What Should We Wear Onstage?

As it most likely true in all orchestras, mine has a decided rift amongst the women members in terms of what is appropriate to wear at a Masterworks concert. Being of a certain age, I always wear a floor-length skirt and a fancy top, usually velvet. It irks me to see 20-something women dressed as if they were on their way to the mall, with street pants and loafers or boots.

And the men are always so pleased to wear all black at our Sunday matinee concert, after dealing with white tie and tails for three preceding nights. But do the Sunday audience members pay any less for their tickets? Shouldn’t they get “the full deal?”

But the times, they are a-changing.

This past week, cellist Julian Schwarz, performing with his father Gerard guest conducting, wore a V-neck black T-shirt under a black jacket. And my reaction was just fine — he played beautifully and I’m sure it helped him not to be restricted by a tie and tight jacket.

The winter edition of Symphony magazine has an interesting and fun article titled “Fashion” by Jennifer Melick, a managing editor of the magazine. Lots of photos and interesting comments from soloists, conductors, and chamber musicians. Yuja Wang in a mini-skirt to Renée Fleming in full diva gown.

Ms. Melick includes extensive comments from Joshua Bell (who’s contemplating wearing a dark blue shirt under his black vest!), Anu Tali, music director of the Sarasota Orchestra, who is more conservative in her tastes, Sarah Ioannides, music director of the Tacoma Symphony and Spartanburg Philharmonic. who’s a working mother with no time for clothes shopping,  Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who often declines to wear a tie, and the ensemble Sybarite5.

All concur that the white tie and tails commonly worn are anachronistic – a “uniform that dates back 100 years.” And, according to bassist Louis Levitt of Sybarite5, “What is interesting, and what I think is very healthy, is to have the discussion about it.”

Take a look and see how you feel about the issue.

About the author

Ann Drinan
Ann Drinan

Ann Drinan, Senior Editor, has been a member of the Hartford Symphony viola section for over 30 years. She is a former Chair of the Orchestra Committee, former member of the HSO Board, and has served on many HSO committees. She is also the Executive Director of CONCORA (CT Choral Artists), a professional chorus based in Hartford and New Britain, founded by Artistic Director Richard Coffey. Ann was a member of the Advisory Board of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI), and was the HSO ROPA delegate for 14 years, serving as both Vice President and President of ROPA. In addition to playing the viola and running CONCORA, Ann is a professional writer and editor, and has worked as a consultant and technical writer for software companies in a wide variety of industries for over 3 decades. (She worked for the Yale Computer Science Department in the late 70s, and thus has been on the Internet, then called the DARPAnet, since 1977!) She is married to Algis Kaupas, a sound recordist, and lives a block from Long Island Sound in Branford CT. Together they create websites for musicians: shortbeachwebdesign.com.

Ann holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in International Relations from Yale University.

Read Ann Drinan's blog here. web.esm.rochester.edu/poly/author/ann-drinan

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