How old should my child be before I bring them to a concert?
Carlos Foggin, Music Director
This is an oft-asked question of Arts Administrators, and is met with all sorts of varied responses, some of which include:
- They should be old enough to sit through two 45-minute performances
- 6. Get 'em started early
- 13. Make sure they won't distract others
- As long as they're quiet, it doesn't matter
- and so on...
We don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer (ours is below). Many of these answers are in response to our own personal biases, and how we were taught to perceive classical music. If we believe that a Classical Music concert is akin to a religious service, with absolutely silence required, and an adherence to time-honoured tradition and ritual, then yes...children should be quiet, best seen and not heard. But a concert isn't church.
In the 'olden days', when "classical" music was really just something Mozart had written days earlier, concerts were a much different affair. There was talking, food and beverage service, and business was transacted during operas! It was a social event - a lot of "see and be seen"; the Facebook and Instagram of the 17th century, if you will. People certainly didn't behave in the way we think we're supposed to act at a serious music concert...and that was probably a good thing.
If we look at the attendance figures of many orchestras (and the financial state), it appears that a majority of folks are alienated not by the music (because Spotify is still playing lots of orchestral music), but by culture of the self-declared elite performing arts. There is an audience for classical music. Many of them just prefer not to attend live concerts.
I wrote about the importance of accessibility in classical music last week - check it out here.
This needs to change. We need to make concerts more about the experience, and the music, and less about dressing properly, acting properly, clapping at the right time, and having any knowledge of obscure musical terms. In 2017, people like what they like, and they will gladly attend concerts where they can hear their favourite music in a casual, non-threatening environment.
If such an environment existed, then it stands to reason that those folks would bring their children to experience it. We love to share what we enjoy, and if live music in a non-elitist environment existed, it would flourish. The RMSO is pleased to offer a no-judgement environment where the youngest patrons can enjoy the greatest music our civilization has to offer.
The RMSO asks only three things:
- Parents remove disruptive Children (talking or crying).
- Children who need to move about are permitted to do so quietly (dance in the aisles). Parents need not remove children who are freely expressing their love of music.
- All our patrons (whether they brought children or not) recognize and encourage our mandate to bring music to everyone, and that some moving about by our youngest friends is inevitable, and that their quiet appreciation of the performance is encouraged.
If you believe that early exposure and a judgement-free zone is not only important, but necessary, to keep to great music alive in all our communities, then please come check out an RMSO concert. The music is top-notch, and the environment is friendly and welcoming. As an added bonus, we will be playing your Christmas favourites on December 1 & 2, and we dare our even our most elderly patrons to NOT want to dance in the aisles! There might even be sing-along parts!
So, our response to the question, "how old should my kids be before I bring them to a concert?"
If you feel they're ready, then they're ready. Asking them not to feel joy at a concert is unreasonable. Let 'em move. Let 'em dance. It's music, after all. We can learn a lot from the children in our midst.
Carlos Foggin. Music Director
The Rocky Mountain Symphony plays in Strathmore on December 1st, and High River on December 2nd. Children 8-and-under get in for only $5!