My middle schooler’s band concert was quite possibly the worst concert I’ve ever attended. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The middle schoolers did a great job. They’ve worked hard all year, and their songs were terrific. It was neat to see the progress they’ve made, and I was proud of my sixth grader and his classmates. No, it wasn’t the kids who made the concert so terrible. It was their parents.
At this particular concert, the audience was so noisy that between songs I had trouble hearing the band director’s comments. Even during the songs the audience was noisy, but it wasn’t as obvious since the music covered up some of that noise. Many people were on their phones, and not just to record the songs. A quick glance down my row revealed at least half the people scrolling through Facebook, texting, or otherwise staring down at their phones while their children played music right in front of them. There was a woman behind me who sighed heavily every time the director spoke, making comments such as, “Get on with it already!” In short, people were just plain rude. It’s as if they couldn’t spare an hour of their precious time for their kids who had been working all year to get to this point.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. The audience was the same way at a recent awards ceremony, although the blower for the AC in the gym was loud enough to mask some of the whispering. During halftime shows for the football season, people walked around, laughing loudly and talking (even shouting) while our marching band performed, not even pretending to watch the show. When the visiting band performed, they were even louder. And as technology becomes more and more pervasive, we accept the fact that the people we’re with will more than likely interrupt a live conversation to check their phone when it beeps. We’ve largely forgotten what it means to be polite. And I, for one, am sick of it. So today I’m requesting something of adults everywhere.
Many have voiced concern over the next generation of kids in America, how they won’t be prepared for adult life and will be so addicted to their phones and video games that they won’t be able to connect with other people. Teachers struggle to get their students to pay attention in class and to respect authority. Kids sass back to parents and teachers in increasingly bolder ways. Whose fault is that? Fellow parents and adults—that’s on us. It’s no wonder so many kids today don’t know how to behave; their parents don’t know how to behave either. We have allowed them to become rude, sassy, and technology-dependent. So now what?
I suggest making “common courtesy” common again. Model for your children the character you’d like them to have. Brush up on social etiquette. Listen when someone is talking to you, especially your kids. If your phone beeps while you’re in the middle of a conversation, ignore it. Better yet, put your phone away during set periods of the day. Make mealtimes and/or evenings tech-free. Limit your kids’ screen access. A fifth grader does not need to have his or her own phone with 24/7 access. Set boundaries for the amount of time they can use technology. While you’re at it, set limits for your own tech use as well. Keep your phone in the car during an evening with friends so you can just focus on them. Retrain yourself on how to really listen, whether in conversation or in a larger group setting like an audience. As a general rule of thumb, if someone else is talking or performing, you should be paying attention by keeping your eyes on the speaker or performers and keeping your mouth shut.
None of this stuff is profound. It should be common knowledge. And certainly, there are adults who model these traits already. Generally, their kids are the ones who stand out as polite and respectful among their peers. If that describes you, thank you. Keep at it. But if you’re reading this with a twinge of guilt, it’s not too late to make some changes. Model good behavior and your kids will follow suit.
And you may as well start with your middle schooler’s band concert.
May 21, 2018 at 1:46 pm
Well stated, Ruth. Love your blogs.
May 21, 2018 at 2:53 pm
Thank you, Vivian! Blessings!
May 24, 2018 at 8:18 pm
I will turn my phone off, but leave an expensive piece of technology in the car for someone to potentially steal or to be cooked under the sun? Nope. But I absolutely agree with everything else in your article.
Also, have people forgotten that they should wait for the applause before they enter or leave the auditorium?
May 25, 2018 at 8:38 am
Yes, good point. 🙂
May 26, 2018 at 8:36 am
While I agree to the fault on how we don’t pay attention to our kids events and focus on technology, parents are not the only ones that teach them to be technology dependent, the school systems have played a very large role in this. Our students in these times basically have an iPad or computer that is their teacher not the teacher themselves. So they are always on technology at least 8 hours during school. Perhaps parents build a no technology break each afternoon/evening.
May 26, 2018 at 1:18 pm
Also a good point.
May 26, 2018 at 3:10 pm
Reblogged this on carolsimmons.
May 27, 2018 at 9:40 am
As a teacher of 6th graders I appreciate this post. More than that I am the wife of a Band Director of 27 years and I know how frustrating it is when parents who come to concerts show not even the slightest courtesy to the Director or the students performing. And they wonder why their kids are rude to them? They walk up and down the aisles during selections, stand up in front of other people to take videos and try to leave with their child while another group from the same school is still performing. It is amazing and disheartening. But…there are those that are raised to show appreciation and courtesy to their children and teachers. It gives me hope.
