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Concert policies: Handling Young Children at concerts

Greetings, Listers!

Thanks to all who replied to my query concerning the attendance of
young children at choral concerts. Your insight and advice was most
helpful. It was interesting to see comments by choruses which say
bring one, bring all, and choruses which are more cautious. One
common theme was that parents do indeed have to be responsible for
training their children in concert attendance etiquette. Helpful
ideas included bringing things to occupy the children, such as
coloring books. Children do not necessarily know how to behave at a
classical concert because such etiquette is becoming a lost practice.
And, attendance at concerts can train children to become good
audience members. Some organizations offer child care, but others
cautioned about the legal liability.

As the San Francisco Lyric Chorus is an adult chorus with mostly
adult audiences, we have decided to take the plunge and say on our
publicity "Please, no children under five." We are hoping that
children five and over will be able to sit still. In our concert
program, we also will ask audience members to turn off cell phones,
pagers, and other electronic devices before the concert. We note
that the concert is being recorded. We'll see what happens.

Helene Whitson

Here is the compilation:
The Western New York Chorale has a long history of welcoming -- free
of charge -- all youngsters under the age of 12. When we occasionally
do a "fun and nonsense" program that would be particularly appealing
to children, we have included a statement in our releases suggesting
that folks "round up the neighourhood kids, stuff 'em in the car, and
bring 'em along." In short, we strongly believe that kids will only
attend live concerts of a broad variety of music on a regular basis
if they begin learning how when they are young. If it helps to bring
along the colouring books and crayons, good -- do it. Once in awhile
a parent will even show you the visual impression of a piece you
performed rendered in living colour by a three or four year-old. As
the TV line goes, "...priceless!" Three weeks ago, the Chorale sang
a large segment of pop songs from Buffalo's Pan American Exposition
1901 (simple, catchy tunes, and texts that were little more than
inane drivel -- but decidedly fun). A small child in the audience
picked up the tune of one of the songs almost immediately, and "ahhh'd"
it -- half a beat behind the soloist -- all the way to the end. Lots
of smiles -- and not simply "tolerant" ones.

Granted, this is not everyone's cup of tea. But in more serious
concerts (we did the Bach St John Passion in April, and children were
present at both performances), our experience has been that kids CAN
handle the situation appropriately -- if their parents are attentive
to them as well as to the performance itself, set the proper example,
and -- bring the colouring books. They will grow up knowing how to
handle themselves in the concert hall, as well as at rock concerts
in the local stadium.

Herbert Tinney, Music Director Buffalo & Erie County Public Library
The Western New York Chorale Music Department, Librarian
Buffalo, New York Buffalo, New York
hwtinney(a) tinneyh(a)

often what I see, and what choirs I'm in do, is to provide childcare, free
of charge, and make sure that parents are aware of it, but allow children in
if their parents want them in. If the child becomes a problem in the
concert, however, a volunteer then comes to take the child at the earliest
convenient time. If the concert is being recorded or anything other than
archival purposes, however, most times we strongly suggest that children be
taken to the childcare. (most concerts I do are in churches, it may be a
more difficult problem in a concert hall, especially a union hall. )

James Baldwin" ********************************
Well, through the gracious help of our local theater person (also known
as my wife), a year ago we installed a closed circuit TV with a rigid
camera focused on the stage. This picture is fed to the Green Room for
actors (so they stay out of the wings until needed) to the stage
managers desks (Stage left and right) and to the lobby. The advantage
of the lobby is we also feed sound there so that anyone with restless
children can see and hear from there, but not intrude on our audiences.
It works mostly. What works best is not to admit them but there are
problems for every community in that one. Some places get away with no
one under 6.

We had it all done professionally and have been very happy with it this
last year.

Russ Parker
Burroughs High School
Ridgecrest, CA 93555
I don't know what age your performers are, but when I taught in elementary
school and had concerts with my young students, there would often be many
younger siblings in the audience. I didn't say anything or print anything up
front, but if, say at the beginning of a number a child or children start
being disruptive, I would stop, turn to the audience and say that these
students have been working very hard on this music and would appreciate it if
they could be heard. We, and I think, the remainder of the audience would
appreciate your help in making this possible. After the first couple of times
of doing this, and yes, once I even stopped in the middle of a piece, people
seem to realize that they needed to take their younger children from the
auditorium if they became noisy.
Hope this helps.
Lynne Kearney :>o
The choral director for whom I accompany (High school) always goes
through the rules for "concert etiquette" at the beginning of the
concert. He suggests that "should young children become restless
during the concert, please take them to the lobby, so as not to
distubr those around you". I always caution my middle schoolers that
if they have younger siblings, that they should be left with a baby
sitter if they cannont sit still for an hour. nd I don't have any
trouble putting things in the program, because we have become a TV
society--and sometimes don't think about live performers being
Good luck,
Martha Springstead
LArkspur Middle School
Virginia Beach, VA
We don't put anything in the program, but we do announce that we are
recording the concert and we have a closed circuit room for children who
cannot sit through the concert quietly (I can't remember how they put it,
but it sounds ok). For admission, children age 4 and under are free. During
the winter concert, a baby wailed during our first song (we landed up having
to re-record a few songs for our CD, and that was one of them!). This last
concert, no problems at all. A few parents sat with their children in the
special room. Our ushers kept a close eye on the families with small
children and were ready to kindly escort them to the special room in a
moment's notice. Next season we plan to pre-record our CD, then have
family-centered concerts w/o the worry. polly
Never underestimate the ability of children. They can surprise you when
presented with a challenge!)

