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.
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.
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.
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.