Last night I attended a wonderful concert with the Memphis Symphony at their Downtown venue. Karen Gomyo was the guest violinist and she performed Barber’s Violin Concerto, one of my personal favorites. When I arrived at my seat, I looked around at the patrons surrounding me and was pleased to see a thirty-something year old mother with her two sons in the row in front of me; one child looked to be in middle school and the other was a toddler. I thought it was wonderful that this mother was trying to expose her children to classical music at an early age.
Unfortunately, those warm and fuzzy feelings were soon replaced by extreme discomfort. The toddler decided to be very talkative during the performance, despite his mother insisting “shh!” every few seconds. It became very distracting to the people sitting around her. I started to feel uncomfortable because I have been to enough symphony concerts in my life to know what happens next.
After the excellent performance of Barber’s Overture to the School for Scandal, the young toddler was not taken out of the concert hall. I could feel the tension mounting in the patrons around me. The patrons clearly held out during that ten minute piece hoping the mother had enough sense to remove her son. But alas, she was uneducated in the rules of the Symphony audience and stayed there. I assumed she wanted her older son to see the soloist. Perhaps he was learning violin at school, or perhaps she paid good money for those seats, but I am only speculating.
We were enjoying a particularly beautiful performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto when the young toddler seemed to get worse during the first movement. When the movement was softest, the child was loudest. The mother’s insistence to silence her child grew more desperate, and I could tell she was struggling and feeling very self-aware. Patrons around her started shifting around or leaving the hall to find an usher to complain to.
Finally, Maestro Mei-Ann Chen paused between the first and second movement so that Ms. Gomyo had a chance to re-tune. When the child continued to speak, the whole hall heard a loud, gruff male shout out, “Take the baby out!”
There was a chorus of “Yes!” all around the concert hall, and then, much to my horror, many patrons in the hall started clapping.
I’m not sure if I was transferring my feelings to Ms. Gomyo, but her face seemed to fall when the audience mutinied, as if she and I both knew we potentially ruined classical music for this family forever.
This woman had to get out of her seat with her toddler and do the walk of shame all the way from the middle of the floor up to the exit door behind her. She probably passed a few hundred people giving her glares. Her older son followed her soon after, and all I could think was that he would likely never be encouraged to learn classical music seriously. How could he ever love classical music when classical music goers shamed his mother out of the concert hall? When the mother passed me, I asked her if there was anything I could do to help. She politely declined, and it surprised me that she was taking this public humiliation better than I was.
Maestro Chen smiled apologetically from the stage and waited until the disruption was alleviated. The family was gone, and I was filled with tears — partly because the second movement of Barber is so beautiful and partly out of frustration. That little boy would have ruined the second movement. As a musician, I knew it, as an audience member, I knew it. I was glad the disruption was gone, but I was torn about how this woman was treated.
To any experienced Symphony patron, it’s clear that the mother should have known to remove her son, but she did not. And she’s not the only one to experience public shaming in a concert hall due to unintentional ignorance. This time of year two years ago, an elderly man’s cell phone went off during the quietest moment of Mahler Symphony No. 9 at the New York Philharmonic. Maestro Gilbert had to stop the performance and ask the patron to silence his phone. Can you imagine the humiliation that patron must have felt?
“But the ringing kept on going, prompting increasingly angry shouts in the audience directed at the malefactor. After words from Mr. Gilbert, and what seemed like weeks, the cellphone owner finally silenced his device. After the audience cheered, the concert resumed.” — New York Times quote from “Ringing Finally Ended, But There’s No Button to Stop Shame“
I don’t think the patrons are out of line for expecting to enjoy their musical experience with minimal interruptions. A lot of them paid easily over $50-$100 for their seats. That man who spoke out at the Memphis Symphony did everyone a favor, and he was too far away to locate the mother or I bet he probably would have approached her directly. I don’t think Maestro Gilbert was out of line for asking the patron to silence his phone. These disruptions were clearly affecting audience members and the musicians.
