Monday, March 14, 2016


Rehearsal and Performance Etiquette | Pictures From The Classroom

Rehearsal and Performance Etiquette
by Nikk Pilato

The following "rules of etiquette" are compiled from many sources, both professional and amateur, encompassing decades of performing (and life) experience by some of the very best musicians in history. These guidelines form the backbone of everything we strive to be as professionals, in any field of endeavour. Familiarizing yourself with -- and following -- these simple maxims will ensure that you always come across as a professional in your dealings with others, be it a rehearsal, a performance, or even day-to-day academic and personal interactions.


If at all possible, try to secure your folder/music before the first rehearsal of any given concert sequence, and begin preparing your part in advance. Check for tricky rhythms, look up any unfamiliar musical terms, write in cues or available rehearsal notes, phrases, alternate fingerings, etc., and read through the music (even if you only have enough time to do one read-through). You should never sightread a part in rehearsal, unless you simply did not have access to the music beforehand. Of particular importance is numbering your measures: Rehearsals often move briskly, and it will save you quite a bit of time and grief if all of your measures are clearly numbered and you are able to locate them quickly and efficiently.

Rehearsal is for "big picture" ideas -- musicality, phrasing, interpretation, and communication. Practice, which should take place on your own, is where you do the nitty gritty work: learning notes, tricky rhythms, articulations, etc., so that we as an ensemble may get on with the business of making music. In the real world, if you show up not knowing your part, you will never get called back.

Show up to rehearsal as early as your class schedule allows, giving you enough time to get your instrument together and properly warmed up prior to the first downbeat. It is expected that when the first downbeat is given, you are already in your seat with all necessary materials (music, mutes, extra reeds, miscellaneous equipment), ready to go: If you are not, then you are considered tardy. Players who walk in at 1:59pm for a 2:00pm rehearsal are a major source of irritation and frustration for those who are professional and considerate enough to come early. They may never tell you this, but you are casting an impression of your worth that is hard to shake later in life. Make it a habit to always be early and well-prepared.

Have a constructive attitude, no matter how you feel, no matter how your day has been. You could be working hard hours under the sun, or digging a ditch, or any one of a hundred other very difficult jobs, but instead you get to make music with your colleagues. Treat the rehearsal as an oasis -- respect your peers, the conductor, and most of all, respect the music you get to make.

Have good hygiene, use deodorant, keep your shoes on, wear appropriate clothing, remove baseball caps or hats, etc. Keep perfume and cologne to a minimum -- many will appreciate none at all. You certainly do not have to go back to old school days and wear a suit and tie or dress for rehearsals, but you should not treat rehearsals like a "Netflix and Chill" date...we are here to work.

Your non-musical accessories (phone, keys, wallet, etc.) belong in your case/purse/satchel, not on the shelf of your stand, waiting to tip over and clatter to the floor. Your phone should never be on your stand, especially not if you are using it as a tuner while playing: All you are doing is training your ears to stop actively listening and this is, in the long run, hampering your ability to grow as a musician (not to mention the distractions it causes as banners and alert messages flash across your screen).

Avoid "silent practicing" by tapping, silent fingering, or humming/whistling: It is noisy, annoying to your colleagues, and lets everyone know that you did not learn your part. Similarly, do not noticeably tap your foot for tempo or "conduct" along with the music. Music requires a great deal of concentration, and even barely noticeable things can be amplified into major distractions. When someone sitting near you has a solo or important passage and you are not playing, sit perfectly still and do not make sudden moves. If you have to change a tuning, empty a water key, pick up a mute, etc. only do so if it is absolutely necessary and be as discreet as possible.

Avoid asking questions about notes or rhythms during the rehearsal -- this wastes valuable time. Check the score with the conductor during breaks or before/after rehearsal; or ideally, check your part for possible errors ahead of time, even before the first rehearsal of the music!

Mistakes happen...when you make one (or someone near you does), do not let your body language or mannerisms reflect the mistake. Do not raise your hand when you drop a note, stare at the culprit, laugh, make a sour face or a flippant nothing at all. Maintain a poker face. Often, you may be the only one who heard the mistake and it does you no good to point out your error to everyone (especially the audience). If it was someone else's mistake, chances are they know it and they know how to fix it -- the last thing they need is someone piling on.

Your pencil is your best not make the same mistake twice because you "forgot." Pencil in everything the conductor says as it relates to your parts: Alternate dynamics, intonation adjustments, rhythmic and articulation issues...everything. Many young musicians believe this is unprofessional -- this could not be further from the truth! A quick perusal at parts in major symphony orchestras would demonstrate that professionals leave nothing to chance!

