I go to a lot of concerts from professional level through to primary school groups with different standards and styles. Normally I focus on what they sound like, but this is about what they look like, or rather what one member of each ensemble looks like.
Let me set the scene – a senior school band, all looking fabulous in formal concert black, sitting up straight with clean shoes. Sparkling with good presentation. They have obviously listened to hours of lectures about the importance of looking good as well as sounding good, and rightly so. They spring into action and stand for the arrival of their esteemed conductor. Out saunters a guy wearing old brown shoes, shabby greyish too-big pants and an old faded tan jacket with patches on the elbows. What on earth? The scary thing is that this frump was probably the guy giving the lectures!
A string group is all turned out in immaculate school uniform, ties – the works. I can feel the glowing pride of the Principal from here. The conductor comes on wearing exactly what she wore to school that day. Long flat brown boots, tights, floral skirt and a ‘nice’ coloured cardy.
A community orchestra is in black with white shirts, black jackets and bow ties. Women in all black. Look great – super formal. Female Conductor comes on – also in black (yay – good start) but a short shirt creating a gap during the loud bits and leggings!
These are all real examples and I could go on and on and on.
Most don’t pass the ‘from the back side’ test. They look dreadful from behind. Some outfits don’t cover or get stuck on ‘the back side’. The back of a conductor is where the audience will look, they are front and centre, literally. A conductor should never attract negative attention.
Female conductors have a more difficult time with this. Men have it easy. If they wear a nice dark suit, they will be fine. Easy. It will look tailored, cover their bums and they will look like they have made as much effort as their ensembles. Perfect.
When I buy conducting outfits, (which I do, frighteningly often), I stand in the changing room getting a very critical friend to look at me from behind while I flap around.
Conductor outfit check list:
- Do you look at least as good as your ensemble?
- Wear black – almost always?
- Has someone to check you from behind?
- Flap your arms up and down vigorously to see if anything catches.
- Are there any gaps?
- Is anything see-through?
- Check the length! (I didn’t even include this example, too awkward. You can imagine – high stage, short skirt…..)
- Does it look like you made an effort?
- Would your ensemble be as proud of you as you are of there presentation?
It doesn’t matter if you are conducting in the school gym or Carnegie Hall, every conductor should have a formal conducting outfit that looks great and has passed the ‘from the backside’ test.