How Young Is Too Young to Attend Concerts?

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Park Slope Parents was invited to take part in a roundtable discussion about whether young children should attend concerts.

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Here’s the podcast: http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/how-young-too-young-attend-concerts/

Here are some guidelines we came up with regarding kids as concert goers, making sure that your children have fun, and aren’t a disturbance to others.

It’s about respecting other people. I’m all for allowing parents to give it a shot if they think their kid can handle it. However, If you think your child may be disrupting other people, go with that feeling; they probably are That goes for adults too. Checking your phone can be just as disruptive as a child that is fidgeting, sometimes more so since you expect better behavior from an adult.

Age is irrelevant. It definitely depends on the child, not the age of the child and work up. Some 2 years can sit still, some 12 year olds can’t. Understanding your child’s attention span and abilities is key.

Start with smaller concerts geared at younger kids and classical music. Many of these are shorter and have more variety to keep kids engaged as their attention span grow. Baby Got Bach (www.babygotbach.org/) is a program for kids 3-6 years old that helps kids learn how to be attentive and listen.

Teach polite behavior. Play up the fact that this is a special, grown up event, and go over the rules required in attending, including silence, stillness, and attention.  Get dressed up in nice clothes to help emphasize this ‘treat’ so they don’t treat it like a kids concert where kids are expected to stand up, scream and shout.

Prepare your child(ren) by listening to the music ahead of time. Take a practice run at home.

Teach that a little boredom can be a good thing. Learning how to daydream is a skill, and having a child practice stillness is important. Kids should learn not to act out if they aren’t stimulated every second of the day.

The later the show, the older the minimum age. Kids get tired, so a show that starts at 8 is taxing. Matinees make it

The closer you sit, the easier it is for the kids to feel engaged. If you’re in the nosebleed section you miss some of the subtleties that help keep kids engaged.

Pick seats next to the aisle so you can leave disrupting the fewest people of you decide you need to bolt.

Consider it gambling. If you plunk down $100 on a ticket realize that you may not win—you have to leave and forfeit your investment.

Quit while you’re ahead. If they are able to handle part of the show but get fidgety, quit while you’re ahead and leave during intermission (if there is any). It will make a better experience for everyone.

Silence anything that might embarrass you. There’s a NYC theatre that announces this at the beginning of the show. If you can’t keep your child (or your cell phone) quiet, then you might want to avoid embarrassment and leave. Correct their behavior on the spot and if your child can’t rise to the occasion, it’s best to cut bait and jump ship.

 

Parent Stories:

 

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I am another one of those native New York kids of the 70s who was first introduced to live, classical music at the Young People's Concerts with Leonard Bernstein at Lincoln Center. There was a lot of classical and oldies music in our house and on the radio (WQXR, WNEW), so I was often at least familiar with the music before attending a concert. I suppose my first concerts were when I was no more than 5 or 6 years old, and I remember going to see Handel's Messiah prior to middle school. My parents always prepped me before a concert, and we occasionally left at intermission if I was tired or too fidgety.  We've taken our kids to fewer concerts than I attended at their age, and the concerts they've attended have been geared towards a younger crowd. My older boys (now 11) have been to opera's at the Met twice..starting when they were maybe 7 years old? But I wouldn't trust my younger son to sit through an opera...even Hansel & Gretel or The Magic Flute. So as others have stated, it depends on the kid, as well as the concert. But overall, we need to remember to teach our kids that a concert hall (or theater, or movie theater) is not our living room or car. The rules are different, and we need to respect the others around us. If my kids start talking (and won't shut up), we leave."

