The ever sharp Sam Bergman published a fascinating post on 12/3/08 in response to the satirical article published by Holly Mulcahy about how musician behavior can alienate audiences (you have to love cross blog blogging). Sam does a wonderful job at expanding on Holly’s original premise, especially with regard to root causes which unintentionally develop inadvertent conduct, but it is the end of his article that caught my attention…
In particular, Sam suggests that in order to improve some of the detrimental onstage behavior is someone in authority should issue an order that corrects the problems and that’s that (grumbling and snarling aside). Yet,. I find myself thinking about how labor relations can be complex and delicate structures and in order to avoid any potential butterfly effect, I think it would be wise to consider additional options.
Regular readers know that I’m all about the process and I would suggest that managers use some of the additional pearls from Sam’s article to approach this issue with their musicians. In particular, take the following passage:
“…we [behave this way] because we literally don’t know any better. Musicians, alone among performing arts professionals, are never, at any point in their training, taught to be performers. We’re taught how to play music, and how to take direction. No one ever teaches us the tricks that actors, dancers, and singers learn, such as how to make the whole auditorium feel like you’re looking at them, how to walk across a stage without ever putting your back to the audience, or how to take a curtain call.”
Over the past several years, there has been a great deal of time, effort, and resources dedicated to issues of musician professional development or other such projects, such as those from the Mellon Orchestra Forum. I can only think of the potential positive impact that could have been realized if a program such as that allocated some of its ample resources to these issues. I already know of some orchestras which have worked on these topics by bringing in a paid professional to work on this issue (like a stage coach) and if approached from this perspective, I believe that the end result might get the most out of mandating improved stage decorum.
Nevertheless, I’m interested in hearing any firsthand accounts of efforts which address the issues identified in the articles from Holly and Sam. If you have something to share, please send it in as a comment. In the meantime, you can read Holly’s article here and Sam’s entire post over at the diminutive font sized Minnesota Orchestra blog, Inside The Classics.