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May 29, 2018 at 3:45 pm
My husband is also a band director; I was as well about 30 years ago. Times have certainly changed in the interim. I watched a musical put on at the jr high where he teaches & young children were running and dancing in the little space behind the last row of seats! There were no parents in sight. And nobody corrected them. If i didn’t have people seated behind me, I wouldn’t have hesitated to correct them & escort them back to their seats. Apparently, the administrators present were either afraid to intervene & possibly teach appropriate concert behavior, possibly to some of the parents as well. Utilizing a teachable moment with a young child trumps an angry parent.
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May 27, 2018 at 1:01 pm
agreed, this morning in church, 2 ladies behind me talked the entire time, during a video presentation honoring our service men and women. We can’t expect our younger generation to be polite, if we aren’t setting the example.
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May 27, 2018 at 3:50 pm
As an orchestra alumna through the strings section, I was horrified to experience my first band concert with my son, I had the same horrifying experience. Our daughter plays viola and the string concerts are not like this at all, but put people in chairs to listen to the marching band sitting down and everything turns into a football game, apparently.
I thought perhaps it was just an isolated issue with our school, but now reading your blog, I’m thinking maybe it really is band culture?
May 27, 2018 at 4:00 pm
Maybe band directors should be mindful of the ruckus going on behind them, and wait until everyone is quiet to begin (and make appropriately scolding remarks to the audience, to instruct them about concert behavior.) Let it be a learning opportunity for everyone!
May 27, 2018 at 11:42 pm
My daughter is a middle school band director. I recently went to her band and choir awards concert. I can’t tell you how many times she paused and asked everyone to quiet down. The parents were louder than the little brothers and sisters running around. It is disrespectful the both the band director and the children who put so much time to learn the music. Then, after their children finished playing, they got up and left. The advanced band, who worked harder and spent more time practicing had a quarter of the audience than the beginning band. This is not right. The audience should be respectful enough to quietly watch the entire performance
May 28, 2018 at 10:40 am
Reblogged this on To Talk of Many Things and commented:
EXACTLY! Grow up, Adults and act like you should.
May 28, 2018 at 2:41 pm
Yep. A hundred yeps. I’m a middle school music director. I was just, well, kind of fuming about bad parent behavior right before our Spring concert last week. Then my advanced band and choir kids did such a great job, I was able to get over my frustration with the adults. I SO feel for these kids who must deal with the obvious: the adults in their life don’t care what they do. Their activities and accomplishments are an imposition on the adults’ time. Well, unless they’re playing a parent’s favorite sport, but don’t get me started on that. Many times students ask — with obvious embarrassment over their parents who are sending them with the request — if they can leave after their part of the performance is finished. It’s just rude. It’s not all parents all the time, but it’s enough to be disheartening, and I teach at a very good school, and my students put on a good show.
If nothing else, it gives me opportunity to learn patience and model grace.
May 28, 2018 at 6:34 pm
My son is a senior in high school. Our band director in the would NEVER allow such disrespect. Our marching band has consistently achieved first or second place in all four years of my son’s high school career, both on a regional, state and national level. At the beginning of each year, the first marching band field show, the Director goes over the “rules” or “manners” he expects the parents to adhere to. There is no exception and he makes it very clear. Parents will turn around and shush those who are talking and so it is “peer pressure” that keeps it neat and tidy. I have noticed that this will carry over to the concerts as well. The Director will not start until everyone settles down. Sometimes we have waited up to 10 minutes, but he simply stands up there and looks out into the audience, and we wait. He has been know to say “If you want to be a part of an award winning band, you have to act like an award winning band, including the parent section”. I tell you, it works for us. People will treat you the way you let them treat you. Let them disrespect the band and the teachers and they will
May 29, 2018 at 12:36 am
When I was teaching music, I actually stopped the concert (it was a musical) part way into it because the noise from the audience was so loud I could hardly hear the kids who had spoken parts. I simply said, “Your children have been working very hard these past weeks and months. If you would stop talking to your neighbor and listen I’m sure child would appreciate it! I know I would!” There was no backlash because they knew they were wrong. In the parents’ defense I would say it is difficult to go to a concert done in a gymnasium where you are use to cheering on Basketball and Volleyball games! And it was a new music program which many weren’t use to having in the school! But those are lame excuses for adults to make!!
May 29, 2018 at 9:48 pm
Great commentary and view. We have many grandchildren. Each time we go to their functions, I watch as most of the parents play on their devices. I’m talking about their own parents. I was in band and marching band. I think my spirit would have been crushed if I’d experienced the behavior today. Which brings the question- how is it REALLY affecting the children?