This situation frustrates me because this woman was the epitome of the demographic the Memphis Symphony tries so hard to reach! She was likely in her early thirties, she had children, and she was African American — which is the racial majority in Memphis, and largely under-represented at the Symphony.
Enough about the problem, let’s talk Solutions
Based on my experience with the Symphony world and its patrons, I’ve identified a few reasons why people in the desired but nonexistent patron demographic are not attracted to the Symphony:
- They don’t want to conform for 2 hours to the unstated rules, or they’re scared they’ll break the rules and get heckled. (Rules: don’t talk, don’t move, don’t cough unless between movements, don’t do anything with your phone. Breaking these rules will result in pain of death by usher.)
- They did not grow up with Classical music, so they do not care to listen to it now when they could spend the money on something else that’s relevant to them
- They can’t afford 2 Symphony tickets + a babysitter for 4 hours
Solution to Reason 1: We can educate concert goers on the existing rules, or we can begin to adapt and change the rules. Since a disruptive child is hardly something a parent can control unless they leave the room, I suggest we be more proactive about giving parents who bring kids to concerts a discounted aisle seat. It’s worth mentioning that one of the ways the Memphis Symphony changed the rules is to introduce a modern music series called Opus One. It is targeted to a contemporary audience, and they are encouraged to talk, text, and move around during the performance. I would love to see all orchestras adopt a similar series to entice younger patrons.
Solution to Reason 2: Parents who don’t grow up with Classical music are unlikely to break into that world unless their children are involved; children are unlikely to remain in it unless their parents take an active role in developing their interests. One thing I love about the Memphis Symphony is their $5 Student/Child tickets and their numerous free or cheap education/community performances. We should encourage parents to bring their children to “young child friendly” performances; older children who can handle sitting still and listening quietly for a few hours should get deep discounts on tickets.
Solution to Reason 3: After last night, I really think symphonies should start offering free or extremely discounted professional child care during the performances, just as churches do. Most concerts take place in a large concert hall with plenty of secure space for a dedicated Children’s room. The symphony can hire one or two babysitters depending on how many ticket holders “opt in” to child care. I bet orchestras would see an increase in young parents who attend the performances. The parents would in turn model a love of classical music to their children.
I say all this because there have been a lot of articles going around about the relevance and health of classical music in this modern world. Young professional musicians are ever so aware of the dying orchestras, and with it, their fading career prospects. We need to adapt to the world around us and find solutions for our audience members rather than perpetuating the same problems. Instead of forcing the younger audience members to conform to the out of date rules, let’s set up win-win situations where adults can act like adults and not have to worry about variables out of their control. And above all, let’s NOT encourage public shaming of our audience members when they make a mistake. Otherwise, we’ll end up driving away the people we are trying to convince to stay and support the arts and our livelihoods. Let’s work to make the symphony experience an overwhelmingly positive one for all people. This pattern of audience shaming needs to end.
Have you ever experienced public shaming of a Symphony patron? What’s your take on the audiences’ reaction, and what solutions would you propose to prevent this from happening in the future?
I have to admit, everything in here constitutes a valid point. We can’t continue to treat classical music performances as some kind of club where only seasoned members or those grandfathered-in thanks to their parents can know how to conduct themselves. Concerts are becoming increasingly exclusive, and sooner or later it’s going to kill the business if we willingly forfeit so much exposure to potential audiences.
I completely agree, especially since the number of those being grandfathered in continues to dwindle! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Oh, and pun ferociously intended.
Ummm… a dissent. There should be more restrictions put publicly in place so that there is no question what is expected of the audience. I no longer have any desire to see live classical performances because of just the situation above and others. I simply cannot tolerate other people’s ignorance or stupidity. I am much happier just listening to recordings at home, where I don’t have to worry about the presence and/or distractions of others.
I’m glad we have the technology these days for you to find a way to enjoy classical music. I hope you’re able to find a live concert series that suits you. I’ve found that many orchestras offer a more intimate and “grown up” series suited to people who are serious lovers of classical music.
