One of the most rewarding parts of being a musician is having the opportunity to see on the faces of others that what you are doing is worthwhile. If you can hear firsthand from an audience member what spoke to them and what they enjoyed - this is even better. We work hard and put our minds, bodies and souls into the music we love with the hope that you will love it too. Communication between the audience and the performers is key to the success of any artistic organization. Having said this, there are still boundaries that need to be maintained between the stage and the audience. What are the best ways and times to approach a musician to speak with them? I will share my thoughts and I invite you to share yours as well.
First of all, let me state: it is hardly ever acceptable for audience members to go onstage - before or after a concert. This is for the safety and professionalism of the musicians and the institution (plus, it just looks bad). There are expensive instruments and equipment lying around and you need to respect both the musicians' and staff's space. If you want to talk to a performer before or after the show, go backstage through a side or lower entrance - never directly onto the stage. Security will help direct you to the correct place if it is appropriate for you to be there.
Let's focus on the three different times to speak with performers, using a symphony concert scenario for the purposes of our discussion: before the performance, at intermission and after a performance.
Before musicians play a concert, they go onstage to warm up, sort out last minute issues, tune and get into the performance zone. This is an important time and one that should be reserved for them. It is difficult enough to play Boulez without having those final few minutes to establish focus after a long day. If you feel the absolute need to speak with a musician, keep it very brief. Anything you want to share with them is best left for intermission or after the concert.
At intermission, some players meander back onstage fairly early. If they are within reachable distance to speak with, it is appropriate to go up to the edge of the stage and say hello. Most people who are onstage early expect this and invite it - they could have stayed backstage, but chose not to! Introduce yourself and perhaps say a few words about what you enjoyed in the first half. Also know it is great to ask questions about the music or being a musician! Your curiosity shows your interest and as people passionate about what we do, we encourage this! Do keep in mind, the performers still have another leg in the performance to run and the same concept applies. Keep discussions fairly brief and allow them to have some time to warm up again and prepare for the second part of the concert.
By far, the best time to talk with performers is after the concert. If you can catch them before they wander off the stage, that's great! If not, ask security or the ushers where the best place to meet the musicians would be and how to get there. Be direct in your approach and introduce yourself. Sometimes musicians are exhausted after a performance and may not immediately notice you want to talk with them, so be clear! We love to hear from you. Without enthusiastic and curious audience members, our music would play to an empty hall.
Now that you have a little more information, get to know the performers you love. If you have other questions related to audience / performer interaction, please ask them. Additionally, if you have a juicy anecdote that clearly indicates what not to do or an experience talking with an audience member / performer you would like to share I would love to hear it!