise your instrument to playing position at the same time the conductor raises his arms. If you do not play at the beginning, put your horn in resting position (what ever the first chair player is doing) and bring your horn up 2 measures before you come in. Same goes for the end of each piece, do not move or lower your instrument until your conductor lowers his arms. Often times after a piece of music, your conductor will step off his podium to address the applause and even ask soloists, sections or the entire band to stand. He will do so by gesturing to you or raising his arm. Small gestures like this are easy to miss and lead to confusion when the band doesn’t all stand up at the same time. Be sure that you are sitting on the edge of your seat so that you can easily stand up on a short notice. When you stand after a performance, you need to turn and face the audience. (its okay to smile) If you are in a group that has lots of soloists like a jazz ensemble, it is acceptable to shuffle your feet quietly as a sort of congratulations to the soloist.

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After the Performance

Again it is very important to watch your conductor at the end of the performance so that you see his gesture to stand, face the front, and bow. Often times the will then gesture for you to return to your seat and gather your things before leaving the stage in the same way you entered. Other times, after the bow and the applause dies down, the conductor may immediately direct you to exit the stage. If this is the case, be sure you gather all of your things, you don’t want to leave a reed case or your music on stage.

I know it’s a lot to think about, but it really does pay off and give yourself a professional stage appearance that will impress your audience. Good luck with your performances!! Next week you can read all about good audience etiquette.

University of Arkansas Clarinet Day 2016

This past Monday, Nophachai Cholthitchanta from the University of Arkansas hosted a Clarinet Day for young clarinetists to have the opportunity to take master classes and watch recitals from world-class players. Over 100 students from junior high to college levels came to participate in the event. This years guests  were Andrew Simon’s, the Principle Clarinetist of the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Wolfgang Lohf from Lohff & Pfeiffer USA.

Opening Concert

The event began with an opening concert performed by Nophachai’s Clarinet Studio and… well me. For our performance we played Percy Grainger’s Molly on the Shore and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Video is coming soon.

History of Clarinet Lecture

After the studio performance, Nophachai gave a lecture on the history of clarinets. I could write an entire post on his lecture and his collection of over 400 clarinets but to sum it up, we leaned to determine the difference between German, French, and English clarinet models and listened to him play Sonata No. 1 for Clarinet and bass on a 6 key boxwood clarinet:

Andrew Simon’s Recital #1

Andrew Simon blew me away in both of his performances, but I was particularly excited for his first recital because he was playing the International Clarinet Associations clarinet competition repertoire(indicated with an *). He and his pianist, Tomaoko Kashiwagi played:

Cantilene for Clarinet and Piano by Louis Cahuzac

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Camile Saint-Saens

I. Allegretto

II. Allegro animato

III. Lento

IV. Molto allegro- Allegretto

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Francis Poulenc

I. Allegro tristamente

II. Romanza*

III. Allegro con fuoco

Suit for “Carmen” trans. Richard Stolzman by George Bizet

Sequidilla

Gypsy Dance

Each piece was a unique and amazing experience. I am so grateful for the opportunity to listen to him play classical french clarinet repertoire.

Master Classes

After Nophachai’s performance and lecture, everyone divided up to participate in their master classes. Their were master classes for Junior High Students, High School Students, All State Qualifiers, and a master class on customized clarinets led by Wolfgang Lohf. I participated in the All State Qualifiers Master Class led by Nophachai.

In the All State Master Class, we worked on applying different rhythms to better practice our c minor thirds and played our etude. Their were about 25 people in the master class from across Arkansas and each of us played one life of the etude and were given tips on how to better execute the piece. A lot of us got comments on air. With out strong air, you wont sound confident or have a good tone. Confidence and tone are key to a perfect audition.

Andrew Simon’s Master Class

After our lunch break, Andrew Simon gave a series of master classes to University clarinetist from the University of Arkansas, the University of Central Arkansas, and Arkansas Tech University.

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Andrew Simon and Madison Smith

While watching these master classes I learned a lot about breathing, phrasing, and throat tones. Andrew Simon made lots of comments on the importance of understanding breath marks in reference to rhythms and phrasing. If you breath at the wrong time you can be changing rhythms and breaking up a phrase. I had never really thought about how taking breaths in music can actually change the way it sounds, but through listening to him play the same phrase 3 times and breathing at different spots, I was amazed to hear that ir really did change the feel and phrasing of the excerpt. Throat tones are just another beast all together. I find that no matter what I do, my throat tones never sound they way I want them to. Andrew Simon addressed several things in reference to throat tones. One was to be sure to not over blow the notes in an attempt to correct them because it will have the opposite effect and make the notes sound even worse. He also noted to be sure that you aren’t covering the F key with your left thumb while playing B Flat with the register key because it will affect the pitch. To avoid this, he suggested to exaggerate your fingerings and or get your key rings adjusted. But I think the most important thing he stressed in his master classes was playing your etudes and pieces all the way through at the end of each of your practice sessions. This allows you to find the parts that are still tripping you up so that you know what to practice next time, and makes sure that the first time you play the piece all the way through isn’t the day you are performing it on stage or in the audition room.

Andrew Simon’s Recital #2

At the end of the day, Andrew Simon performed a second recital including:

Introduction, Theme and Variations bu Gioachino Rossini

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Malcolm Arnold

A Set for Clarinet by Donald Martino

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in Eflat by Johannes Brahms

I. Allegro con brio

II. Andantino

III. Furioso

Diversions on a Familiar Theme by Joseph Horovitz

Andrew Simon never ceased to impress me. But m favorite pieces he played were not in the program. I loved his two encore pieces. He played some classic New  York Jazz music for his encore that blew me away. Luckily for you I have uploaded his entire second recital you YouTube that you can watch here  or on my videos page.

Overall I had an amazing time performing with the clarinet studio, taking master classes, meeting Andrew Simon, and of course getting out of school.  I highly recommend that you look into finding events near you that are free and go learn and have fun. If you are interested in attending Clarinet Day next year, check out the University of Arkansas web page here.