Check out the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra. They’ve been reaching out to families and young adults for years — with a “cry room” in the hall (just in case), kids 12 and under are free, and they tweet during the concert to keep people engaged. Oh yeah, and the whole applause rule? They threw that out as well — and their program even tells the [brief] history of the “no applause” rule and tells its patrons to simply show their appreciate and joy for the music in between movements if they’d like! They took the stuffiness out of going to the orchestra, and as a result their audience has grown!
Jon, that’s awesome! I’m so glad to hear someone has tried this cry room theory, I keep hearing concern from others that it might be a liability, but it’s great to hear of a successful working model. I’m a big proponent of letting the audience show their appreciation when they want to. Virtually every other genre of live music allows and encourages their audience to express themselves rather than sit like “stone figures”.
I like the sound of the Denver model, and I’m sure history will prove that bands who follow successful models like Denver will survive while others will fade out. Personally, I hope very much that a better model will be adopted more widely because there is something utterly visceral about sharing a live performance on acoustic instruments.
Michael, we are glad you are staying home. You are what is wrong with live classical music these days.
Jon, great for DPO that this has worked. Please keep in mind, however, that it is a good community orchestra, and not a professional orchestra, and its musical standards and audience are accordingly different. Michael, I agree with you for the most part (I’m in my late 20s). I cannot stand audience noise either…
Jeff, that’s a good point. I will add that I’ve played with many orchestras in this Midsouth area in the past few years, from essentially a Level 3 down to a community orchestra. I’ve personally found that the audience culture is virtually the same, no matter where I am. They all follow the same unspoken rules and listen in the same quiet manner, which is interesting to me. I think a shift in the culture is due to a deliberate push by the orchestra itself, like the DPO or the MSO’s Opus One series. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!
Jeff, I do appreciate your comment and the distinction you are trying to draw, but I would be remiss if I didn’t rebut. First, I believe your conclusion as to the caliber of the audience at a community orchestra, and the DPO specifically, is a bit ignorant. The DPO actually has a relatively sophisticated audience that go to the concerts because the “feel” is simply better. Of course, I would not compare the DPO to the San Francisco Symphony, but the quality is relatively high, as is its musical standards. Second, classical music is a dying breed. It just doesn’t have the same appeal as it did 150 years ago. Orchestras like the DPO, that actually listen to what the modern patron wants (i.e. a full experience and an interactive experience) that will keep classical music alive. I believe your comment actually perfectly illustrates the blog posts contention that things need to change. It is attitude similar to yours that are causing many professional orchestras to flounder. And, lets face it, the professional orchestras are floundering. Even the most sophisticated younger patrons are finding many of the traditional professional orchestras stale and unapproachable. To not change and reflect the changes in society and the listener will simply be the end of the orchestra as we know it. We are lucky to have organizations like the DPO that keep classical music relevant. And, third, the “norms” that we recognize today are relatively new. Perhaps coincidentally many of those norms coincide with shrinking audiences. While I appreciate the more stoic natures of Wagner Mahler (and even Stokowski), their insistence on silence between movements is simply not a “tradition” that will likely last, nor should it. Of course, I wish every orchestra huge success and I would love nothing more than to see new generations embrace the live performance of classical music – and because of that, I’ll continue to take me and my more sophisticated tastes to orchestras like the DPO that actually connect with the audience, regardless of professional status.
Discounted (or free) child care at the symphony is a a BRILLIANT idea! Give me a little vibrating pager in case of a serious problem and, I dunno, teach kids about Mahler while they’re there.
I like your suggestion about teaching the kids about music while they’re there! I had a colleague suggest that we should have musicians do a mini concert or educational talk for the kids while they are in the “cry room”, and I think it’s a brilliant idea. Thanks for reading, Greg!
Another idea for the child care service would be to stream the concert live on a TV from a camera in the concert hall. This way the children can watch/listen at their own will but still get the exposure.
