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Encouraging better Audience behavior

Thanks to the many who replied to my inquiry. I felt better that I was not alone in my experience, but I was saddened that this is such a common problem. Who would have thought that sitting quietly would be so difficult for so many adults?! Here is a compilation of the suggestions I received.

On your concert behavior from the parents, I know what that is like. We incorporated a concert where my elementary choir spoke about concert behavior form performers and audience. There is no reason why you can't address the issue verbally. I think at some point that is the only way to do it. State the obvious. It helps the students understand what they should be doing as well. I hoped that helped.

When I taught elementay school and the audience was talking or children i n the audience were noisy, I would stop the music and turn to the audience. I would tell them how hard the children had worked on this music and we wanted everyone to be able to hear their child sing. I especially did this if it annoyed me in the concert. I'm not sure if you didn't realize it during the performance. Sometimes we are so involved in the music making we don't notice these things.
Maybe before yor next performance you could mention to the audience what you viewed the tape and ask if they would help you teach the children what a good audience is like.
I know when I made comments like these, many parents would come up to me after the concert to say thank you for speaking to the audience so that they could enjoy their child's performance.
It doesn't happen overnight, but it does develop over many concerts. Concert ettiquette does need to be taught. This generation of parents are used to rock concert settings. Remind them that each child does not have a microphone. Do this in a humorous way so you don't alienate the audience.
Good luck.

We have been working on audience behaviour for years. This last
concert, I took a proactive approach. At the opening of the concert I
spoke to the audience, saying how hard the kids had worked and about the
educational experience of singing and performing. I also said they (the
audience) were part of that educational experience, and that in
providing an attentive, quiet audience, they were honoring their
children's work, and teaching them what it was like to perform

Hi! We had a very similiar situation in our school district over the past
few years. The high school music teachers developed a concert etiquette
statement to be read by the administrator (we usually have a principal
welcome the audience). The statement read something like this -

One of the goals of the Fond du Lac School High School Fine Arts Department
this year is to teach our students, staff, and community about concert
etiquette during all of our concerts. Our teachers have made this a
priority in the classroom and have discussed these expectations with the
students prior to tonight's concert.

To create the best possible atmosphere for our concert, we ask that all cell
phones and pagers be turned off out of respect to the performers and
audience members. We ask that you remain seated and not move about for the
entire concert. If there is an emergency and you need to leave or enter the
performance hall, we ask that you do so at an appropriate moment between
songs. Latecomers should wait until a song is over. In addition, there is
no food or drink allowed in the performance hall.

We want to thank you for helping us educate our students and serving as role
models to them. Enjoy the concert!

In addition to having an administrator read the statement, we had it printed
in the program. It went over so well that we passed it on to middle schools
and elementary schools. This year, the entire school district is doing it!

While the statement didn't improve everyone's etiquette, it overall improved
tremendously! I really think you need to state it very bluntly to the
audience because many of them have never been at a concert in a peformance
hall. They typically go to concerts in gyms in our elementary and middle
schools. In addition, many people in our community think that a concert is
like a basketball game.

We had many, many compliments from the parents who care! I really think
many just didn't know how to act! It is a learning process and each year we
have to reemphasize it with our audiences!

I have grappled with the same thing; our school is in a very
economically depressed area, low end education and income. Many of our
students and parents have never been to a formal concert, and it shows.
Things at our recent concert (last Thursday) have been improving, and
these are a few of my tactics: appropriate behavior has been covered in
the all-school announcements (short and sweet) with my principal's
blessings; attendees who are talking or behaving inappropriately are
asked to cease or leave by staff (usually only one person, but they are
quite capable);students are asked to let family know they will get "in
trouble" if they wave or respond to parents who are yelling, waving, or
being silly. I ask students to think of a signal they can do to let
their parents know they see and love them, only for their family. Our
family used a simple index-finger point toward the loved ones (it meant
"I love you") and then everyone was happy and let the kids do their
musical work. Every family/kid can come up with their own.
Families learn fast that if students do not respond to yelling and
distractions from family that they might as well not bother.I agree that
audience behavior is very important, but we have to train our audiences
just as we train our students. Don't give up your work to educate both
students and parents is well worth the effort!