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"When I was six years old and dinosaurs roamed the earth, and a middle-class family from the Bronx could afford a monthly subscription to the Metropolitan Opera (Orchestra, Row G on Friday nights no less!), I went to see La Bohème with my mother. During the first intermission, I was mortified when my mother told me that another audience member had complained I was too chatty. I don't think I've ever talked as an audience member since then… But that was me, a probably overly conscientious girl, as compared to my own boy, who likely wouldn't have cared what other people thought at that age. For lots of kids, i think you can do all the teaching and talking to them in the world, and they still won't be really ready for certain sitting still and listening experiences. Helps to know your kid. Doesn't usually help to blame other parents for these things (unless it's obvious their judgment is way off)."

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"Age is not relevant at all. There are lots of disruptive adults that have no business being in concert halls, movie theaters, or anywhere else there where a performance demands quiet and audience concentration. The real issue is respect for other people. I started taking my daughter to live performances at age four, and I taught her how to stay quiet and still. If she couldn't comply, I removed her, out of respect for other audience members. I had no problems, and often many complements on my "well behaved child." But this approach requires that parents be willing to acknowledge that there are other people in the world besides their little darlings, and sadly that is not always the case. (See also restaurants.)  I don't think an age requirement will solve this problem."

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I was in 3rd grade or so when my parents took me to the philharmonic & I was quite bored (and anticipating boredom) I snuck in a book, which my father confiscated when discovered. I think the concert was too long overall, but also too formal. I think the age at which a child attends a concert depends on the child & type of concert. We took my daughter to her first contemporary classical music concert when she was about six. It was in an informal venue and the pieces performed were relatively short and performed by different groups of musicians performing a wide variety of music. The last group to perform, at this first concert, were people under age 18 - which was highly compelling to my child. My daughter was one of about six other children at that concert which had about 50/75 people in the audience. I brought along drawing materials, and would have left if needed, but she ended up really liking it, was focused & paying attention. We continue to take her to this concert series with much success! (It's the Look & Listen Music Festival). More recently, last year, someone took their baby/toddler to the concert & the baby made baby noises -unavoidable & not appropriate. Baby/toddler did not belong. Other children were either listening or were escorted out when they didn't have it in them to settle down. I think the next type of classical concert we'll try is chamber music - maybe Barge Music. It's a great, small & informal venue. And, you can meet the musicians afterward, if you are so inclined. I don't know if children are more or less disruptive. I haven't come across many children in concerts I've attended."

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"I think it depends on the kid, for sure. G had always been rapt but we have had to leave certain shows because B was not, and it showed. That said, we are trying again next month with music he definitely knows so we Will see if turning 8 plus music knowledge makes it a good experience for him (and us).  I also get completely frustrated w parents who don't deal w kids whose poor behavior affects this around them (in general) (though I've been to shows where grown ups are bad too, esp checking their phone). On the one hand, many tkts are so expensive that if a parent dropped hundreds for this family experience I can see their reluctance  to leave, but on the other hand, should be totally realistic with themselves about their kids potential enjoyment."

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"Disruptive behavior at a classical performance is difficult - whether it's a snoring adult or a fidgety kid. I also don't like to see (personal viewpoint here) kids who are quiet because they are absorbed by some muted ipad or other device. Proper concert behavior is taught and some real concert hall practice is a necessary part of the learning."

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"Take your kids to all music, any music, all the time!  By the age of ten, I'd attended years of children's concerts at the Philadelphia Orchestra, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Fiddler on the Roof, Annie, chamber music, Peter & the Wolf, ballet, modern dance, etc. Yes, my father's a musician, and I studied piano, but... That shouldn't make a difference. Start small,   listen to the music ahead of time, and teach polite behavior. Cultivate the idea   that a little boredom is good -- your mind wanders and you daydream!  Also, within the classical music community, there was lots of talk on FB about what a crank the conductor was for kicking the kid out. Children need to attend concerts while their brains are malleable and they can begin to understand such new sounds -- the weirder the better. They're actually less judgmental and easily bored than we are, in many ways.  We make a big deal in our current culture about getting kids to try new food,   but not a big deal about getting them to try new art. And that is really a   tragedy.  I have much more to say on this topic but will stop here..."