Thursday, January 12, 2012

What NOT to do at a concert.

You all know I'm something of a music nerd. Ok, a big, huuuuuuge music nerd of epic proportions. It's alright -- I'm just going to go ahead and own this fact. Because it's kind of sexy that I can tell you the precise notes which make up the major harmonic third of a dial tone. Right?

(F + A. Work it, girl.)

As you can imagine, I attend a lot of recitals, concerts and other musical performances. I also enjoy participating in these events. It's a hobby of mine. Some moms like to scrapbook or make cute things or bake delicious desserts -- I like to sit on uncomfortable auditorium chairs for hours and listen to the works of Handel, Grieg, Foster and Whitacre. It's cool.

Recently, I went to my younger sisters' high school choir concert. The choral music program at the school they attend is stellar. Award-winning, critically-acclaimed, you get it. The house was packed to the brim as usual and everyone was very excited for the concert to begin.

Before the performers took the stage, the house manager read off a list of concert etiquette reminders (as is customary at most performances). This list was also conveniently printed in the program. However, these precautions didn't prevent multiple interruptions -- blaring phones, bawling babies, premature applause, obnoxious catcalls -- from disrupting the concert. In fact, it seems these types of things are always happening at the concerts I attend.


So today, I am going to educate you, the masses, on what NOT to do at a concert of any kind.* I say this out of love and understanding. I don't want to offend anyone. I just want abolish ignorance. Okie-dokie!

1. DON'T leave your cell phone (or pager, or homing pigeon) on. There is nothing worse than being completely enveloped by a gorgeous pianissimo (super-quiet) phrase of Romantic era music when suddenly, your reverie is shattered by a MIDI version of "Fergalicious." Seriously, people. This is uncalled for. When you get to a venue, sit down, make yourself comfy, then take your phone out from wherever it may be and SILENCE it. Heck, just turn it off if you can. Or leave it in the car. And refrain from texting during the performance, because phone lights happen to be really bright and distracting.

2. DON'T clap before a piece is completely finished. And what I actually mean is, wait until the conductor's hands are AT HIS SIDE before applauding! I get it -- you loved the piece; it made you cry and it made your heart soar. I really do get it. However, music is not just sound, but also silence. The conductor knows just how many seconds of pure silence to add after the last note sounds to create a wonderful aural experience for you. So let him tell you when to clap. If you're at a recital and there is no conductor, wait until the performer appears "at rest." You'll know when it's OK if you are paying attention.

But even if you can't tell, it is better to err on the side of more silence. Let yourself and the rest of the audience soak up the moment. Let that final massive chord ring in the air for a bit. It's much more exciting that way, I promise.

And NO to catcalls. Just ... no.

3. DON'T bring children who cannot sit still and remain quiet. I'm probably going to upset some people with this one. But as a music lover and mother of two small children, hear me out.

Bubby and Smush have not yet attended their first musical concerts. Yes, even 4-year-old Bubby stayed home with a sitter while I sang in the last EVMCO performance. Some might find that cruel -- she didn't even get to see her own mother sing! Well, Bubby is a very bright and good little girl, but she's not the best at sitting still. Plus, she has an early bedtime. So why would I subject the audience members around her to endure her tired grumblings and constant movement? It would be inconsiderate to her as well as the patrons and the performers.

I had a nursing baby for an entire year. And for that year, I missed quite a few concerts. C'est la vie.

Concerts are often recorded. And guess what? There is no way to edit out the high-pitched shriek of a toddler from a live recording. Trust me; I've tried.

Here's the good news: YOU get to decide if your child is well-behaved enough to sit through a performance without causing a disturbance. If you've paid for their ticket, no one is going to keep you from entering the hall with your little one. But, if you do allow your small child to attend, please sit near an exit in case he becomes upset. And when this happens, leave quickly. Don't say, "My kid will quiet down in just a few seconds." Because 10 minutes later, you're going to have a lot of angry concert-goers casting nasty glares in your direction.

Final thoughts:

Audience members pay a lot of money to see their loved ones do their thang up on stage and/or have a cultural experience. And even in the case of free events, the performers have worked tirelessly for months, sometimes years, to prepare for these performances meant to enrich your life. So be respectful in your actions.

No one is more important than the performers. Even if Barack Obama attended Highland High School's choir concert, he would still be less important than the teenaged singers on the stage. This is why they would be on stage with bright lights shining on them and he would be sitting the darkened house amongst the peasants. Duh.

Attending a professional concert can be a life-changing experience. I, for one, would have never joined my high school choir if I hadn't gone to that first concert during my freshman year. Ten years and hundreds of musical experiences later, singing in a choir is one of my greatest passions and joys in life.

Go to concerts, enjoy them and have a great time. But please, be courteous of others. Don't be selfish. Don't be ignorant.

These are generally good rules to live by. And they make you look gooooood.

*Unless you are watching the Backstreet Boys or Jimmy Eat World or something, because then you are permitted to scream and cry and jump up and down and dance and all that. We're talking mostly about classical performances here.


