Do you tweet in rehearsal?

Do you tweet in rehearsal?


norman lebrecht

April 01, 2014

Or send texts? Or go on Facebook?

A colleague reports seeing players in the New York Philharmonic doing just that this morning.

Valery Gergiev has been known to read his phone screen while rehearsing the LSO.

Some players found that disrespectful – to them, and to the music.

Others feel it’s no different to using a smartphone in any other kind of work meeting.

So should all phones be surrendered at the stage door?

Your views, please…


new york philharmonic



  • HC, Cleve. says:

    Would you read the newspaper in rehearsal?

    I remember Eschenbach imposing institutional changes in Houston Symphony rehearsals in the 90’s. He made it quite clear that they were not welcome when he was on stage.

    I feel digital devices fall in a similar category. Taking limited photos for social media seems to me to be less egregious.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m a conductor and I see brass and percussion players do it all the time when they have extended rests. I don’t love it, but I understand that it can be pretty boring to sit there doing nothing for minutes at a time. But string players, let me tell you: we always see you doing it, no matter how well hidden you think your phone is, and it’s really, really annoying, especially when you miss your entrance!!

  • One should never tweet or facebook during rehearsals. Perhaps during the break, but never on stage. Not only does it set a bad precedent, it diminishes the value of rehearsals. If it is an open rehearsal or if there are board members or potential donors present, the action of texting or tweeting could be misinterpreted as wasted time or disrespectful.

    In one orchestra I’ve worked with recently, there was a zero tolerance phone policy on stage. That worked very nicely.

    The other end of the argument is if a section has a long tacet; shouldn’t those players be granted access to something to keep their mind occupied? Reading articles on a smartphone or quietly texting does keep the musician from falling asleep, but the line crossed with that scenario is when a musician tweets or facebooks about how boring the conductor is, or how awful the soloist is….which I have seen on statuses and tweets in the last couple years, and that is appalling.


    No texting, no tweaking, not even, twerking should be allowed during rehearsal. A professional musician need not receive the latest stock report nor statistics from the race track, while fulfilling his/her obligation to an orchestra. Some standards must be maintained.

    • MWnyc says:

      No, I’m sorry, Francis – you have to at least allow the percussionists to twerk during those incredibly long rests. They have to express their inner sense of rhythm somehow.

      They can do it behind the bass drum and the chimes so as not to distract the other players.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Very simple: shut the phone off when you go onstage. If you cannot leave your phone alone, then be off the stage immediately. Another option: a slightly higher pay for those who come onstage without smartphone at rehearsal and performance. In addition: technology in the hall through which all devices will be disabled. My few cents.

  • Paul Mauffray says:

    whenever I have conducted Respighi’s Pines of Rome, there is always someone tweeting at the end of the 3rd movement 😉

  • Aaron Alter says:

    I think that it’s not only disrespectful, it’s unprofessional to use smartphones or other devices during a rehearsal. If you are getting paid to do a job, do what you are paid to do, stay focused and try to minimize distractions.

  • Yes, but sparingly. In our orchestra we wear many hats, not only playing and organizing shows but also tweeting / Instagramming / Facebooking during rehearsals. A few rehearsal pics are a great to advertise upcoming shows. (Action shots being much more fun than stock photos.)

    Rules are, don’t do it to excess, don’t distract people, and make sure to tag people when you do.

    It’s a different story if a conductor is texting while also running practicesa. I was once in a rehearsal where the conductor answered the phone while still conducting. It was … unbelievable. A good story afterwards, of course.

  • As someone who neither owns a mobile nor is on Fæcebook I abhor the ubiquitousness of both. It seems the urge to communicate drivel and engage in meaningless conversation at the expense of the task in hand is too strong for many to resist. I honestly wonder if they feel they’ve got anything out of it all at the end of the day.

  • federico Agostini says:

    Is this something to be even discussed?

