To students – yes, you should dress nicely for any performance – festival, competition, even exams. You don’t need an evening gown or a suit and tie, but please, PLEASE don’t show up in sweats and flip-flops (we’ve discussed the flip flop issue – you just don’t have control of the pedals). In colder weather, don’t show up in distressed (deliberate or otherwise) jeans and any type or brand of winter boots. Dressing nicely shows that you respect yourself, your audience and the music. If you look better, you’ll play better.
And you should probably not, at this point of your lives, show up with hair and make-up like Hahn-Bin. He really is a good violinist, but his style dominates the music. He has shown up in a recent Limelight article titled Top 10 Style Icons in Classical Music. Other performers include a couple of young female pianists (Yuja Wang and Lola Astanova) who have redefined how much skin can be shown on stage. I’m happy to see one of my favourites, Stephen Hough, on the list – he’s known for his hats and for dressing as the “ultimate dapper English gentleman.”
I am quite possibly old-fashioned about this whole thing but something in me gets turned off when the dress or hair or make-up becomes more important than the music. From the article: “Certainly his (Hahn-Bin’s) gothic, futuristic and theatrical style makes a statement – he looks like a living art installation – but if you close your eyes, his playing is just as electrifying and eerily beautiful even without the visual stimuli.”
The Limelight article very fittingly ends with a photo of the timeless elegance of Maria Callas.
Chad at Cerebroom has written about the bias against racy female performance attire (trying to avoid certain words on this post!); Elaine Fine at Musical Assumption has written about her experience on stage with Hahn-Bin.