Friday, June 27, 2008

Orchestra Etiquette

While attending a recent Garfield High School orchestra concert under the direction of the incomparable Marcus Tsutakawa, I realized it might be useful for local, professional ensembles to learn etiquette from these extraordinary youngsters. The camaraderie between Garfield orchestra musicians is enviable and worth noting. At Garfield, when a student steps onto the platform to embark on a solo, he or she is surrounded by supportive peers, similar to players on the same sports team. I doubt the second desk violinist snickers or sneers if the concertmaster flubs a note. Over the years, Ilkka and I have attended a number of Garfield High School concerts. We share a large roster of instrumentalists from that inspiring program, and our lives have been enhanced and enriched by the talents, ambitions, and diverse backgrounds of these budding artists. I could go on and on in praise of these students, but I'll get back to my point; orchestra etiquette.

Here are some do's and don'ts in my book:

Use mouthwash if you're going to incessantly talk to a stand partner during rehearsal. Ever see the close talker episode of Seinfeld?
Don't pull the music stand away from your stand partner to hog the score. Instead, make an appointment with an optometrist.
If you prefer the lady concertmistress to the male concertmaster, don't make it obvious to everyone by repositioning your music stand closer to the female, or stamping your foot loudly whenever the object of your fantasies plays a solo line. We knew a cellist (the cellists sat next to the first violins) who had this rude and offensive habit.
It's counter productive to bicker with the person in front of you, next to you, and behind to insist your way is the correct one.
One should avoid taking on the role of section music director, as it presents only confusion among colleagues. One conductor is enough, thank you.
If you must wear a seat belt to keep from wild, mannered bodily movements and gyrations, then do so. I don't think it's a breach of dress code if your seat belt is black.
If you're the personnel manager, supposedly setting an example for others, it might be decent to at least acknowledge the section leader, or concertmaster, with eye contact. But then again, guilt is the greatest self-accuser.

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