  • Tatiana says:

    I’ve seen this a lot in rehearsals and performances I’ve been before when I was part of the choir. I know some players go off the stage when they don’t have something to play in a long time, but others who have a few pieces between and have to wait onstage, jut get out their phones and start looking at their Facebook, twitter, youtube, Skype, whatever account while the performance is on. I guess they think “ohhh, anyone is looking at me so why be here boring myself, let’s check the email, write some status on Facebook, play something in the phone”…But the choir members have to stay silent, looking to the front, having their carpets on their lap, and stay relaxed while they don’t have anything to sing, maybe until the end of the first part of the concert!! ….And choir members don’t take out their phones to do any social media , sit back and relax and tweet or whatever….So, why they have to?? I’ve always felt this is very disrespectful to the performers, the other members of the orchestra, the soloists, the director, and to the audience!!!!

  • Nick Byrne says:

    Always!..when, as a brass player, you can have several hours between notes during rehearsal then internet/reading/writing and being in someway productive is a must!..what are we to do in these huge empty passages..meditate? loudly amongst ourselves?..when there is work to be done then never but when you are not sure if you will touch the instrument in the next 2-3 hours, to be distracted/productive or whatever you want to call it, is a must. A string player will, naturally, have a different view..

    • Anon says:

      Funnily, in performances most brass players seem capable of sitting still in between.

      Well, other than the odd horn player in the pit at the Royal Opera House (if you are reading, please realise that the light of the screen of your ‘phone is really very obvious to the audience!)

    • bratschegirl says:

      “Talk loudly amongst ourselves” certainly seems to be the default position…

  • Interested party says:

    As an opera pianist who spends many hours every day in staging rehearsals, coachings, orchestral rehearsals etc. (all of which can drag at times) I fully under why people use their mobile phones during rehearsals. Of course, respect is something that is very important in the rehearsal environment, but it is important that it is shown by both those rehearsing and those being rehearsed. Conductors (and directors in general) should respect their musicians by using their time appropriately. I have sat in scenic rehearsals for more than two hours before playing a note. I find that far more disrespectful than checking a text or tweeting in a well-chosen moment of inactivity. It’s not unprofessional, so long as one has both ears open, and decent portion of the brain dedicated to listening out for cues and requests, and staying engaged with the rehearsal. And it is very obvious to a conductor if a player is switched off. Ignoring cues or requests is just plain rude, but that’s nothing to do with keeping yourself occupied while the people around you work.

    • I take a book for slow staging rehearsals. My record for not playing a note was 2 hours 20 minutes. Too many stage directors have no clue about directing opera and have little or no respect for those not sharing their celestial vision, but that’s by the by. Still, there’s just something so vacuous about just playing with a screen that I’d rather read in one of my languages and learn something. Fæcebook or any other kind of antisocial media is not the answer, at least for me.

    • Bill says:

      It IS unprofessional.

  • RW2013 says:

    Basically FED UP with i-phone zombies everywhere!

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    How about the increasing number of musicians who scan their music to read off their iPads? It might look bad to audiences, but is very practical in so many different ways. I think it is 3 or 4 years since I played in an orchestra where no one had their music in electronic format.

  • V.Lind says:

    I object to the presence of cell phones when someone is ostensibly having a conversation with me. If they have business on their phones, they are welcome to excuse themselves and text away, but I am tired of conversations conducted in herky-jerky bits — X says something, I reply, there is a pause before X picks up with the appropriate response because while I was speaking X was texting or being texted. (Fran Lebowitz: “The opposite of speaking isn’t listening; it’s waiting”).

    By extension, the notion of a conductor having half his mind on someone on the other end of a phone as well as half on the job at hand seems destined to lead to a half-assed performance.

    As for the bored instrumentalists, they are all part of the same piece, even when it is not their “turn.” Common courtesy…oh, who am I kidding. There is no such thing any longer. Professionalism? Behaving in rehearsal the way you plan to behave In performance as part of the process? Not any more, apparently.

