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.

Concert etiquette, etiquette, performer, professional

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.

How to Survive Auditions

It seems ironic to be writing this the week of my own audition, but maybe this time I’ll take my own advice. Every tryout has different music, judges, location, and scoring  process. But the most important difference is how well you prepared for the tryout.

Audition

MONTHS BEFORE THE AUDITION

Be sure you are practicing the right materials. You don’t want to show up to an audition and realize that you spent months practicing the Junior High material instead of the Senior High  material.

After you know you have the right material, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Don’t forget to use a METronome. I know they get annoying and that it gets frustrating, but the MET will be your best friend and keep you on track for the rest of your career as a  musician.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE

Make sure you know the time and address of your audition and be sure to be there not on time, but early. This is band: to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be dead.

Make sure you don’t leave anything behind:

  • music
  • stand
  • headphones or earplugs
  • tuner and metronome
  • water
  • instrument

Leaving your instrument behind might seem impossible, but I promise it’s happened before. Don’t be that person… please.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Upon arriving at the location, find your tryout room, the practice room, the commons area, and the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom can be very crucial to the tryout process, especially if you suffer from nerves or need to escape the chaos of the practice rooms.

Performing well in an audition or tryout is a game and all you can do to get better is practice playing over and over again. The good players know how to make you nervous in hopes that you will mess up your etudes or scales. So be careful how you spend your time before your scheduled time, you don’t want to make yourself panic by paying too close of attention to the other musicians practice.

IN THE PRACTICE ROOM

This is where the earplugs come in. Nothing is more intimidating than listening to people play the etude better than you can. The practice room is going to be full of all different kinds of people playing constant loud music. Some people will spend the entire time practicing, but that may not be the best idea for you. I find that the more time I spend practicing, the more nervous I get. Warming up with the posted scales and running through the cuts 2-5 times is enough to be warmed up and ready to perform well. DO NOT WEAR YOURSELF OUT.

IN THE AUDITION ROOM

If you’ve never tried out for anything before, you should know what kind of tryout you are walking into. There are two types of auditions: live and blind. Most of the tryouts I have been to have been blind. This means you will be performing your prepared pieces to a block sheet instead of a visible judge. This process ensures that there are no biased scores or placements.

In the audition room it is important to stay calm because if you make a mistake in there it will reflect on your score,  and no matter what, DO NOT TALK. If you talk, and the judges believe that it caused your judges to give you a bias score, your score could be eliminated, or you could have to tryout again.

When your judge or room monitor tells you to play a scale or etude, you are allowed to play one note before you begin. If you choose to do so, I advise playing the first note of the excerpt. TAKE YOUR TIME. Auditions normally run ahead of schedule because people begin playing the second the judge tells them to go. But you can take all the time you need. Before you play take a deep breath and pick a solid slow tempo. When I am nervous I tend to pick a faster tempo that will lead me to make more mistakes. Slow down and pick a comfortable tempo even if it isn’t the tempo marking on the piece.

AFTER THE AUDITION

Breathe. Relax. Don’t sit around waiting for a phone call or email, and don’t stand by the wall were results are being posted. Go have your fun.

But when results are posted remember that the biggest differences between auditions are the people your’e up against and the people judging you. You may get a really high score and get a low placement, or you could get a really low score and get first chair. Everything is situational and all you can do is work hard, learn the music, and perform.

Feel free to ask any questions about auditions or just let me know how yours went. I’d love to hear from you. Good Luck