Picture of Nicole Martín Medina

Nicole Martín Medina

Gestora Cultural – Abogada/MBA

The orchestra’s stage manager

Dedicated to the one who I consider one of the best among them and

who inspires me a lot every time we have one of our talks 


A few weeks ago I asked you at the end of my post[1] about the seating arrangement in a symphony orchestra: “Who is in charge of setting this up correctly? That is the job of the stage manager, the orchestra stage manager[2], who is going to be the protagonist of my article today.

Let’s get started.

As always, I start my articles with an internet search to see what has been published on the subject so far. I usually do this using the terms in three different languages to get a more global view. But what about the stage manager at an orchestra?

First, the concept in other languages is not exactly identical to the Spanish term “regidor de orquesta”. In English we would have the expression “stage manager” and in German the “Orchesterwart”. While the English term is more general, i.e. it refers to any stage manager in the cultural sector, the German term sounds a bit more like a person who takes care of instruments.

The next thing you have to learn, when you type “regidor de orquesta” into a search engine like Google, is to get information about anything but an orchestra stage manager. In Spanish, people have written about live performance managers, musical stage directors, opera stage managers, theatre stage managers, etc., but very little is read about the orchestra stage manager. On the other hand, however, there are many job offers that are clearly identified as orchestra stage manager.

In German we find both, definitions of the job profile[3] and some articles about these professionals who are so essential for the smooth running of an orchestra[4]. In English there are also publications, but in this case it is important to check whether we are really talking about a stage manager of an orchestra or whether we are talking about a different form of stage manager within the artistic work space.[5]

But let’s continue.

From the above, we can draw the conclusion that the profession clearly exists, but it is an ill-defined. Or should I say extremely well-defined profession, even though we do not find it as a professional or academic training?.[6] It is a professional profile whose professional requirements are specified as and when a person, by the coincidences of life, ends up in it.

And it is not unreasonable to believe that few orchestra stage managers have said when little “I want to be an orchestra stage manager”. Rather, they would have said: “I want to be a mechanic”, “I want to study manufacturing and assembly”, “I want to be a musician”, “I want to be a computer scientist”, “I want to be a cultural manager” or similar, and as the years went by, they found themselves working with a symphony orchestra, combining all these different skills. And they are always learning more.

The stage manager we are talking about is the person who sets up the stage for the orchestra, sets up the floor, platforms, stairs, the conductor’s podium, safety railings, ramps if necessary, stage equipment and other technically precise elements, lighting, loudspeakers and amplification tools, and let’s not forget about the obvious such as chairs, music stands with scores, large instruments and other accessories. That alone makes it clear that this has to be professional who must have technical, electronic, acoustic and lighting, musical and digital knowledge. That’s no small thing to start with. But that is not all.

In order to be able to carry out and coordinate the stage set-up, he must be in constant contact with the artistic director of the orchestra and the production manager, as he works with them to draw up the technical rider in which the entire set-up is specified and with which he manages the entire team. In other words, he needs musical-theoretical, computer and production knowledge.

And the orchestra stage manager’s working day is not over yet. The entire inventory that I have just mentioned has to be transported from the orchestra headquarters to a theatre or auditorium and back on a regular basis, which is why our orchestra manager must know a lot about the logistics and the peculiarities of transporting instruments, because a double bass or a piano worth six figures in Euro cannot be transported like a block of concrete.

Imagine now that the orchestra goes on tour and, moreover, the venues vary from place to place in terms of space availability, accessibility and locations.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? In fact, the profession is.

Although the stage manager is a bit like the heart and soul of the orchestra, on the other hand, it is the man or woman dressed in black in the dark, in the pit, behind the orchestra, whom nobody will ever see in the limelight. Only very rarely does a photographer approach and take a picture of the conductor with his or her team. But this can be an advantage, depending on the personality of the individual.

Nicole Martín Medina - The orchestra's stage manager
El regidor de orquesta

Miguel Mungía with colleagues – AAK Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Photographer: Sabrina Ceballos

The stage manager is also in charge of keeping necessary spare parts on hand, at all times. Anything that a musician or artistic director might be missing at a rehearsal or concert, such as an extra chair, music stands, any other accessory for an instrument, for example, strings, a baton, ear plugs, water, reading lamps with batteries, a cable or extension cord and even sheet music for each instrumental group and section, just in case a musician leaves it in his car.

Once at home, our stage manager must also take care of the maintenance of the instruments owned by the orchestra, which are usually the big ones such as pianos, double basses, harps, percussion instruments and accessories such as music stands, reading lamps, bows, drumsticks etc. I don’t know if I’m exaggerating too much if I say that he must also be a bit of a luthier. At least he should know exactly to what extent he can make small arrangements on his own and when he should inform a professional luthier.

The orchestra’s stage manager is also the person who, during performances, connects the orchestra with the general stage management, especially in the case of operas, zarzuelas or other stage productions. Consequently, he or she controls the entrance and exit of the musical personnel on stage before even a note is heard.

As if all of the above were not enough, to be a good stage mananger you need a few more skills, what we generally call soft skills. The orchestra conductor must be absolutely punctual and committed, every rehearsal, every concert or performance must be organized in minute detail.

We also need a person with musical-artistic sensitivity, with organizational, communication and flexibility skills. The thousand and one details that must be taken care of on a daily basis would be impossible to control if the professional were to live his or her Bohemian side freely.

We can also say that the orchestra conductor requires a certain physical stamina and a total availability of time. Those who know me personally know that I am a bit of a sleepyhead, so I can assure you that the worst thing about this profession for me is that you have to work at all hours. Setting up a stage at six in the morning, taking down another one until 2 a.m. and so on every week, and don’t forget that orchestras play at Easter and Christmas!

It is really curious that such a complex, diverse and fundamental professional profile does not have a specific academic training base.  What’s more, with the vastness of today’s internet, it is not easy to find in-depth analyses of the profession at all.

When I finally asked the person who inspired this article, he gave me the following definition of the orchestra conductor: “The orchestra conductor is the person who gathers all the necessary information in each case and assembles it on stage, adapting it to the maximum requirements for a normal development of the musical work of an orchestra”.

Hopefully, in the future, some student will remember this profession in his or her bachelor’s or master’s thesis and will start to analyze this profession in depth by collecting data from the main national and international orchestras. Moreover, I think it would be useful to define the boundaries and limitations with other professions close to the orchestra stage manager. But, above all, it would be useful to have an academic study to give more visibility to the person who is the basis, the foundation of any orchestra.

Until that happens, lets at least make it clear so far:


“Nothing would work without the orchestra’s stage manager”.

Carl Orthofer, violinist, Augsburg Theatre[7]


Nicole Martín Medina

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

September 2023

(Original in Spanish/ Translation DeepL/ Revision NMM)



This article is available in Spanish and German, too: 




Esta web utiliza cookies propias para su correcto funcionamiento. Contiene enlaces a sitios web de terceros con políticas de privacidad ajenas que podrás aceptar o no cuando accedas a ellos. Al hacer clic en el botón Aceptar, acepta el uso de estas tecnologías y el procesamiento de tus datos para estos propósitos. Configurar y más información