Schools take many (most in some areas) kids to the symphony each year and funding needs to continue to make that happen more often. Usually, these kids behave like angels when they are brought with the schools. Their parents are usually not able to get them to behave as well as the schools and that is not necessarily their fault.
Don, thanks so much for reading. I love when symphonies have their education concerts — it’s so great to see kids experience a live symphony. For many of them, it’s their only chance while they are young.
I love the ideas in 2 and 3, but as a performer, I shudder to think about an audience allowed full license to talk, text and run around during a performance. In a summer outdoor concert series, fine. In a concert or recital hall – please rethink that idea. I had carefully prepared a faculty recital only to run into students’ blatant disregard for those around them, despite advanced preparation by my fellow faculty. Flickering screens clearly visible to everyone became distracting even to me. The level of distraction was even noted by the reviewer for the student newspaper. Television and social media has created a situation where people in general are self-centered, we need to focus on education in all areas of society. This also isn’t just about the younger generation, as I’ve witnessed this behavior from people of all ages.
konstanzepr31, I understand your attitude towards the first example of a “full license to talk, text and run around” during a performance however i have to disagree. I have been to MANY concerts and have performed many solo recitals chamber recitals and orchestra/band concerts and have sat next to professional musicians in these type of performances and I have noticed a few things.
Firstly, the professional musicians tend to text and check emails just as much in performances as the younger audiences. Secondly, I have performed many times and had people come in and leave to go to the bathroom, I had an iPhone miraculously turn itself on and play for about 5 minutes while I was playing and I have even witnessed a person trip up the stairs while performing. Oddly enough, in all of those cases I was never distracted. Most performers I have worked with are so engrossed in the music they are performing that they can hardly get distracted. Yes, you are aware of these things (it’s hard not to notice an elderly person tripping up the stairs) but the adrenaline drives us forward in the music you are performing.
I would love to see more audience friendly performances. Audience distraction should be minimized:
1. Phones should always be silenced or on vibrate (depending on how loud your phone vibrates….).
2. Full voice talking should be avoided during a performance, but whispering during louder spots is just fine.
As for texting and email checking, I see no problem with that. You can turn the hall lights up and the phone screen won’t seem nearly as bright if you really are so easily distracted.
I am tired of losing audience members because of the seemingly inherent “stuffy” atmosphere that even I hate to experience. Kudos to the author for some of the best fixes I have seen to these recurring issues. I would love to see my colleagues put more of an effort to stop audience shaming which is disgusting and is discouraging a more contemporary audience.
I’m so sorry you had such a rude audience during your recital! At my school, faculty concerts were a huge deal and they were given the respect they deserved. I hope your audience next time is much more respectful.
I will say that the MSO Opus One concerts I’ve been to are extremely different than a typical classical concert. For one thing, they play in unusual venues (like modern rock venues) so that the audience is able to move around or grab a beer. They also play a mix of contemporary/modern music the audience would recognize, as well as some classical pieces. It’s a pretty cool concept, but it is not for the strict traditionalist by any means. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!
I’d say another option for problem three, is that they can simulcast into another smaller hall where parents can take their children to. In Madison’s Overture Center, there is a small space where they can project the concert onto a screen. Parents don’t have to miss the music, and the children can then be free to squirm in a safe environment.
Great idea, Bill! That gives parents the license to stay with their child rather than trusting a stranger, and it gives them the freedom to walk away without feeling like they are missing out on anything. Thanks for reading!
In a hall I manage, we have ushers prepared to help in these situations, gently asking disruptive audience members if they would kindly step out. We don’t have to act often often, but have had to do so both in the case of children and with adults as well who were talking, being disruptive, and one time answering a phone call (really). Our goal is to encourage all who want to attend to be able to sit in the attendance (I eliminated a previous “no kids” policy) but to try and act quickly if there is a disruption. In combination with the suggestions from this article, I agree that the goal should be inclusivity.