  • Geoff Radnor says:

    Never mind tweeting, how about the Lahti SO timpanist? Very nice new hair style and so many women in the orchestra. great stuff on youtube

  • nyer says:

    Orchestra rehearsals should be screen-free. I am a music teacher and there are times when I keep my iPhone near me because I rely on my tuner, metronome etc., but i never check my email in such an environment.

    A conductor should be even held to a higher standard since he / she is the standard bearer for the group. If they don’t get that, they weren’t trained right.

  • José Bergher says:

    A cordial, happy, relaxed atmosphere helps the cause of good music making. There is nothing wrong with texting, making and receiving calls, playing chess and cards, knitting, eating snacks, sipping bourbon, listening to the radio, watching TV, while rehearsing a Beethoven symphony – especially the Ninth, with its glorious Ode to Joy and appeals to Brüderhood and Alle Meshugene Mentschen. I wouldn’t suggest ping-pong because there might be a risk of things getting a bit unruly, what with balls and rackets falling accidentally on cellos, bassoons and kettledrums and occasioning needless, offensive distractions while the players are enthusiastically engaged in texting or conversing with spouses – either their own or someone else’s. The important thing is that a happy rehearsal atmosphere promotes happy music making.

    • m2n2k says:

      That’s very funny, JB. Personally, I feel happiest during a rehearsal when not a second of its limited time is wasted by doing anything other than devoting it to most intensive music making, which usually leads to achieving the best realized performance possible under the circumstances.

      • José Bergher says:

        I’m glad you appreciated my sarcasm. I agree with what you just said. Many people are scatter-brained and have to multi-task continuously. We see this in social life, orchestra rehearsals, car-driving, etc.

  • Now that I teach, I make a point of discouraging phones at the college level. Hard to believe it is tolerated to any extent in a professional situation. I served as concertmaster for many years and my phone stayed in the dressing room.

  • J Brown says:

    You wouldn’t ban books or magazines (especially for brass players who have lots of rests and tacets), so why ban a cell phone? Those who are so vehemently against cell phones sound like grouchy old fogies. People nowadays are just as likely to be reading a newspaper article as texting with their phones, and nobody flips out when they see a trombonist reading during rehearsal.

    • Anon says:

      But possibly they should be banned.

      There is also, perhaps, a subtle difference between a passive reading of an article, and an active engagement in an online discussion or emails. I’d suggest the passive consumption of a newspaper (whether physical or digital) is more readily put to one side when the musician is required than a more two-way conversation is.

      I don’t really see a place for either in rehearsal. Yes, print media is tolerated, but I’m not sure it ought to be.

  • Michaela says:

    Never, ever. Working, rehearsing is concentration and respect for the music, your collegues, conductor. There are enough breaks if the urge is so great to have a look on your smartphone. We could do without 10 years ago, let’s keep it that way.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Of course it is disrespectful to players if a conductor indulges in this kind of “Oh-I’m-such-an-important-person” attitude during a rehearsal. Gergiev doing this kind of thing doesn’t surprise me in the least. His hyperactivity is well known, jumping into the next available plane to do stints (stunts?) in the four quarters of the globe, constantly arriving late for rehearsals and having to keep in all the time with Putin’s gang. Is it any wonder that he cannot go five minutes anywhere without the need to remain on message?

  • Pamela Andrews says:

    I think it’s disrespectful. If it’s your kids calling and it’s an emergency, then fine, but I can tell the difference between that and you checking your Facebook. Nothing dire has happened to your newsfeed during your rehearsal, bud.

  • Stephen says:

    As an artist, I am aware that there is so much to do that I do not hve the time or inclination to add more to what I’m doing.

    That said- I recognize that there are blocks of time in a rehearsal where orchestra members have nothing active to do. That’s “active.” But I wonder at the deeper context- that of being a member of a community performing music.

    I once was told, (in parahrase)- Once the notes are learned and the dynamics are in muscle memory on a personal level, then and only then can music begin to be made.

