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ACCOUTREMENTS, APPAREL AND ATTIRE - Part 2: Small Ensembles

Posted on April 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM

If you haven’t had the chance to peruse www.awkwardclassicalmusicphotos.com, this would be a good time. That site has a plethora of bad fashion and poor choices for album covers and headshots. Just take a second and read some of the comments to understand why you shouldn’t ever pose in the nude. For that matter, you probably shouldn’t perform in the nude either. Unless of course, there is a specific reason for it, but that conversation is for another time.


When deciding what your small ensemble will wear, factor in the concept of your performance. Are you performing an all-baroque program? If so, perhaps mini-skirts and muscle-Ts aren’t the best choice. What image do you want to project with this performance? If you want your audience to leave the hall thinking, “WOW! SHE’S PRETTY!” then by all means, wear tight pants and a low-cut shirt. If that’s your goal, then go for it, but know that what you wear could overshadow the music.


Also think about what the performance space looks like. If you’re performing on a black stage with black curtains, then wearing an all-black outfit will make you blend in and de-emphasize your group. Instead, try a bold colored shirt or dress. Give your audience something to look at that won’t distract from the music at the same time. (My opinions on “new music black” in a future post.)


Consider the type of performance. When performing for little kids, all-black can be intimidating and tall heels will make you, well, taller and therefore farther away from them. When performing in a retirement community, jeans may not be appropriate. These folks are from a generation where jeans were more appropriate for fields and not for performances. I rarely saw my grandfathers in jeans much less at a nice occasion.


Be specific when discussing attire options with the group. “Look nice” means different things to different people. I know an absolutely incredible flutist (who is also a hybrid artist) who once told me that when she performed on a gala concert at the flute convention, she picked out her very best pair of shorts, her best vest and her best t-shirt for the occasion. She recalled thinking she looked really sharp. That is until people approached her and congratulated her on her outfit because she went up there and just didn’t care what she looked like. Oops! So, take the time to be specific about what “look nice” means.


Along the same lines as being specific, choose whether you will or will not coordinate. It’s awkward when 3 out of 5 people show up in shirt/tie and the other two are in all-black. If you decide to coordinate, think about the colors – are they clashing? Don’t ask the colorblind member of your group to answer that question. Some groups have everyone wearing the same shirt. Does it look super dorky? Yes… that IS a consideration!


A note to the guys: when the girls want to get specific about what to wear, don’t bug them about it. What you wear and how you look is important to the performance. It can add or detract from the audience’s experience. Wouldn’t you rather it added? If you don’t care what you wear, let the girls decide. They probably have a better idea anyway. If you’re in a group where no one cares about what to wear, make a choice. Be the one to make the choice. Which brings me to…


In theatre, directors are always instructing their actors to make a choice about a character or a line. In your imagination, what does the character look like? How do they walk? How do they talk? Etc. Not making a decision about how you will perform a character leads to uncommitted acting. The same goes with performing music. Make a strong choice with your attire. Consider the image you want to project, what will look good in the performance space, the type of performance and the specifics of the attire.


On a different subject, I apologize for posting a day late this week. I was having a wonderful time competing with the Indianapolis Ceili Band (pronounced “KAY-lee”) at the Midwest Fleadh (pronounced “FLAH”) in Chicago (hopefully you know how to say that one). In addition to being a hybrid artist and classical flutist, I’m also a folk music junkie and play Irish flute with the ceili band and in an Irish session in Indy. Ta-Da!



Stay tuned for next week’s entry, ACCOUTREMENTS, APPAREL AND ATTIRE - Part 3: Solo, where I discuss what to wear when you’re all by yourself… or in front of a whole bunch of people.

Categories: Stage Presence, Etiquette, Aware

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