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focus on self and the anxiety of performing. Focus outward, not inward. My private teacher taught me to concentrate on important features in each musical measure. Then during a performance, I wouldn’t have time to focus on self, allow- ing anxiety and self-doubt to creep in. He was right. Basi- cally it starts when you concentrate on that first step onto the stage, then during the entire piece and finally towards that final bow, never allowing yourself to leave the analyti- cal arena.


The visual aspect of a performance should include the per- sonal appearance of the performer as well. In this day and age, there is a tendency for a wider choice in performance attire. However, flip-flops, sweatshirts and threadbare jeans tend to push the envelope, especially when program- ing consists of Mendelssohn, Bach and Mozart. Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Nigel Kennedy might get away with it, but only because they have earned a rather high benchmark in performance! Rock and country western concerts have their own dress code. It’s best to error on the side of tradi- tion and dress for the occasion.


Another awkward moment is often observed when a subtle hand gesture extended toward the accompanist is not of- fered. An accompanist, often an adult, can appear uncom- fortable waiting for that gracious gesture inviting him/her to take part in the final bow. Regardless of the student’s age, this gesture should be taught. It’s not rocket science. The Suzuki Method stresses the importance of bowing. It represents respect and appreciation. It is an expected visual and should be shared when more than one performs.


Student bands often file onto a stage in single file fashion. Orchestras, on the other hand by tradition, ascend the stage in a casual manner and assemble without formation. When seated, orchestras are known to immediately warm up, individually tuning. Then after the concertmaster appears onstage, the “official A” is given and all tune in unison. These are the normal gestures for orchestras before a performance. Many young orchestras take their seats on stage, appear frozen and never move until the conductor appears. I always feel they should be allowed to start tuning and warming up casually as soon as they sit down as in the professional world.


When the concertmaster appears, the audience acknowl- edges his/her appearance with applause, followed by the concertmaster bowing midway on stage and with a smile. I recall Mischa Mischakoff, concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1952-1968), always greeting the audience warmly with a full smile as he walked onto stage. He entered briskly, with purpose, and always with that infectious smile, followed by a deep bow prior to giving the tuning A. The audience loved him. He conveyed a mes-


sage he was thrilled to be there. His personal gesture of acknowledging the audience was returned with enthusiastic applause. The audience felt like family - the magic of a genuine gesture.


The same acknowledging gesture is offered by the conduc- tor as well. After the concertmaster appears and the tuning is finalized, the conductor appears on stage with the same expectations and traditions, plus the ensemble rises as he/ she approaches. This is a gesture of respect and unity. Prior to taking the podium, a handshake is often shared by the conductor and concertmaster. Formality set in tradition.


Upon the conclusion of a band or orchestra performance, the conductor extends his/her hand to first the soloist if fea- tured, and then the concertmaster for a congratulatory hand- shake and usually followed by a gesture for the orchestra to rise. Often a featured soloist will gesture for the orchestra to stand and share in the applause. It is also tradition for an orchestra or band to join the audience in applauding a soloist. Years ago, the tip of bows were gently tapped on the stands by the string sections to convey the orchestra’s congratulations to the soloist. Since the marketing of these bows has skyrocketed, feet shuffling on stage often replace this gesture of applause. If a soloist is performing with an ensemble, the soloist always walks onto stage in front of the conductor, as well as when the performance ends. The same applies for curtain calls. Often a conductor chooses not to appear after several curtain calls. This is the moment for the soloist alone.


There is a sense of comfort knowing the steps prior to a performance. In sports, one looks forward to the National Anthem and the coin toss. At weddings, the processional and the standing as the bride enters are tradition. Many public gatherings have their specific expectations. Regard- less of changing times and attitudes, audiences still look forward to maintaining traditions. True, the ever-changing worlds of jazz, rock, pop, country western and hip-hop have created totally different genres. For the most part, the classical format still remains intact. There is room for both tradition and change.


Section leaders in a band and orchestra give subtle cues to their sections with slight body gestures. It begins with a breath and a slight lifting of the instrument, then the sound of the first note as they exhale. Sometimes it is accompa- nied by a noticeable head nod when leading their sections in entrances. Again, it is not only a visual watching this communication among musicians, but a level of musical sophistication which produces matching styles and preci- sion among stand partners and within the entire sections.


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