I teach in a very small town that has very little concert etiquette (sp?) as well. Not only do I put the reminders in the program, but I announce several of them before the show in a polite "I'm sure you already know this, but I like to go over it just in case" tone of voice. I remind them to please turn all cell phones off, try not to hoot and holler as if it were a basketball game (I couldn't BELIEVE they way they treated it like an athletic event!), applaud only between songs and after exceptional solos, and take all noisy children to the lobby. I only heard one person tell me afterward that they overheard someone say something like "yes, maam" like I was a Nazi. Hey, it makes it a much more pleasurable experience for everyone when the audience behaves. Unfortunately, I see where my middle and high school students get their behavior - their parents don't know how to act in public!

1. Maybe train the students (by having them listen to in-class
performances) and encourage them to pass the lessons on to their
family members.

2. Get more directional microphones for your recordings.

I have had similar struggles with audience behavior. Here are some things
that have made a huge difference:
1. Have the principal of the school introduce you and the group at the
beginning of the performance. Have her/him tell the audience how glad
she/he is that they have come to see and hear the childrens' WORK for the
2. I planned in-school assemblies with the biggest goal being to teach
audience behavior to the students. Who is performing doesn't matter - I
have done 4 assemblies a year (my last school) where 1/2 the classes
performed (easy sharing of classroom music) and the other 1/2 classes
practiced being a good audience - we discussed appropriate audience behavior
in music class and generated a list. It had an amazing trickle effect - the
students started noticing that their parents were not good audience members
and told them what they had been learning...
3. I have the audience sing a song or two during the performance - once in
the middle and once at the end to keep then engaged. I think this also
helps them appreciate singing and they'll notice how much better the
children sound than they do!

it's effective to have a kid stand up and tell the adults the rules..............

We print an audience guideline on all of our programs. It might also be
helpful to read this to the audience at the start of the performance.


Our students, your children, are being taught much more than music. As a
part of their performance experience we hope to teach them the porper
behavior expected at a formal event, such as a concert. We would like to
secureyour help with this part of their education. During the performance
please stay seated. If it becomes necessary to levethe performance hall,
please do so between selections and a s quietly as possible. We encourage
applause at the appropriate times, but not to shout or whistle, as would be
acceptable at a sporting event.. Your help with these requests would be
greatly appreciated and reinforce our teaching.

When I was teaching in a "new" public school job, I had the same
problem until I stood up before the Holiday Concert began to "thank"
and "congratulate" all of the parents and teachers of the elementary
students. You see... "last week I took the concert choir on a mini
tour to all of the elementary schools, and I was really impressed
with how well the young audience behaved. No one talked while the
chorus was singing and no one got up to leave the auditorium while
music was being performed. Thank you, parents and teachers of those
well-behaved children who really seem to understand what appropriate
behavior at a concert should be!"

That ended my problem, immediately.

The next day, the principal, with a big grin on his face, said "well
done, young man!"

I had encountered the same problem several years ago. We know print concert etiquette on the inside cover of our programs. We now do this at the district and all-state level as well. I also have one just for student assemblies.

Sad though it is, I'm not sure there is much that can be done with the
parent's generation as far as concert etiquette goes. For most of them,
the closest thing to a concert they have ever been to has been (1) a
rock concert or (2) a football game. Most people nowadays get their
music from recordings, and think of music as something in the
background. They don't seem to realize that those are real people up
there making music and how much it hurts when someone (especially mom
and dad) ignores the children's music making and just keeps talking.

It's probably no consolation, but we've been fighting this same battle
in churches for years, and the end is not yet in sight.

