I subscribe to various list-servs, and one of them is orchestra-l. It’s for musicians who are members of ICSOM orchestras (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians). Lately there has been a lot of back and forth about musicians using electronic devices in rehearsals when they aren’t playing. Here is a sample.

“Bonjour! — I would like to know how orchestras are dealing with the use of i-phones, i-pads, i-pods, reading-pads on stage during rehearsals?? We use to have magazines or newspapers but now, the electronic is the new reality. In Montréal, the management came with ‘zéro tolérance’ for any use of electronics on stage? What is the situations in your orchestras?”

Most persons responded with, “we have no policy about this in our orchestra,” or “it’s under discussion right now.” But below is one orchestra that does have one.

“Our management instituted a cell phone policy within the last few years. Below is the section dedicated to rehearsals. Please note, the prohibition on reading, etc is not in effect for any musician who is onstage but whose part is tacet in the work/movement being rehearsed.”

“During orchestra rehearsals, it is expected that all musicians remain attentive to the conductor and rehearsal and therefore may not read, knit, crochet, text, tweet, email, check voicemail messages, make or receive phone calls onstage at any time during the rehearsal in which your instrument or section is involved in rehearsing any particular complete movement regardless of whether or not you are playing. All cell phones or other hand-held electronic devices should remain in the “off” or “silent” position and may not be used onstage. For emergency situations ONLY, the Orchestra Personnel Director’s phone may be used as a point of contact.”

In my book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor: What you Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools, I relayed this true story.

 “Just recently I was in an orchestra rehearsal. The trumpets weren’t goofing off, but they were fiddling with their phones—text messaging, surfing the Internet, playing games. Who knows? The conductor stopped the orchestra and said, “Trumpets, send yourself a text message to come in at letter C!”