Polly Murray
Founder/Artistic Director
ChildrenSong of New Jersey
I included the following in the printed program for my campus concert:

Please do not talk during musical numbers.
Please do not call out to people on the stage.
Applause is appropriate after numbers, but hollering is not.
Please turn off all cell phones and pagers and do not talk on the
phone in the auditorium during the concert.
Please take small children to the lobby if they cannot be quiet
during the concert.
No flash photography.
Please stay in your seat even if it seems like a really great photo
Be considerate of others.

I also begin the concert with a number, give the late-comers a chance
to seat themselves, and then welcome people with a short speech (for
me) in which I also remind them of the rules. I try to use humor, but
I make it clear that we want them to hear to concert without cell
phone ringing and baby crying that was never part of the conductor's
composition. I usually say something like, "Please take small
children to the lobby if they cannot be quiet. For that matter,
please take grownups to the lobby if they cannot be quiet!"

My chorus was singing at Lincoln Center, with Moses Hogan, Weston
Noble, and Richard Nance as adjudicators, and a toddler began wailing
in the third row during the introduction to a very pretty piece. I
stopped, turned around and the mother immediately, without my having
to say anything to her, took the child outside. I simply explained to
the audience that the concert was being recorded. I also said
something like "This piece makes me cry, too." I am told that the
adjudicators applauded my action. We've all been there. We started

Do that once and others get the message. Unfortunately, our modern
audiences are often so ignorant of what is expected that we not only
have to teach them about our music, but we also have to teach them
how to behave.

Joel Pressman
Beverly Hills High School
Several years ago, we were plagued with this problem at our campus concerts
and eventually put a statement on the programs to the effect that we were
taping for possible CD-making purposes and would appreciate having no
extraneous noises. For that reason we asked that people take children out
if they became restless. Now we have to add to that a request to turn off
portable electronic devices (esp. cell phones) and figure out how to keep
audience members from entering and leaving during performances! The latter
happens more in the last two years than previously, and despite signs on
the door and people standing inside guarding the doors. I think much of
the problem, even with the children's issue, is a decline in concert
etiquette. Many seem to expect the same informality from our concerts that
they do at rock concerts.

Hilary Apfelstadt
We have discussed this subject at length recently. We added the
following statement to our program:

Soli Deo Gloria welcomes children who wish to listen to our concerts.
Ushers can direct you to a suitable place for those children
who are noisy or restless. Please respect the other concertgoers by
helping maintain a distraction-free venue.

We don't want to exclude children because we think children must be
exposed to classical music or they'll never appreciate it. We always
have a place for children because I (the director) have children
which must be taken care of (by a babysitter) during the performance
(one is much too young to listen). We have considered providing child
care, but if you make it official you run into a host of legal
hassles -- so we encourage parents who are coming to co-op.
Allen H Simon
Soli Deo Gloria

It depends on the type concert. The Christmas concerts we present are
between 1-1/2 and 2 hrs. long with no intermission. For these we state in
the advertisements that the concerts are recommended for those children six
years of age and above. We do not provide childcare. Generally one of our
ushers will encourage parents with young children to sit at the ends of rows
so that if they do need to leave, they can do so quickly without greatly
disturbing other concertgoers. For our spring concerts, we do not specify
an age for children. These concerts normally run between 1 and 1 1/2 hours,
with a 15-minute intermission.

S. Bryan Priddy
Director of Choral Activities
Whitworth College
Spokane, Washington
We have been pretty successful by providing child care and advertising
that in publicity. Also, at the top of the printed program we say: This
concert is being recorded.
Yes, having young children at a concert is difficult,
especially for us, since our singers are themselves
young and have young siblings and other family
We have, in the past, spoken with our families and
suggested to them that the concerts are probably not
appropriate for babies and young children but we would
never refuse admission to anyone. We remind the
parents that all the boys work hard to prepare for a
concert and they deserve an attentive audience. Also,
other parents object to having young children at the
concerts because they are often restless and sometimes
noisy and it spoils their enjoyment.
We have not offered babysitting because of the issue
of liability but most of our families will walk out
with their young children if they start making a
Generally, we are more tolerant of having young
children at our two "family" concerts where all
120-plus singers are performing. We have two concerts
in December and two in March where only the more
advanced singers perform and having babies and young
children there is a problem.
When outside audience members call, they often ask if
they can bring babies and toddlers, and we normally
advise against it.
If you find a solution to this one, we would
appreciate knowing about it!
Eryl Aynsley
Executive Director
Ragazzi, The Peninsula Boys Chorus

In my experience, it is usually best to arrange for child care during
concerts. Some parents will refuse to leave their children out of the
concert, but most will welcome the opportunity to really enjoy the
concert themselves (no distractions!)
Mainly, I've approached teenage girls - provided them with games,
videos and music to entertain their wards, then paid them a small
honorarium after the event.
It has been most effective. Good luck...
Edette Wilks - musician4hire(a)
In our choir publicity we state on our flyers and brochures "Appropriate for
children aged 5 and up" We also try to educate our parents not to bring
siblings that are too young to the concerts. It helps with some people but
not with others. I think it is a continuing process of education. A lot of
Hispanic families in our choir will never leave their children with others.
I guess it is a cultural thing but it is sometimes difficult to deal with.
Parents whose children are involved in various activities tend to regard
them as family things that all are welcome to attend.

Lauren Flahive
Co-Founder/Executive Director
The Choirs of Our Lady Queen of Angels, Inc.
a non-profit children's choir

Helene Whitson, President
San Francisco Lyric Chorus
Co-Author, San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory
1824 Arch Street
Berkeley, California 94709
(510) 849-4689