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Kids at Concerts

Last night my husband and I attended a wonderful piano concert. We go every year, and had been looking forward to it since before Christmas.

We hadn’t paid attention to the seat number on our tickets and were astonished as we were ushered to seats fourth row, center!

“These are great seats!” Chris said.

“Check our tickets,” I said. “I can’t believe we’re in the right seats!”

Sure enough, we were that close.

As we settled in, anticipating the fabulous concert that awaited us, I spotted trouble. A large family, probably three generations worth, had seats directly behind us. And guess who sat behind me? THE SIX YEAR OLD.

The pre-concert organ performance was pretty loud, and most people weren’t really listening to it. The din of conversation was audible just beneath the music. I could hear the kid behind me talking, but so was everybody else.

All was silent as the MC came out and began to introduce the first piece. Then, just as the strains of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik began, I heard whispering. Loud whispering. The kind of little kid whispering that isn’t really whispering at all, just their attempt at “talking quiet.”

“She just needs to get settled down,” I thought to myself. “Don’t get angry quite yet.”

I wish that had been the case. The little girl proceeded to tick off everything on the “Don’t List” of music performance etiquette.

She talked through every single piece. I am not kidding. There was not one piece of music that we enjoyed in silence.

She picked at her Velcro. Yes, her Velcro! Could anything be louder than Velcro in an otherwise quiet performance hall?

She played with the zipper on her coat. For no reason. Up and down. Up and down.

She had a plastic bag that she rifled through continuously, pulling out candy, which she promptly and noisily unwrapped.

Oh, and did I mention her family let her sit next to her brother, who was about the same age? Brilliant idea. Let them make noise together to double the fun of those sitting around them.

The piece de resistance came during Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto when the girl started kicking my chair!!

Unbelievable.

And this wasn’t a quick little shindig either. The concert began at 8:00 PM and included 16 different pieces, split up by a 20 minute intermission. With the pre-concert organ performance, the concert was a full three hours long. We didn’t get out of there until 10:30!

In all fairness, what kid isn’t going to be bored watching a three hour piano concert?

I blame the parents.

Not being one to make a big scene, I chose the passive aggressive route of turning around and looking exasperated at the kids and their family. No adult in the group seemed to notice how these kids were disrupting the people around them. Or worse, they didn’t care.

It used to be said that “children should be seen and not heard.” Today anything goes, and parents believe kids are welcome everywhere. The pendulum has swung completely the other way.

I believe the best theory is somewhere in the middle.

I understand that if children are “banned” from all cultural events, they will probably never learn how to behave. But there are certain acceptable “training grounds” to learn, and other places that are just inappropriate.

A three hour piano concert is probably not the best place to try out a kid’s ability to behave in such a situation. A high school or junior high concert is probably more appropriate. Or maybe something more child-oriented, like Disney On Ice for example.

If it had been me, I would have outlined the rules for acceptable behavior before attending the concert. I would have also explained the consequences if the child couldn’t keep it together for the duration of the program.

If my child was being disrespectful to the people around us, we would get up and leave. Period.

If this family had had enough sense to take control of the situation, we might have enjoyed our concert a little bit more.

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