PART ONE: The Basics
- Dress appropriately. Concert etiquette has loosened up considerably over the years, and you could go your whole life without ever needing to don your tux. Having said that, take the time to think about what type of performance you’re about to see, and dress accordingly. If you’re going to an outdoor jazz-and-blues fest, your cargo shorts and Birkenstocks are probably just fine. If it’s an indoor classical concert, an opera, or even your kid’s recital, you should probably go “smart casual” at least. Especially in the case of a student recital, getting a little dressed up shows respect to the performers, and it’s a great example to set for your kids.
- Arrive on time (or even early). At the risk of being too blunt, “on time” does not mean “five to ten minutes late.” It also doesn’t mean you’re pulling into the parking lot at 7:00 p.m. for a 7:00 p.m. show. It means you’re there, in your seat, ready to be entertained, at the scheduled time. To make this happen, you’ll have to consider things like: traffic at that time of day, how likely you are to find a parking space at the venue, how time-consuming it is to get your kids in and out of the car, whether or not you’ll need to buy tickets (or pick them up from Will Call), and if you’ll want to visit the concession stand before the show. Walking in late is disrespectful to the performers and to the audience members who managed to show up on time.
- Silence your cell phone. This one should go without saying, but we still hear cell phones ringing at the movies, at recitals, and at concerts. Unless you need to be on call, like a doctor or someone who works for emergency services, please silence your cell phone.
- Don’t text. The light from your phone is like a beacon to everyone sitting behind you.
- Refrain from talking. Even if you’re talking very quietly, and even if you’re telling your friend what a great time you’re having at the performance, talking impinges on other people’s ability to enjoy a play/concert/movie. A quick comment or two is fine, but if you’ve got more to say, it’s totally appropriate to step outside and come back in when your conversation is over.
- If you need to go out or come in, do so between songs or movements. Then you won’t disturb the audience or the performers.
- Choose snack food wisely. Refrain from foods that are loud or have loud wrappers (like potato chips) and foods that are pungent (like buffalo wings).
If all these “rules” seem like a lot, just remember this: the key to being a great audience member is just to be mindful and respectful of the performers and your fellow audience members.