My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Concert etiquette or die?!

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's also the other audience members that should be kept in consideration.'s all so tricky.


  1. Rock musicians regularly play to a barrage of flashing lights & other distractions. Playing with distractions is a skill that's very learnable & worthwhile to develop.

    I think the only solution for the audience etiquette debate is to play in places where traditional concert hall etiquette is important (like traditional concert halls) & places where it's not (like bars/clubs). There are folks out there who love classical music, but prefer one type of etiquette to the other so why not cater to both?

  2. Mike, I agree that playing with distractions is a skill, but can't classical musicians learn that skill too? I sometimes think that the issue has more to do with the audience than with the performers. Perhaps in the ideal world we could give at least two performances of any give concert - one for audiences that like formal concert etiquette and one that would allow for a more laid-back attitude. Perhaps more like a rock concert audience - that would be much more fun too :-)