    It seems that if the rehearsal time is being shared with other demands, the community suffers and the music is less than what it could be.

    I don’t think we need new laws or rules that curb behaviors but perhaps an unerstanding of deeper engagement in the music at hand should be worth considering.

    let’s face it. the audiences are mostly uninformed and take their seats for various reasons, but when the orchestra is also to a point, disengaged, what do we really have? How is the music being served and the creators honored?

    The behavior patterns in the run up are the behavior patterns in the performance as I see it.

    Police yourselves and collaborate. Easy to say- hard to do. It takes a shift in the culture of the community that a group of musicians are.

  • JJC says:

    Any colleague who brings a mobile device onstage loses my respect instantly and irretrievably.

    • M.A. Steinberger says:

      And I repeat: what about those musicians whose music is what they have up on their devices? I know several percussionists who have linked devices on their stands so when they move around the correct page is automatically up. Likewise keyboard players having to move around piano/organ/celesta. For outdoor concerts one no longer has problems keeping music going in high winds. The list goes on…

      • NYMike says:

        Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Co-Director pianist Wu Han uses an iPad during her performances. It’s fairly unobtrusive and saves needing a page-turner.

        • M.A. Steinberger says:

          Right. Bluetooth remote foot-switches are amazing. One can set up to do multiple-page da capos with one tap of the foot, no fumbling. Even without a foot switch, one tap on the screen is all it takes. Etc.

          • m2n2k says:

            This is a totally different subject. The question in the post was about tweeting, texting, facebooking etc. – not about using tablets instead of paper music.

  • Mobile telephones have no place in rehearsal; it is unprofessional and disrespectful to use them, since one is being engaged (and paid) to give one’s undivided attention to the music.

    Many offenders frequently forget that they are not only distracting themselves, but also their colleagues (some of whom might not have hundreds of bars’ rest), and in all manner of subtle ways: the flickering light of the screen; the self-conciousness elicited by the possibility of being captured on camera at any time from any angle (with a photographer, one can at least see clearly where and when he/she is about to shoot, and the period of time in which one is liable to being photographed is relatively limited); the self-conciousness elicited by the possibility of having every small mishap announced within seconds to the wider world (I do not use Twitter myself, but I suppose something like “Dave just cracked on his solo #faggott #therite” would be idiomatic); the facial expression of the offender; seeing something in one’s peripheral vision (a facet upon which the orchestral player is reliant). If one were genuinely and protractedly tacet, there are far more discreet means of passing time (such as a paper book).

    The only exceptions of which I can think (if anybody thinks I have missed something important, feel free to comment) would be:

    1. where it were urgently necessary to make contact with the outside world on a matter immediately relevant to the rehearsal: the most obvious example would be a missing part or a missing player (of course, in a professional setting, this would fall under the remit of the orchestra manager or equivalent).

    2. where the rehearsal overruns to the extent that either another commitment is effected, or the availability of public transport to get home is consequently in doubt.

    3. where a *serious* personal/family/professional crisis arose, provided that the player in question had sought and obtained permission from their principal, the conductor, and the orchestra manager (if permission were denied, then the player must either excuse himself/herself from the rehearsal or reconsider whether the crisis were grave enough to require constant access to a mobile telephone — this is, after all, the difficult decision that would be faced if such a crisis were to develop immediately before a concert).

    As musicians, we expect our profession to be taken seriously by others; we must, therefore, behave commensurately, and that means, when on stage, giving our undivided attention to the furtherance of our art, just as we would expect a doctor, when in the operating theatre, to give his/her undivided attention to his/her patient, or a lawyer, when in court, to give his/her undivided attention to his/her case.

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    Certainly the original subject was. However, several people said there should be NO electronic devices, EVER, and I felt that antidiluvian attitude needed addressing.

  • m2n2k says:

    Denying that certain electronic devices may play important positive roles if they are used for improving convenience of musical performances would be just as silly as accepting the need to use them for socializing during rehearsals.