One of the conductors we had this year at Symphony Silicon Valley mentioned something about how we look. He said “The one complaint I get most of often is that orchestras look so sad.” He was trying to get us to look more lively … more like we were involved in the music. (I immediately wrote down his words so I wouldn’t misquote.)
Now I am involved when I play. I love what I do, and I get very into the music. But I don’t smile when I play. If the audience thinks we should smile, I would suggest they’ve been watching old Lawrence Welk shows too much.**
It’s difficult to smile when playing the oboe. That’s not how our embouchures work. (Do you notice how seldom cameras focus on oboists embouchures on those PBS shows? I think there’s a reason: we look pretty odd.) But even if I were playing something else … playing an instrument takes concentration and control and great skill. But it doesn’t require smiling.
I do recall a minister’s wife asking me once if I could smile when I played. Aarrghh.
Do surgeons smile while they cut into someone? Do plumbers smile as they unplug that drain or install a faucet? Does a prima ballerina smile as she does a million pirouettes?
Oh. Nix that last one. She’ll probably smile as they cut off her fingers. I think ballet dancers don’t know how to not smile!
But anyway, not smiling doesn’t mean we aren’t enjoying what we do, or suggest that we aren’t “into” it. Trust me on this one.
And yes, you might catch me smiling now and then. (But not with a reed in my mouth!)
** I wrote this eons ago. Today a friend mentioned she located my blog by searching on “Lawrence Welk” and “oboe”. So now I have to post a bit of a disclaimer: I wasn’t dissing LW … really! It’s just that his musicians DO smile when they play, but I doubt very much that his oboe player would … IF there was an oboe player. I’m not sure there was! But in any case, I felt bad that she landed on something negative. I need to be less negative, I know!