Last weekend I had the honor of accompanying one of my husband's voice students in his senior recital. Since I had accompanied this young man the previous year in his junior recital, I already knew that he has a very supportive family which meant that his entire family would most likely be attending this most important performance. That also meant that there would be several toddlers in attendance in addition to at least one baby. I know, I know...I can hear your groans, grumbles, sighs, and lamentations now...but please, hold them for just one moment...I have, perhaps, an interesting perspective to share with you. Let me tell you how the recital went from my viewpoint.
I have to admit that there definitely were more distractions than usual, especially at the beginning of the recital. I was very aware of toddlers moving around, of talking, flashes of a camera going off...and I did have to work hard to concentrate, especially at the softer moments. But there were two things that helped me stay focused...first of all, this young singer, who really is not all that experienced, just remarkably passionate about performing and who has an innate sense for being on the stage, was able to hold it together and remain focused in spite of the distractions. Second of all, I knew that although I might not be playing specifically for those younger individuals and their parents, he was. He wanted those people there and it meant the world for him to be able to share his music and this step of his musical journey with his family. As soon as I keyed into those thoughts, I was back on track and in all honesty, I have no idea whether or not those kids even stayed in the hall - I don't remember hearing them in the rest of the recital.
In the past, I have always joined in the chorus when performers and audience members have bemoaned unsophisticated audiences. And don't get me wrong. I still think it's good to educate folks, especially young children, on concert etiquette. What I found so interesting this weekend, however, is that it is possible to overcome distractions as a performer and that perhaps we need to be a bit more careful to think about how often we want to exclude unsophisticated audiences from performances. It's a tricky topic because I realize it's not just the performers we need to keep in mind...it's also the other audience members that should be kept in consideration. Sigh...it's all so tricky.