Thursday, March 25, 2010

Audience Etiquette

We've all been there. You're in the audience at a musical performance and someone starts to talk to the person next to them. Or s/he takes out a phone--or, heaven forbid, a laptop--and starts typing away. Or someone decides to slowly open the world's noisiest piece of candy EVER.

What do you do in that instance? Shoot them a mean glance? Ignore them? I think it depends on the situation, but recently I was forced to take matters into my own hands. Apparently I made the right decision, because about a dozen people thanked me afterward for doing so (I didn't even think anyone really noticed!).

A couple of weeks ago Pellissippi State Community College hosted their annual Student Honors Recital. Vocal and instrumental students (open to all students, not just music majors) auditioned earlier in the semester and the best of the best were chosen to perform on this occasion. It was a wonderful recital--I'm constantly amazed at the students we have at Pellissippi, and all the hard work they (and their teachers!) put into their crafts.

So, onto the recital. The first performer, Taylor, gave his best performance yet of "The Impossible Dream." It was truly awesome--except for the fact that, during the softest part of the song, an older woman a row in front of me leaned to her friend and whispered something about how she couldn't hear him. And when I say "whispered" I really mean spoke at a normal level, as if she were having a conversation which wasn't taking place during a musical performance. She was 3-4 rows from the front and Taylor had no problems with projection; maybe she couldn't hear him because it was during a rest in his part and the piano was playing quietly? The song wasn't over yet!!

But whatever, right? It happened once, some audience members sighed, the performance went on. But it didn't end there. This woman seemed to delight in being absolutely still and quiet in between songs/pieces and then waiting until during a performance to speak to her friend. I don't remember the exact number but during the third or fifth disruption I finally leaned forward and touched her very lightly on her shoulder. It took her a second or two to turn around but when she did, I put my finger to my lips and--as politely as possible--motioned for her to please be quiet. How did she respond?

She stuck her tongue out at me. A grown woman, probably someone's mother and someone else's grandmother, stuck her tongue out at me. But she didn't make any noise for the rest of the recital. I wish I'd shushed her sooner!!

I didn't even think much of it, but after the recital half a dozen or so students and fellow audience members came up to me and thanked me. I felt like a hero! :-) And the next day more students thanked me, including Taylor (who'd been filled in by his classmates).

I guess the moral of the story is this: If someone is disrupting your enjoyment of a performance, take a chance and try to politely silence them. You never know how many other people might be grateful for your small act!

**Favorite Moments**

I'd also like to mention a couple of my favorite moments during the recital:

  1. The one stagehand who moved stands and whatnot for the performaners was a very tall, slim man (I'm going to guess student). He was dressed nicely, in a button down shirt tucked into some khakis. The memorable part is that he was sagging his pants. I don't know how he managed this, because the dude was so skinny! That belt had magical powers. The talkative woman in front of me gained a few cool points when she leaned to her friend (in between performances, no less!!) and whispered "He's gonna lose his pants if he's not careful!" 
  2. Right before a flute student began her piece, a little girl behind me whispered to her mother "Is that a recorder??" I'd expect that to be reversed--a child asking if a recorder was a flute. It threw me off for a second, but it was so adorable!