Apparently, I’m Going To Concerts For The Wrong Reason

There is an absolutely wonderful article from the 5/25/2207 edition of the L.A. Times by Joel Stein that pulls no punches when it comes to the issue of concert attire…


At the same time, the author presents on one of the most amusing opinions behind why people go to orchestra concerts. For as long as I remember, it has been about who, what, and where with regard to the music was but according to Joel it is all about getting lucky:

Nobody is getting any after a date that involves Shostakovich played by dudes in sweatpants. And that’s the sole point of going to the symphony.

The real thrust of Joel’s article should speak to every orchestra manager and musician in the business: when it comes to stage attire, we need professional help. This is an old issue here at Adaptistration and perhaps one of the better articles on the subject was from a piece entitled Jacket Not Required where Milwaukee Symphony concertmaster, Frank Almond, was quoted as saying this about the issue of stage attire:

“…why can’t orchestras [secure] the services of a designer…there must be a way to get a designer like Versace or Zegna interested in something like this.”

Lash_Fary.jpgUnfortunately, it wasn’t an orchestra manager or musician who came up with the means to tackle this subject with the level of abandon it so desperately needs. Instead, it was Joel Stein at the L.A. times who convinced a friend, Hollywood style sage Lash Fary (that’s Lash pictured to your left), to take three L.A. Philharmonic musicians out for a fashion makeover in advance of a recent Casual Friday concert (where the patrons and musicians get to dress casually).

Joel was able to convince Lash to use his connections to secure free casual clothing for the trio of musicians and reading about the entire experience is simply priceless. In fact, I hope the article garners enough attention that Lash has clients on their knees begging him for the opportunity to dress the entire orchestra for another Casual Friday concert. Who knows, perhaps the players will look so good on sage that the L.A. Phil will decide to expand the casual series.

And why stop there, maybe Versace or Zegna will take notice and see the value in tackling this issue head-on. Frankly, I’d love nothing better than to see an entire orchestra get hauled onto “a very special episode” of The Learning Channel’s What Not To Wear.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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5 thoughts on “Apparently, I’m Going To Concerts For The Wrong Reason”

  1. One of the great things about this article is the casual mocking disrespect he shows for the musicians. Not that I’m generally in favor of disrespect, but in the case of orchestras we see far too much deference. Stein treats them like regular people, which is especially refreshing in a column by a non-specialist.

    Getting “What Not To Wear” to do a whole orchestra probably isn’t realistic, but you should pick your favorite disheveled conductor and nominate him or her.

    I don’t know how excited I am about the idea of throwing those sorts of resources at conductors. They make plenty of money and have personal agents who should be paying attention to how they dress in the first place. As such, I’m still going to hold my breath over getting an entire orchestra on the show (feel free to dial 9-1-1 at any time)

    Nevertheless, I do like the way they approach the players, furthermore, I like the fact that they find the players important enough to include in something like this. They could have just as easily approached one of the staff conductors or a soloist. ~DM

  2. It would be helpful if the link took you to the article, itself. I absolutely refuse to register to read something at the LA Times.

    However, one need only look at Lief Ove Andsnes’ outfits as examples of what is good-looking and comfortable to wear. I think his designer is either Armani or Yamamoto. And, those designers know how to make women look good, too, regardless of what kind of figure they have.

    No arguments regarding the registration requirement. My only suggestion is to try one of the registration codes at http://www.bugmenot.com/ ~DM

  3. Thank you so much for posting this. I have had this conversation with friends and colleagues over the past ten years – partially because of our dreams (“Would it NOT be nice to have some great designer sponsor an orchestra by providing tuxedos, black dresses, and smart pantsuits?” Would that NOT be a great marketing tool for Versace, Zegna, or Donna Karan?”). Over the years, however, the issue has changed from one of sheer fantasy to the concept of presenting one’s self in a manner that shows self-respect.

    “What we do” is something quite formal, regardless of the ageless debate on the relevance of the symphony orchestra, and we owe it to ourselves and our audiences to treat it formally – including what we wear on stage. It’s wonderful to see someone taking the charge…

    BTW, I think Lief Ove Andsnes’s designer is Issey Miyake…

  4. Just remember the first rule of fashion: it’s fashion. That is, what’s in style this season will be out of style next. That’s the big danger of something like classical music chasing clothing fads and the like. It pretty much guarantees that at some point you are going to be out of fashion completely. Better to stick to classic attire, which, while it will never truly be fashionable, has had and probably will have greater staying power than most designer labels.

    I’ve long bristled at the comparison of classical’s so called stuffy attire to the supposedly more egalitarian pursuits. But if you look closely at what we’re supposed to emulate, be that fashion design or indie rock or whatever, you’ll find that it is invariably even more pretentious and more exclusionary than classical music. In fact, part of what makes these scenes so “hip” is their very exclusiveness, as clubs that are too cool to allow mere mortals like you and me to be members. The suit and tie is the ultimate in egalitarian compared to this.

    The idea that classical music will be more approachable if we substitute fashion labels for white tie vitiated after only a moment’s consideration of what the fashion world actually represents.

    Good points although
    I don’t know why a designer would have to come up with something trendy as opposed to an endearing look that doesn’t conjure up the images associated with white tie formality. If anything I would agree that standard dress being replaced with trendy isn’t a good thing but there’s no denying that white tie dress on stage sets the tone throughout the audience. ~DM

  5. ANONYMOUS

    I was married to a member of a “Big Five” symphony orchestra. I went on every global/international and national tour as a wife, and sat at the swimmings pool in exotic and not so exotic locales with all the ladies and gentlemen of the orchestra. Believe me, most of these fine musicians do not have the figures that the likes of Versace would like to dress. The black set of tails and long black dresses make everyone look terrific!

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