That’s so great to hear. I am so glad you’re there to make sure the patrons can have a great experience. I was an usher all through my college days, so I know how difficult those situations can be to navigate! At the MSO concert, I think it was very hard for the ushers to get to this family. The mother was sitting closest to a wall right in the middle section of the hall on the floor. The ushers could reach her by leaning over the box seats (which they tried — that was almost worse), or by finding her in a sea of seats. I think that’s why that man ultimately shouted at her from the front of the hall. Thank you so much for reading.
One way that some orchestras have combated the “flickering screens” and then annoying glow from a phone is to create “tweet seats” which bundles together those that want to follow the orchestra via twitter. It really is a great medium to educate people in real-time. The Denver Phil doesn’t have much of a problem with that because the hall is not dark enough to make a difference. Come to find out, it is nice having people follow on twitter (and follow on an electronic program on their phones/tablets) because you don’t hear pages turning and people messing with their programs. Plus, it is a great “green” option. There are fixes for all of these things that take into account the more modern audience. As for people getting up and talking and moving around at will? Well, I haven’t seen that happen. I guess that is more of a human courtesy and respect thing. I think people are more understanding of children — but it is just an individual responsibility type of thing. It is too bad the students you ran into were so rude. I haven’t had that experience while at a Denver Phil concert (or really any concert I’ve been to in Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, etc…). Truly, though, it is amazing how rude some people can be in public!
Well-written, Nicole. I should point out that the gruff male voice actually did not use the word “please.” What he indeed barked was, “Take the baby out!” There is no question that the baby was disruptive, but this man’s tone, along with the enthusiastic applause by many audience members, made the situation, and the rest of the performance IMHO, very uncomfortable. The family got through the point-of-sale, the ticket taker, and at least one usher. There were ample opportunities to have someone speak to the mother regarding contingencies should the baby become disruptive. The MSO has led the way on several different experimental concert formats, many of which are family-friendly. Hopefully, this incident will solidify some policies with front-of-house staff.
I have long felt that a major problem with attracting audiences to orchestra concerts is the perception that there are strict rules of behavior, especially regarding attire, applause, and general decorum. Unfortunately, this incident of “audience-shaming” confirmed that perception for many who were present, especially the young family at the center of attention. Audience members do need to be made aware that any noise during the performance can be disruptive, especially in a hall such as the Cannon Center. The magnificent acoustics that convey remarkable clarity from the stage also serve to add extra sonority to coughs, candy wrappers, and whispers from the audience.
Hey Scott, great performance the other night! 🙂 I’m glad you remembered what that man said, I might go back and edit the post now. I sometimes wonder if there should be age restrictions (or seat restrictions based on age) at these concerts. I remember an incident last season at GPAC with an elderly man and a mother/baby sitting right behind him.
I really hope you guys continue to pave the way with Opus One and your other community-focused concerts, like SitG and Peter and the Wolf. Keep up the great work, and thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.
I feel like if I had been the conductor, I would have refused to resume conducting until the lady with her child had been brought back into the hall. Everybody else can feel free to take the stick out of their ass at any time. #yolo
In theory, that sounds pretty awesome! I wonder logistically if that would have worked out. Symphonies have unions, and if the performance goes over on time, the 70+ orchestra members get paid overtime. Most symphonies cannot afford that kind of dramatic insistence when it comes down to it.
Unfortunately, I think the audience would have mutinied if the mother and child were brought back in. The overwhelming majority of patrons who paid for their seats might have threatened to never come back since the orchestra did not respect their need to experience a concert in silence. I’m not saying it’s right, but I do that’s the reality of the world we live in. (Which is why I want to combat it with solutions!)
Thanks for reading, Joaquin!
Babysitter. Problem solved. If you want to expose your young children to classical music, buy a CD, or better yet a DVD of a live concert. Then when they’re old enough to keep quiet, they can come to an actual live concert.