Audiences must be trained to be audiences. It is a life project.

The following statement appears in every concert program and I have even
read the statement before a concert. I have even stopped concerts in mid
track to allow audiences to quiet themselves or, UNBELIEVABLY) talking on
a cell phone! I have had parents man the doors, I have had uniformed ROTC
Cadets give out programs and control the doors to no avail. This, finally,
seems to have made a difference.

Thank you for attending this program. Good audience participation
enriches the quality of any performance. We need your assistance in
allowing us to present our best efforts. We offer these suggestions in
order to promote an excellent concert environment.

Please hear the program in its entirety as concerts are designed with a
complete purpose. Often the final concert selection serves as a
culmination of the total presentation.

If you arrive late, please wait to be seated at appropriate times.
Usually, this occurs between musical selections or at the conclusion of an
ensemble's performance.

Please do not talk during the performance. Please turn off cell phones and
disable the alarms on your watches. It is important to respect the rights
of each listener to enjoy music performed in a concert hall environment
without distraction. If you video tape or photograph the program, please
be sensitive to those around you. We request that you refrain from the use
of flash equipment and/or video lights. Our young performers are offering
the best of their talents with the hope of pleasing their audience. Help
us to achieve this goal by contributing to everyone's listening pleasure.

You may find that this is a universal problem! I, too, have experienced poor behavior from my audiences. I have my Principal start every concert with behavior reminders and I print the following in the program:
Concert Etiquette
Proper concert etiquette is important to both the performer and the listener. Parents should help teach these good listening practices to our children by your example of proper concert etiquette. Here are some of the most important practices for all concertgoers:
· Leave your seat only in an emergency or at the conclusion of the program.
· Refrain from talking once the program has begun.
· Supervise children; do not allow them to roam the halls during the
· Dispose of food and drink before the concert begins.
· Be sure cell phones and pagers are silent.

Prior to every choral concert here at Westfield High School, we have a process in writing that we go through.

1) 5 minutes prior to concert, we blink the lights a few times. When it's time to start, we lower them. The audience generally gets a bit quieter as they wait to see what will happen next.

2) One of my students (this year it's one of my advanced chamber singers students, a male 6 foot 3 tall football player with a very deep voice) comes center stage in his tuxedo and takes the microphone. He then reads a prepared statement as follows (it's the same every time) in a very dignified manner:

"Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to this evening's choral performance. Before we begin, please take a moment to turn off your cell phones, pagers, and watch alarms. The performance you are about to witness is being professionally recorded. In order that we may create the best and most professional performance atmosphere, we ask that you do not talk during the performance, and that you do not enter or exit the auditorium except between songs if necessary. Additionally, no flash photography please.

Finally, please avoid calling out the name of a student on stage, especially when they are entering or exiting. The music being performed this evening is advanced and requires a great deal of concentration. The aforementioned distractions can make it very hard for the student performers to concentrate. However, we appreciate your hearty applause at appropriate times.

Thank you for being with us this evening, and for your continued support. We know that you will help us to uphold the fine standards of performance excellence that have become our tradition here at Westfield High School. We hope you enjoy our music."

The student then exits the stage and the performance begins. We have found that when we have a student read the above request, it seems to sink in a little more with our audience. The fact that we have to ASK people not to call out names is a bit embarassing, but it was a problem before I was the choral director at our school. Also, since we hire someone to make a CD of every concert, the audience can be a bit intimidated (in a GOOD way) by the presence of very large recording mics.

While there will always be SOME sort of small distractions, we find that the above helps to curtail them. As a choral director in the public schools, one must choose their battles wisely I feel STRONGLY that this is a battle worth fighting. We really do have to train our audiences as well as our students.

