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Stage Deportment IV: Playing Well with Others

Stage Deportment IV: Playing Well with Others

This final installment in the series will be dedicated to the special issues that arise when sharing the stage with other musicians.

On several occasions, my students have pushed back at the notion of traditional etiquette on stage. I always assert that, when playing in a duo of mixed genders, the male musician must always permit the female musician to walk in front. That means both entering the stage first and exiting the stage first. This is so even in cases where it leads to crossing on stage. That is, if the female takes a position closest to the point of stage entry, she will walk out first and the male will follow, walking past her (behind her, not in front) to assume his position. 

It may seem illogical; shouldn't the musicians simply proceed in the order that leads them naturally to their performing positions? The answer is yes, when in a group of three or more. But when playing in a duo, it is different. The rules of public manners, of etiquette, dictate that the man should always defer to the woman in this way: letting her go first. 

My students inevitably insist: but it's been 50 years since the the launch of the women's movement and its push for gender equality. Aren't we equal, they ask, and if so, who cares who goes first? My answer is that we are equal where pay and title and position are concerned but in the eyes of the public it is still rude to walk out in front of her. And we are after all, playing for the public. 

This rule has in fact been breaking down in recent years, but I feel, particularly for students, that erring on the side of tradition in this case is the wiser move. After you are established and well into your career, it is a sensible time to flaunt tradition and turn custom on its head. Still, even then, if you (the male) walk out in front of her, many will regard you as rude. 

As mentioned above, in larger ensembles this rule doesn't apply. The reason is simply practical. It is unwieldy to arrange, say, a quartet in gender-order, to walk out, then reshuffle on stage to take your seats. This would cause an unnecessary traffic jam and appear chaotic--the exact opposite of the effect intended. 

So, with that little tidbit of advice, I'll conclude my comments on stage deportment. Happy performing!
Stephen Fazio plays Jesse Jones

Stephen Fazio plays Jesse Jones

Barrios Studies Day at Oberlin

Barrios Studies Day at Oberlin