Concert Etiquette



As part of your study, some of you will be attending "Classical" concerts—some of you, for the first time. Although you may be unfamiliar with proper concert behavior, relax! For the most part, the practice of good concert etiquette is nothing more than an exercise in common courtesy. In an article entitled "Behavior Among Music Lovers," the well-known syndicated columnist Miss Manners commented on inexcusable, voluntary actions by some concert-goers, which can ruin other people's enjoyment of the performance. These undesirable actions include:



2) WHISPERING or TALKING of any kind







I am adding one more: Turn off your electronics!!


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The following comments were emailed to Dr. Jacobson by a community member after attending one of the recent Wednesday night BPI concerts:


Hello. I recently attend a concert and saw the Merling Trio perform.  I have seen them perform several times over the years and it is always a delight.  I must express my disappointment concerning the audience in attendance, however.  Over all the years I have been enjoying classical music concerts at WMU and other venues in the Kalamazoo area, I have never seen such a rude and disrespectful group of people ever.  People were arriving after the performance started (why didn't the ushers ask them to wait to enter?), getting up and leaving, talking, rustling programs, and despite the request to silence cell phones that was announced just before the concert began, I heard a few beeping.  I want to at least thank you for explaining to the audience after the first piece finished about waiting to applaud at the end of the piece as that did seem to help.  I can only guess that many in the room that night had never attended a classical music concert before and so perhaps you might educate them on the other aspects of proper behavior.  If not, then perhaps you should warn the public about this series of concerts so that they can stay away from it.  I am annoyed that I had to pay full price for a ticket and then didn't feel free to simply walk out.  I was looking forward to this night and I left feeling very let down.   Maybe you could fill me in on what was going on that night as I am open to hearing another side of the story.  Thank you for your time.


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It is too bad that a few forgetful (or unknowing) audience members insist on displaying such unacceptable behavior. Traditionally, music appreciation students are blamed for causing a large percentage of these disturbances. Although the majority of appreciation students are exemplary listeners, over the years the few ill-behaved ones have stereotyped this bad image for all music appreciation students. They arrive late and leave early (some even so rude as to enter or leave while the music is being played), hold lengthy conversations during the concert, put their feet up on the seats in front of them, make excessive noise while taking notes on the concert (such as ripping paper out of a note pad, loud pencil scratching on the paper, etc.), eat hard candy (which requires the very noisy removal of the outer wrapper), and generally ruin the concert for those around them. You should recognize that most "classical" concerts tend to be more serious in nature as compared to the atmosphere of rock, jazz or "pop" concerts. This does not infer that "classical" music is better—only that it has its own particular style and purpose, and these must be anticipated and respected by you as a listener. Whatever noise or commotion you make will be heard louder by those around you than the music coming from the stage. While attending a "classical" concert, please be considerate of those trying to enjoy the music, even if you happen to find the music unpleasant for some reason.


The following list of suggestions will help you avoid embarrassment and derive greater pleasure from the concert experience:


1.      Arrive before the posted concert time. This will give you time to locate a good seat and look over the program in advance.


2.      If for some reason you do arrive late, please wait at the back of the hall until an appropriate break in the musical program (the end of a movement or work). Do not disturb other listeners by attempting to seat yourself while the music is being performed.


3.      You must shut off your phones, put them away, and do not bring computers into the concert hall. This behavior is not allowed in public concerts and is absolutely inexcusable.  It is incredibly rude to the performers on the stage, and to the other audience members around you. Our class is about LIVE MUSIC listening, understanding and appreciation, so the public concerts are the one place I will insist on your focus and consideration of others. There will be harder things in life than not using your cell phone for 90 minutes, so develop the self-restraint now that you will need to face those greater obstacles. Thank you for carefully considering all the ramifications of this for the potential success or failure for our class and for these public concerts.


4.      Hold your musical (and non-musical) comments until the musicians have left the stage (which will happen at breaks between sections of the program, intermission, or the end of the concert). WHISPERING AND UNSOLICITED LAUGHTER truly disturb those around you and can certainly be heard for several rows in a quiet hall.


5.      We will not be doing any writing of any kind, or any notetaking during concerts.


6.      Our in-class concerts last 60 minutes, followed by a writing assignment worth 50 points that requires you to have seen the concert in order to complete the essay. Keep in mind that the Dalton Recital Hall is neither a classroom or a nightclub, so leaving early is not only rude but it is insulting to the performers who have worked for many weeks/months to prepare this music. Put yourself in their position—How would you like to have only part of a term paper read after putting so much effort into it? Would you appreciate a professor only reading/grading the first few sections of your final exam?


7.      Know when and where to applaud. Unless it is the final movement of a work, or the last song of a set, you should be sure NOT to applaud—you want to show your appreciation AFTER you have heard a complete work or section of the concert. You can tell this by looking at the printed concert program. Multi-movement works are indicated by several successive tempo indications underneath the title of a work; titles of individual songs are put in quotation marks, and then put in order of presentation:




Symphony No.40 in G Minor, K.550                                 W.A. Mozart

      Molto allegro



      Allegro assai


3 Songs                                                                          Franz Schubert



      "Der Wanderer"


For example, if you were present at the Mozart/Schubert concert shown above, you would notice the audience applauding only at the conclusion of the four-movement Mozart symphony (after the "Allegro assai" movement) and after the last song of the Schubert set ("Der Wanderer"). This allows the performer(s) to keep the interpretive focus of the music intact until the entire work (or set of pieces) is completed.


If you are unsure when to clap, it is best to wait for the applause to start before you take part.





8.      Do not bring recording devices or cameras to the concert; they may be confiscated. (Be advised that there are laws prohibiting the recording of many types of public concerts.)


9.      For formal public concerts such as the Wednesday night Dalton series, when possible DRESS NICELY. Make an occasion of it.


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