Concert Etiquette for Children

Teresa Carreño, c. 1862 (printed later), Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative by Mathew Brady Studio. Taken with permission from Flicker with CC license by Cliff1066.

Teresa Carreño, c. 1862 *

Last Saturday we went to an Art Show at BYU.  My five year old was an ANGEL!  (She also did really well at the Nutcracker ballet when she was a few months shy of turning four.)   I think that children, even young ones (ages 4-6), can do very well at live events (concerts, plays, shows, etc.) IF;

  1. They are given expectations ahead of time.
  2. They are given background information (this music was used in that movie, or remember when we saw this picture, here are some more like it).
  3. They are given things to look for/listen to.
  4. They are taken to things that are relatively age appropriate.
  5. We remember their specific limitations. (For example, my two year old wasn’t an angel at the art museum, but it was during her nap time, after all).

Here are some ideas about expectations for different events.

Art Museums

Rules at art museums are in place to ensure that the art is kept in good condition and so that patrons can quietly meditate.  Often art has a spiritual or religious nature to it or it has been created to understand/process a difficult topic.

  • Quiet voices.
  • Follow the posted rules and guidelines.
  • Don’t TOUCH the art!
  • Typically no food, drink, gum, etc.
  • Usually no photography (flashes can damage some paintings).
  • Children should stay with parent/guardians the entire time (no running around, etc.)
  • Be aware of others around you – respect their space.
  • Ask me lots of questions 🙂 I’ll often stand with my girls and ask them to tell me what they see, or ask them to look for things.  For example –pick your favorite piece of art and tell me why you like it.
  • If I don’t know the answer, and as they get older I’m sure I won’t, we’ll ask the attendant/curators questions.

Concerts –

Typically classical music performances are more formal than other musical concerts (rock, country music, etc.), but an understanding of the etiquette guidelines will help concert goers to feel comfortable.  Help your child to understand that the performers have worked really hard (put in hours of practice) to get ready for the performance.

  • Dress – typically dress at a concert is formal to semi-formal (think of how one would dress when going to church, synagogue or place of worship).
  • Arrive and find your seat five to ten minutes early. An usher will help you find your place.  Quiet conversation is fine until the lights dim. If you arrive late, you will not be allowed to enter until intermission.
  • Program – You are usually given a program.  Though these are FULL of advertisements, there are usually some very helpful and educational program notes that are worth reading.
  • Stay in your seats – unless there is an emergency.  There is usually an intermission in which you can get up, stretch, use the facilities, etc.
  • No talking during the performance.  Also no cell phones, texting, eating, drinking, popping gum, etc. (Basically, show respect to the performers and those around you.)
  • Clapping – Usually after a performance there is a quiet moment in which all enjoy the magic of what just occurred.  Then the audience claps, sometimes shouts “bravo”, and at times gives a standing ovation when the work was particularly good.  Follow the audience as to appropriate times to clap (sometimes there are pauses between pieces (movements) when the audience does not clap).
  • Outdoor “Pops” Concerts – these concerts are less formal (dress is more casual, picnicking is sometimes allowed) but good manners are still expected.

Shows – Musicals, Operas, Ballet –

The rules are typically the same for these performances as those for a concert.   Again –

  • Make sure that the content is appropriate (will it be entertaining for the child?)
  • Make sure that the length is appropriate (shows can last for two or more hours.  Very young children fidget after 10 minutes. )
  • Introduce the children to the subject matter/story ahead of time – help them understand the story, listen to the music, give them things to look for.
  • A great idea is to show DVD/Video performances ahead of time, so that your children are familiar with the content.
  • Often there will be special children friendly performances which will be shorter or geared toward the kids.  Look out for these.

Introducing children to cultural activities is beneficial to your child, your family, and society because it gives them;

  • Appreciation for things of beauty and culture.
  • Manners – the realization that there are codes of behavior – ways to act that are appropriate in different situations.
  • Dressing up and going to an event makes kids feel special.  It’s exciting and fun!
  • An understanding that there are many wonderful and beautiful things in the world.
  • Hopefully in our fast-paced society, it will give them moments to stop and reflect quietly.  (Children need time learn to think.  I loved driving around in the car as a young girl, my parents would play classical music, and I would look out the windows and just think.)

It’s worth the time and effort to help your children learn to appreciate cultural events!

*Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative by Mathew Brady Studio. Taken with permission from Flicker with CC license by Cliff1066.

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