Steve, I agree that a babysitter is really the needed solution, but so many young parents cannot afford the cost of a babysitter along with the expensive Symphony tickets, parking passes, etc. What happens if the babysitter backs out at the last minute? The parents just wasted a significant chunk of money on one evening. I think it’s far better to offer babysitting AT the concert where possible, so at least one deterrent is removed.
I do love your suggestion of the live concert on DVD! I have heard from many parents since posting this article that YouTube has become that free educational resource for them. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
I was at a Cleveland Orchestra concert once where they were playing a berg piece with a hammer box, and did they ever have an impressive hammer. A five year old sitting near me would get excited and say something every time he saw the percussionist raise the hammer. The piece ended so loudly and dramatically that the audience was silent for a moment before applauding, but immediately the kid said “wow!” His innocent enjoyment and awe made the performance much more enjoyable to me.
Shame on that mother for not taking her brat outside and for allowing things to escalate to such a degree. Any half-brained, minimally socially aware person would know that an audience of music lovers trying and paying to LISTEN to live music would be bothered by this kind of aural disruption. Audience snobbery or not, the onus is on the person with the child to either keep their child behaved and silent or leave the facilities. This same thing applies to movie theaters, public speaking events, and the like. Fearmongers have been clamoring about how classical music has been ‘dying’ for a century but somehow concert halls are still built and good orchestras are still performing. If some ensembles in the pack can’t survive our changing times then that’s just the free market at work. The Berlin Phil still has consistently sold out audiences. Let’s not dumb down a noble music tradition. Instead we need to rightly focus on keeping music education in every school, keeping public funding for the arts alive, and promoting enjoyable, listenable classical music instead of the contemporary crap that’s been pouring off the page and boring audiences to tears for the last 40 years.
I agree that there needs to be a solution, because I firmly believe that the future of classical music rests on how we invite, integrate, and inspire the youngest generations before they can even verbalize what they take in.
I was in a concert hall in Porto, the Casa di Musica, where there was a family room. It was a room with a glass window looking into the concert hall, covered in child-proofed rubber, with a ramp for strollers, and steps for children and parents to sit on. It was sound-proof from the hall, with a speaker system piping in the concert. My favorite parts were the tiny twinkling lights above to serve as an small light source in the dark concert hall. It was the perfect combination of family exposure without disturbing patrons.
That concert hall in Porto sounds awesome! I have not heard of anything that indepth in America, but I bet a few of the Tier 1 orchestras have something similar. Most people argue that it’s common courtesy for a parent to remove their child from the concert and thereby miss the performance; I think it’s common courtesy for the organization to offer up solutions for the parents so they don’t have to miss out on what they paid for! Thank you for reading and sharing your experiences.
I took my 9-year-old to the Magic Flute and she WAS quiet and engaged. She just liked to move her feet. She kept accidentally knocking the patron next to her where my husband quickly moved her to my lap. Then when we went to leave the patron was quite awful to her as she accidentally nudged her (if you touch me again i’m going to kick you). I was not quiet – and well – an argument ensued after the concert. However I continually find that, due to demographics, many older people forget what it is like to be young. They want absolute complete stillness. I think if a child is quiet – that should be enough. The above are correct. There will be noone to enjoy classical music. I continue to take her and am pleased that she enjoyed Thomas Ades Tempest. She stayed glued (age 10) to the whole three hours and cleverly brought her knitting to contain that energy youth often has.
Mary, I’m so sorry you experienced this kind of rude behavior from an ADULT! Your daughter sounds very artistic if she likes concerts and theaters and crafting. I hope you continue to give her these amazing experiences so she will grow up with an appreciation of the arts. Thanks for all you do as an active parent, and thank you so much for reading!
A “cry room” would be an excellent idea for orchestras and concert venues! Churches have them, perhaps other religious organizations do, why not a symphony hall? Acoustic materials are so advanced now, it would be easy to do.
