Audition and competition season is upon us in the northern hemisphere, so in this article I will address a topic that is most pressing for this time of year.
On-stage behavior is something that even non-musicians seem to think they know something about. Teachers often forget to discuss this issue because it is assumed that students know a bit about it already, having been audience goers and television watchers. However, after some very goofy incidents in my college flute and voice classes, I realize that stage deportment should really be discussed! Here are ten tips to great stage presence.
1. Smile as you come onto the stage.
• Bow at the same time as your pianist, or chamber music partners.
• Be sure to bow at a tempo moderato - not too fast or you‘ll give yourself whiplash. One of my guitar teaching friends suggests saying a really long dinosaur name to your feet at the bottom of your bow, to keep your head down long enough. “Stegosaurus!”
• Avoid curtseys and hand flourishes, even if you are really into bowing practices from previous centuries. Keep your hands at your sides and let them trace the seam on your pants/skirt.
3. When you are ready to play, take a breath in the tempo of your piece if you start, or nod to the pianist/instrumentalist if someone else starts.
4. Check your posture while you play—sometimes when we are nervous we do strange things with our stance, limbs, or hands.
• Have a friend or family member attend your dress rehearsal, or use a video tape, so you can get feedback on how you look while playing.
5. If there is a piano interlude, be sure to hold focus and posture—pick a place to look: above the audience, the back of the hall, an exit sign, your teacher’s smiling face, your music, or perhaps you will look towards your pianist and enjoy the music!
• If you slump, seem distracted or unhappy, the audience may not pay attention to the beautiful performance of your chamber partners, or even clap prematurely! Holding your flute close to your face may help the audience realize the piece is not over.
• If you look towards the audience, look towards the foreheads and hairstyles of your audience. Making eye contact can be unnerving for both you and the audience members.
6. Even if you do make a mistake (which does happen, even if you are very well-prepared and rehearsed) keep going as if NOTHING has happened and don’t make any faces! Most audience members are thinking about the beautiful music, tomorrow’s grocery list, napping, etc, so they will have totally missed whatever small mistake you may consider HUGE.
7. After you have finished the piece, SMILE!
8. Acknowledge your pianist/chamber partners and BOW together.
9. If you are the soloist, leave the stage first, and everyone else will follow. If you are part of a chamber group, leave the stage in the same order as you entered.
10. HAVE FUN, or at least make sure you LOOK like you’re having fun!