  1. Looking at the picture, I thought you were going to say don't look grumpy on stage. The brunette in the middle...

  2. Ha Dawn, that's also a good rule.

  3. haha that girl does look grumpy :) and i TOTALLY agree! You are spot on.... wish everyone woudl follow these rules.

  4. I am SO with you! It bugs the crap out of me when people don't follow those rules! It's so easy, and it seems so obvious to me... I don't understand why people don't get it!

    Thank you for telling the world at large. This is awesome.

  5. I think every conductor should have a copy of rules the way YOU say them because this ROCKS!

    I'm not really a major music person like you or other musically blessed peeps, but even still... When I'm attending a family member's high school choir concert, even I get so annoyed at inconsiderate audience members. They make others miserable!

  6. Ok. Is that you on stage or your sister? You mentioned both of you in this post and that looks just like you.

  7. @Sankat it's me. Back in my BYU days of glory. Ha.

  8. Amen sista!
    Right after I read this post, I saw this article on Yahoo:

  9. Amen sista!

    I grew up playing violin and sang all through middle and high school. As you can imagine I noticed my fair share of concert bloopers.

    Now days I don't go to many musical concerts but I do attend a few plays a year.

    I went to the Nutcracker ballet with my parents over the holiday season. Here's what really gets me: the way people dress.

    It's so upsetting: jeans and sweatshirts, skanky growns with too sexy heels... I think there are places for dressing up (church, concerts.) I guess some people don't get it. I think it's rude and disrespectful of the performance and the performers.

  10. @Kara -- SEE?? That's what happens when you don't put your phone on silent! How embarrassing, but I'm glad the conductor stopped. That'll teach him.

  11. AGREED! Most go for theatrical performances too! Peeps need to know!

  12. One time, I was at one of Emma's concert. (Emma is Jenna's sister.) There was a family behind me that was so rude it was almost unbelievable. Emma had practiced ALL semester to sing a solo on stage. In order to hear her performance, I actually had to get up and move before she started to sing. You will never believe what happened next. Emma's best friend's mother stood up and told the man to shut up or leave. She pretty much told him that she had waited all semester to hear Emma sing and that this particular man was NOT going to ruin the moment of Emma's amazing voice. Even though I was able to hear Emma's performance at a decent level, I felt so nervous over this huge fight that was ensuing. The fight continued out into the lobby and I thought I might have to call the police. With that said, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be respectful during concerts! I have enjoyed so much listening to all my children perform in their various concerts, however, the thoughts that go through my mind when I hear unnecessary and even sometime rude interruptions during a prized moment simply can not be mentioned on this site. Most importantly, Jenna you have the best voice and I wish EVERYONE could hear you sing! Love, Mom

  13. While I agree with all of your rules, I can't help but think that while I was in HS orchestra, I would have rather had my mom come and possibly be hushing one of my siblings the entire time, and maybe even be annoying the people around her, than not come at all. Yes, our HS music program is stellar, and they deserve quiet and attention during the entire performance, but it's still HS... Now, if you are planning a trip to see an out of HS group perform, then you probably shouldn't take your kids, or shouldn't go--especially if you have NO personal connection to any of the performers/musicians what-so-ever.
    I guess what I'm saying is that your teenager is important enough that you may have to play the "large annoying family" card and go to their HS performance and sit in the back with your kids in tow anyway. And it's not the end of the world if you do!

  14. Melissa, I understand people have to bring their kids at times, but if they get noisy then they need to be taken out. It's the polite thing to do.

  15. Yes, yes, yes! I took piano for ~10 years and nothing was more annoying at a recital then trying to play over people's kids. You could just label this post - Good Manners. :)

  16. Don't forget about staying seated during songs! Pet peeve: people leaving during songs. If you need to leave, wait for the song to end. If you're coming back in, wait at the back of the auditorium until the song is over to return to your seat. (PS - Just found your blog. Thanks for the great post!)

  17. Amen. I believe it was last season that Brandon S played Rhapsody in Blue at Gammage with orchestral accompaniment and not 5 measures in, a baby started crying. And cried the whole time. It was extremely maddening.

  18. Ummm...what part do you sing? You should join the community choir Allora McHardy and I are in!! :) We only meet throughout the school year (august-may) so we're in "summer break" now, but it's Thursday nights 7:30-9:30pm, $5 a month for the music and equipment fee and it's a RIOT. We're chock full of talented musicians (and like, 95% mormon) (that's an unofficial percentage) and it's seriously my favorite time of the week. It's my weekday solace.
    If you're interested, PM me on Facebook!

    PS- sorry for being a creeper, I hope this isn't coming off creepy.

    1. Hope -- you are so NOT a creeper! I'm currently on a break from Millennial Choirs and Orchestras while my baby is so little. We just happen to rehearse at that exact same time every Thursday! I'm open to new options, though. MCO is wonderful but it's a huge commitment and I'm not sure I'm ready to go back any time soon.


I like feedback almost as much as I like food.