E is for Etiquette, Part 1: The Audience

You’ve seen and heard it: in the middle of a very nice performance, someone’s phone has gone off. Or there’s the pair of people in front of you who decide it’s okay to talk about their vacations through the entire performance of a brilliant piece of music. Whatever the case, you’ve likely experienced a lack of etiquette at some point in your life.

And the sad thing is that it’s becoming more and more common.

Whether it’s a cultural lack of knowledge or a cultural reinventing of the common courtesy once inherent to a performance venue, something is causing our audiences to act rudely to our performers.

So, in hopes of encouraging even a little bit of etiquette for those who perform beautiful music in the area (and beyond), here’s a short list of basics to observe in any formal performance setting.

Turn Off Electronics

Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Shut off the cell phone, put away the tablet, don’t check email. If you’ve paid for your seat, it should only be common sense that you would want to enjoy the performance uninterrupted. If you haven’t paid for the experience, you’re still deciding to spend your time there. Don’t make it hard on anyone else around you to enjoy what’s being performed. If you need to have your phone available for emergencies (doctors, EMTs, etc.), then keep it on vibrate or silent. If you get a call, head out of the venue at the first chance when the ensemble isn’t performing.

Stay Seated While the Ensemble is Performing

Unlike a sports event or pop/rock concert, it is considered inappropriate to move around at will during a formal performance. Bathroom trips should be kept to breaks in the music. Try waiting until people are clapping to get out of the performance hall. Again, it’s about keeping distractions to a minimum.

Remain Quiet While the Ensemble is Performing

Talking with your friends can wait until the performance is over. Coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, or any other loud noise can wait until either a very loud passage or for applause. If it’s unavoidable, keep it quick and minimal. Talking is always avoidable–no exceptions! Etiquette is about minimizing distraction, not making excuses.

Applaud the Ensemble When They Finish a Piece

Always show your appreciation for the hard work the band, orchestra, choir, or other ensemble provided to bring you the music, as well as the beauty they created during the performance. Even the least skilled performers deserve some sort of gratitude for putting in effort (yes, 5th grade bands, as hard as they may be to listen to, still deserve applause because they have offered their best!). If the performance was really excellent, stand up and show them some love! If you are just yearning for more, ask for an encore!

In Summary…

If you find it difficult to follow these simple rules, it’s time to put aside your personal interests for the few short hours that you’re at a formal performance and remind yourself that you’re there to support the performers, not serve your own personal needs. Yes, you’ll benefit greatly from listening to the incredible music they offer, but you can’t expect to benefit from a performance if you (or others) are detracting from the performance with interruptions, conversations, noises, or rudeness. Etiquette is there for a reason, and observing the cultural norms in these situations enhances the performance for all involved, including the musicians.

Happy Concert Going!

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