When a conductor speaks to you, always acknowledge by making direct eye contact, and possibly an affirmative nod. If you feel the conductor is wrong about a rhythm or musical direction, do not confront them in the rehearsal -- speak to them privately during the break or after rehearsal. Many misunderstandings are avoided in this manner.

Do not turn around to look at the people behind you while they are playing, and do not initiate or engage in conversation while the conductor is speaking or rehearsing another section. The only acceptable conversations during a rehearsal should be about issues regarding the music, and only at the appropriate times. Casual or personal conversations of any nature are best saved for after rehearsal.

Be direct and friendly about fixing pitches or rhythms with colleagues. Do not be manipulative about your words, nor should you be passive-aggressive. A simple, direct request or suggestion without rancor or malice is always the best alternative. open to such suggestions from your colleagues! We are all working together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Learn the difference between criticism (which tends to have a negative slant) and critique (which tries to clarify and edify, not demean)

Do not pack up before the end of rehearsal until you are officially may still have more to play. If the conductor runs over the allotted time, don't huff and puff, don't roll your eyes, and don't make faces. If you have another class that you must run off to, gather your things quietly and without calling attention to yourself. Odds are the conductor simply didn't know, but if it becomes a habit, it is something you can discuss with him or her (again, in private) to ensure better communication.


Always double check performance times, locations, and dress code. Plan to arrive early enough to warm up, and always give yourself extra time in case of traffic or other minor emergencies. If you are not familiar with the performance venue, plan to arrive significantly earlier in case you get lost or have trouble finding the location, an entrance, a working elevator, etc.

When you enter the stage, you are immediately on display and in professional performance mode. Now is not the time to start playing high notes or fortissimo orchestral excerpts (that are not on the concert that night). Do not practice your tough licks on stage over and over again right before the concert begins -- you'll just make yourself tense and fatigue your chops. Whenever possible, use practice mutes or buzz on your mouthpiece (within reason). Sometimes, a little mental run-through is all that is needed.

Make sure your mobile device has been left backstage, and that you have turned it off or have it set to "Airplane Mode." Many a performance has been marred by a cell phone ringing backstage. As with rehearsals, keep the rest of your non-musical accessories in your case, purse, or satchel, not on the shelf of your stand or on the floor by your feet.

Do not turn a page during silence, unless absolutely necessary. If you must, lift the corner of the page so that it does not scrape against the stand.

Leave your seat immediately when switching pieces or seats...swab out and pack up later. The next players want to play a few notes before tuning! Also, be aware of -- and sensitive to -- other players' line-of-sight to the conductor. Do your best to be accommodating.

At the end of a piece, do not finish playing and put your instrument down before the conductor has concluded: Don't be a gunslinger, eager to holster your weapon. Let the music fade completely, and respect the conductor's idea of conclusion, regardless of what it may be.

Count the rests! If you have a lot of bars tacet, give a small hand or finger signal at all the important rehearsal letters, double bars, or the cues immediately before your next entrance. This allows all the players in the section to ensure they have the correct count. If you are not sure of the count, do not make a signal. With everyone counting carefully, no section should ever get lost. Please do not make your signals visible to an audience or even other sections, who may have different counts than you.

Avoid nervous repetitive actions: Looking at reed, adjusting seat/stand, instrument adjustments, fixing your hair, or other actions that draw attention to yourself.

Remember: every time you are in public, an impression is made, good or bad. This applies both to the music you play and to the statements you make to your colleagues. Do not start complaining about anything until you have left the building. Even then, make sure you know your audience and that what you say will not offend them or someone they respect. More importantly, keep in mind that the things you say out loud can often be traced back to you: Before you ever open your mouth to criticize someone, think to yourself "...and then what?" If nothing good can come from your complaint, it is most wisely kept to yourself.

Nikk Pilato

Nikk Pilato was appointed to the faculty at Indiana State University in 2015, where he serves as Director of Athletic Bands, conducts the Wind Symphony, teaches courses in the Music Education curriculum, and contributes to the University's mission through teaching, conducting, research, service, and scholarly/creative endeavors. He has previously held similar positions at the high school and university level in the states of California, Florida, and Georgia. Pilato earned the Bachelor of Music Education, a Master of Music Education, and a Ph.D. in Conducting and Music Education from the Florida State University College of Music in Tallahassee, Florida, where his primary conducting teachers were Richard Clary, Patrick Dunnigan, and Jim Croft.


Pictures from the Classroom - Springfield, MO

This is a picture of HALF of the fundraiser from Westport Middle School in Springfield, MO. They do a fundraiser through Coca-Cola each year and their middle school program raised $4,000 this year! If you would like more information on the Coke fundraiser, please email Brandy Campbell at [email protected].

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