Admittedly, I've gotten a bit of a reputation regarding this subject. In a concert last year when my advanced women were performing an a cappella Brahm's selection, there was incessant talking coming from the front row over my left shoulder while I was conducting. I could see in the faces of my girls that they were distracted. Even I was distracted. It was rather loud. During the applause (after I had acknowledged the choir), I walked to the edge of the stage, knelt down a bit, and addressed the people softly, but directly. They looked terrified. But, that was the last I heard from them.

I would advise you have a little 'announcement' before the concert.
Someone (preferably the director) should thank the audience for coming,
and quickly go through the rules (turn off phones and pagers, no talking
or even whispering during the music, babies/children should be taken out
if they start to make noise, don't clap between movements, etc.). It
might help to say that since music is an aural art form, any noise they
may make, accidental or not, can contribute to a bad experience for
another listener, and out of respect for the performers and the
listeners, everyone should be as quiet as possible.

At Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis, they have a short recorded message
about cell phones which plays before the conductor comes out.

It's unfortunate that people do not know how to behave at performances,
but if they are not TAUGHT, they will not learn it otherwise. Their kids
won't teach them, other adults won't teach them, and they obviously don't
go to enough concerts to glean it from repetition. We the musicians must
take leadership in informing the audience how to be an audience.

On a similar note, I would encourage all performers/performances to
engage the audience as much as possible. Audiences today are less
educated than ever, and they don't read the program notes, so any verbal
instruction by the director between the pieces of music relating to
history, form, composer bio, etc. can only help the audience gain a
greater appreciation for the music, and thereby resulting in better
behavior, better attendance, etc.

Not sure I have any solutions for you, but some thoughts may be helpful.

1. The parents in question: of your musicians choristers or others
, or of students in general? If (mostly) of your musicians, arrange a
meeting with them on some useful topic, and during the meeting show the
videotape. (Or have it available for interested parents to see/hear
separately from whatever the main reason for the meeting may be.)
Sometimes just perceiving the problem is sufficient to induce changes in
behavior, and I'd guess that most of the parents have no idea what they
look & sound like in such contexts.
If the parents are of students in general, this may still be a
behavioral point worth bringing up. If you think so, ask your principal
(&/or guidance counselor, vice-principal, &c) to view the tape, or
perhaps selected portions of it. There may be some educating to be done
in a wider context than school concerts.

2. Audience behavior is notoriously unreliable in lots of contexts. An
address on the courtesies expected, during a speech of welcome to the
assembled multitude, might be helpful. (I have made such an address
myself, when problems of this kind arose for our auditioned community
chorus. A courteous address, and not condescending in tone, but a
useful reminder of what one expects patrons to know. (There's always
room, and unfortunately nearly always reason, for pointing out that
music is not merely the notes, but is (perhaps even more importantly)
the silences between notes. In particular, at the end of a piece, the
audience can be asked to refrain from immediate applause for exactly the
same kind of artistic reason that leads us to put mats around the
paintings we display on our walls: it provides "white space", so to
speak, with which to frame the aural display/performance.)

3. Not clear whether your complaint has to do with sound quality, or
overt physical behavior, or both. A problem with using a videotape
device for recording sound is that the microphone is generally in the
camera, and cannot be aimed in a direction different from the lens of
the camera. If you want decent sound, record it separately (and if
there aren't students who can handle that I remember when a nephew of
mine was in upper middle school and high school, and was called on for
most of the videotaping of school events of whatever kind, because he
was actually quite good at it hire a professional). You need more
than one microphone, and the mikes need to be NOT at floor level in the
midst of the audience (nor even at balcony level, if the videotaping is
done from such a vantage).) If you absolutely have to use the same
person for video and audio, use a highly directional mike (which still
won't produce stereo sound, unless it's possible to use two) that is
fixed in place and not roaming around with the cameraman.

My school has a "concert etiquette" itemized list on the season
schedule, and we also print a brief summary on our concert programs.

Thanks again,

Stacey Campbell
Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School
Thurgood Marshall Middle School
601 Pearl Harbor St.
Bridgeport, CT 06610