The first in a series of Conductor Smack Downs!
The topic what we wear, and what the audience wears has popped up yet again. We so often don’t have an answer to our audience woes, so why do we turn to fashion to solve our problems? If we are building a house and we are looking at a hole in the ground where it will eventually be, the window treatments should be the furthest thing from our minds….
Holly’s Partial Observer article mentions the audience expectations in regards to dress. I am glad she wrote about this as we can’t discount the importance of their needs from us. Like it or not we are an occasion for many people, an event that many get dressed up for. At the same time, if they don’t want to dress up that is OK too, our audience members are there for many purposes be it social, educational or otherwise, which is why the idea of a Blue Jeans concert series bothers me as is that not a dress code also that also potentially shuts people out?* We are there primarily for the purposes of giving them a great concert that demonstrates unity, so we need to look unified also.
The majority of our audiences are above 40 (well above) and there are many traditionalists that make up our audience who like to see us in traditional formal attire. We need to include them in the decision if we want to change the dress and the aesthetic. The visual element is a big part of the experience for many. I know this because of the mail we sometimes receive regarding our appearance (and how I don’t wear patent leather shoes! – I draw the line at some things I guess). We like to think that the way we perform and the music we perform should be the only reason people attend, but I feel as though most are there for the overall experience and that includes the way we look. As an actor it would be more comfortable to perform Shakespeare in a jumpsuit also!
If Henry the V went shopping instead of into battle:
Once more into the “britches”, dear friends, once more
For me there is comfort level in wearing traditional clothing and it also heightens all of our expectations. I look at it like a graduation. We are graduating the program that we have been working on so hard. It is now time to present the graduating class of Mahler’s 5th 2007….70 minutes later thunderous applause and standing ovations! I like making an effort to dress up for our audience in appreciation for their attendance, and to show we are unified for them in every way for this special occasion.
On the flip side dressing up is a little awkward and embarrassing when there are very few in the audience (luckily for us not a problem here at the present time). They are not staying away because of the way we dress, it goes much deeper than that so let’s not blame the clothes. It is that we are all dressed up and the audiences had other places to go! We wont find them by chasing our “tails”.
* The Mobile Symphony does present a Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert once a year which seems to be very successful based on it’s longevity. The reason for it’s success I believe is that it is only once a year which makes wearing jeans an annual event rather than an expected dress code for a series, which is very restrictive no matter how comfortable the clothes are. I applaud them for not trying to make out that the concert is exclusively for the “young” which is one of my pet peeves.