We asked Eric Mathis, our Director of Artistic Administration and a trombone player with the orchestra, to explain why we sometimes see musicians shuffling their feet.
Because most of the musicians on stage always have at least one hand dedicated to holding their instrument, they can’t clap their hands. If you’re seated in the balcony, you might see a musicians shuffling a foot after one of their colleagues has just finished a solo. That’s their way of saying “Great job! Way to go!” as the piece continues, rather than waiting to congratulate them afterwards. If you’re really observant, you might see a musician briefly rolling their finger tips on their thigh. A finger roll has the same intent as a foot shuffle, but is more subtle. (There are times where a foot shuffle might actually cause some distraction for the audience or other players.) And when musicians want to join the audience in applauding the conductor or soloist after the performance, they’ll often even stomp their feet.