I was sitting near the front, and to me, it looked like the first violinists were nearly falling asleep sometimes. Ok maybe I’m stupid, but it seems like, if you’re playing a heartbreaking Brahms melody, your body language shouldn’t say “Just another day at the office….”

My apologies if I’m out of place here! Just a thought!

No, this isn’t about an orchestra I play in. It’s not even about one in California. It’s a comment from another professional orchestra’s blog, and it’s a good reminder; the audience is watching us. They want to believe we care. Sometimes we don’t look like we do. While I don’t believe we should have to smile while playing (yes, I was asked to do that once), and we are having to concentrate very hard so we might look awfully serious sometimes, if we look like we are snoozing something is wrong. Sometimes — dare I say this — we even have to become actors; there is music I really dislike (say, for instance, the Franck d minor), but when I’m performing it is my job to “sell” the work, no matter what I think about it.


  1. Reminds of a time when I was playing a pit gig in Mexico.

    The managers had set up the orchestra so that the horns were in the back and trombones — for some reason — were set up front behind the woodwinds. One of the bone players was bored and pulled out a Playboy magazine of all things.

    Meanwhile in a box seat that hung over the pit, was a newspaper photographer.

    The picture was posted in the newspaper the next day as a funny, human interest story. The bone player’s wife and boss didn’t think it was so funny needless to say.

    Even in a pit, the eyes can be on you. Occasionally I look up and see people with BINOCULARS checking us out. Gulp!

  2. In my youth — when I was even more clueless than I am now — I used to bring my embroidery into the pit with me. Someone once came down to ask what I was working on. Only then did I realize that I was SEEN. Sigh.

    Of course then there was the trombonist who brought a tiny TV into the pit so he could watch a football game. The “pit” wasn’t even a true pit, so everyone could see him and one man came down during intermission and asked if he could stay there to watch the game.

  3. Back in the days when I was in the pit, we were mercifully out of sight – underneath the stage and curtained off from the audience. So we were free to be a little goofy, not wear black, etc. Of course, some members occasionally forgot that unseen does not mean unheard, and would have rather loud conversations between numbers.

    I’m glad we were able to be so relaxed, but you’re right – we’re there as performers and need to “stay in character,” so to speak. Yawning, dozing, or talking during a performance sends the message you don’t care, and neither should the audience.

  4. Downside to being paid to play music: sometimes you have to play stuff you don’t particularly care for.

    Upside to being paid to play music: you’re being paid to play music! How cool is that! Golly, even!

    I’ve done shows (in fact, a significant percentage of those I have done) where I could have literally reached out and put my hand on the knee of someone in the audience (not that I ever did). I would certainly nod and smile and otherwise interact with them (when appropriate), but I still thought of myself as being separate from them, if that makes any sense. And I always considered myself part of the performance, even though if I was doing a good job most of them wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) even notice me particularly, although my efforts should enhance their experience.

    Maybe if I’d stopped wearing the rainbow wig…

  5. That football story is great! Love it!

    Why don’ tyou like the Franck? It’s one of my favorites! Now Sibelius 5-7. That’s a different story…

  6. Hmmm. Why don’t I like the Franck? Dunno. Boring? Silly? Or maybe it just doesn’t hit me the way it hits some people.

    … but I do like Sibelius! 🙂

  7. I always try to be aware of what my body language and facial expression say- I’m playing 4th oboe in Mahler 1 right now, so I have plenty of time to practice!