Is a late-night classical recital really the best place for your kid?

At the sold-out Lang Lang recital Friday night, I was surprised by the number of children in attendance. And I don’t mean young teenagers or even tweens. I mean little ones—aged four and even younger.

Part of me understands the compulsion of parents to drag their little ones out to performances like this. After all, we’re living in a society where you can purchase earphones for your baby bump, where you can register your pre-mobile infant in classes ranging from music to swimming to sign language, and where libraries urge parents to sign their babies up for library cards before they’re on solid food. (And, let’s face it, babysitters don’t come cheap.)

But judging by the ceaseless fidgeting, squirming, and overt boredom exhibited by these tots, I can’t help thinking that no matter how much they enjoy their weekend Music Together class, a full-length recital is not the place for them. One little guy, who couldn’t have been older than five, distracted himself by playing with a crinkly paper bag for the first half of the concert, and then, for the second half, proceeded to stand up in his chair and make funny faces at the poor gentleman unlucky enough to be seated behind him.

Another little girl, also about five and in one of the prime onstage seats, couldn’t help but wiggle about, wave her hands in the air and flop this way and that, before collapsing on her mother in an overtired stupor.

There are plenty of age-appropriate events being offered by local presenters and performers. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra has its Tiny Tots series, for example. But dragging your preschooler to a three-hour recital of Beethoven, Albeniz, and Prokofiev, and not even ducking out at intermission? That’s not education. That’s borderline torture—for everyone else in the hall.


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cranky mom

Jan 24, 2011 at 10:40am

Totally agree with you Jessica.

9 6Rating: +3


Jan 24, 2011 at 12:29pm

Music isn't just a lot of pretty noises. You need a catalogue worth of points of reference to appreciate what you are hearing.
Playing music for a foetus is silly, and toddlers are going to be largely oblivious to what's up. The best to be hoped for, is that they pick up on the tone.

10 6Rating: +4


Jan 24, 2011 at 12:46pm

If the parents can afford a ticket, they can afford a babysitter (and some respect for others).
Complain to the management, get a refund - with such tight profit margins, they'll quickly change their policy for fear of losing what attendees they can get.

10 7Rating: +3


Jan 24, 2011 at 6:06pm

agreed! Since this seems to be a social issue that effects a variety of events - non-children-related movies, the symphony, the Body/Brain exhibit, etc., event hosts may need to apply age restrictions to provide clarification to parents.

This may give parents a welcome break from their little ones. After all, who really wants to listen to something as transcendent as Beethoven while keeping one eye on Little Johnny who is colouring on the seats (again).

Another solution worth considering is having a noise-proof room for parents who are bringing their children along. A speaker could pipe music into the room, and the rest of us can enjoy an event that doesn't include screaming and feet being grabbed by rogue children...!

9 6Rating: +3


Jan 25, 2011 at 7:32pm

I totally disagree with this viewpoint. Please, don't paint all of our children with the same brush. Children are our audience of the future, particularly those students who are studying music. I have taken my kids to the symphony since they were 4 years old and have had to endure the haughty stares and whispered comments of older audience members - those same people who would run over at intermission to tell me how well-behaved my children were. Of course they were because we had been listening to the violin concerto on the program for weeks before I took them. They knew it better than most of the adults in the room. Children can and do behave well and should not be excluded because a few spoil it for the rest. What about adults whose cell phones go off during the concert, who fall asleep and snore, who open crinkly candy during performances? Perhaps they should also be excluded?

12 6Rating: +6


Jan 26, 2011 at 6:23pm

the post isn't aimed at you, the good parents who have good children, the post is aimed at parents who their children to an event when the implication is that the event is past most children's bedtimes. Fussing is very likely for most children when they're tired and their routine has altered, in my experience.

I've been to enough adult events that have been ruined by children NOT having fun to be annoyed at it. Yeah, two seconds of crinkling is annoying but you know it will end. Imagine what it is like for someone who is in a public event and the parent is unable to satisfy the child who is crying, fussing, whatever-ing...and when children are acting up, you're never entirely sure if it's going to last the rest of the night. I'm not sure why more parents at that point don't take their children outside to calm down and chill out, but it doesn't seem to be a common practice.

But hey, what can I say...I'm that kind of overpolite person who doesn't take crinkly stuff to events. I turn my cell phone off. I expect to be quiet (and apologize if I do something irritating), and so I would hope that other people would be mindful of their actions as well. But, since not every parent seems to be as good as you (I mean this in all honesty, no sarcasm intended), we have a problem on our hands. When we've paid $150 to attend a show we've been waiting for all year, I want to enjoy every minute of it without having to leave in the middle of the climax to talk to management and ask for someone's baby to be removed.

Having said that, I'd pay extra money for a ticket to an event on pre-chosen nights that were designated adults-only.

9 5Rating: +4

lucy m

Jan 27, 2011 at 8:53am

I agree with Jessica. I wouldn't even consider taking my child out to an adult-oriented event close or near their bedtime - it's very likely to make little ones feel uncomfortable because they're routine is off, they're tired and maybe a little cranky, bored, and the really young ones may get spooked by the sudden LOUD sounds or strange smells and temperature fluctuations in a concert/movie/whatever the public event is. i'm not sure if common parent perception is that a) their child won't fuss this time or b) that it's okay for their children to act out in public, around adults who have paid $40, $80, $150, even $200 to be at an event for an hour.

Clearly, tgianno, you're an exception and I hope that other parents follow the example you set by teaching your children how to act in adult situations. Good on you!

Cell phone use is controlled by having staff who walk up to people with cell phones and ask them to be turned off (at least, at some events I have noticed this happening). Crinkly candy users are glared at until they put their candy away. We shouldn't give disruptive children leeway to be disruptive, just because they're children. If I want to pay to be around kids having fun, I'll go to the aquarium for $15, not the symphony for $150.

11 7Rating: +4