Indeed, let’s give a place and a time to concerts where people can tweet, flicker their screens, walk around, socialize, etc. (That used to be common practice, as we were supposed to have learned in Music History 101…) and it’s where we are going as a people, so why not create a time & place for it?
Great article, thank you for offering solutions–the only way to get anything done. 😉
Thanks for reading, Nicole! 🙂
I do not agree with the article. My mother taught my sister and myself to behave properly in public, and to be quiet and respectful during symphony performances, which she first starting taking us to when we were only toddlers. More parents SHOULD be shamed for being lousy parents, for letting their kids be rude and disrespectful, in public and even in private. I’m amazed at parents who let their kids come into someone’s home and touch everything, pick up delicate breakables, move things around, screw up the TV remote, and the parents never scold the kids until the host says something. These are some of the same parents who yell at teachers who give their brats an F when their kid is the one who deserves the talking-to. Or it’s the parent who deserves the talking-to for failing to teach their child to value education. Parents who do not teach their children respect for others SHOULD be shamed. They are not only failing their children but the rest of society as well, creating a generation of rude and disrespectful people who care only about themselves.
There’s nothing here indigenous to classical music. Certain aspects of society are the same: plays, church, lectures, funerals, movies, speeches, on and on. Having a screaming kid during the slow mvmt. of Barber is no different than having the same during “My Fair Lady”, it’s unfair to those around. Kids and adults need to be quiet sometimes, it happens.
I’m all for exploring new ways to present music. Many already exist i.e. childrens concerts of various kinds. Many have been tried and failed over the years, and we’ll keep trying I hope. But the concept of “adapt and change the rules” is more of a societal issue. In a world where “every kid gets a trophy”, we can’t be expected to alienate our current audience because Mommy can’t or won’t control precious snowflake. Take the toddler to the summer pops shows, they can dance and march and have a great time. The kid is going to be miserable during a 2-hour classical show, I sometimes am too and I’m in the band.;)
Lots of interesting ideas here. Personally, I don’t see why we should, or even how we could, abandon the “code of silence” in concert halls. It’s a basic courtesy that allows everyone else to listen fully and comfortably to the music. (At many popular music events, the sound is so highly amplified it couldn’t possibly be drowned out by any amount audience noise. But a classical concert is unamplified.). That said, I’m sorry that this poor mother was humiliated. Does the Memphis Symphony have a children’s concert series, as many orchestras do? If this woman can be identified, someone from the Memphis Symphony should contact her and offer her three free tickets to a children’s concert.
Hi Colin! I think the code of silence is what keeps people coming back to concerts, so I agree that we shouldn’t just abandon it. I do like the idea of having “cross-over” Symphony concerts where people can be a little bit more free and not have to worry about upsetting others. Outdoor concerts and contemporary concerts typically offer up that kind of atmosphere.
The MSO does indeed have a children’s concert coming up, I hope they’ll consider reaching out. I’ll mention it to their Marketing Director, she’s very involved in making sure patrons have a good experience! Good idea, Colin. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!
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As a member of the Chorus to an internationally renowned professional Orchestra, and also a 30-something, I am in a position where my friends who would like to attend concerts, usually are unable to attend due to lack of a baby-sitter. I LOVE the idea of a ‘cry-room’, especially if there is a level of educational outreach incorporated. However, we should keep in mind that for-profit organisations will have to undergo a more severe amount of legal issues when child care that is sponsored by the organization becomes involved. While it seems like a pretty easy fix, and for non-profit, community-run groups, it might very well be, for those that are technically on a professional level (no judgment of artistry here, promise), there are other ramifications. There would have to be a massive amount of information collected by the institution just to watch your child for a few hours. You would have to provide the same insurance info, and sign the same legal disclaimers that you do for a day care. Even if you are not technically paying for the child care, you are paying for your ticket, and at an event for a for-profit org., things change. I would imagine that this fix has come up before, it may just not be financially available to these organisations, especially given how many of our nation’s orchestras, operas and ballets are struggling just to hire musicians.
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