Music, Children and 'Adult Only' Spaces

Copyright: korionov / 123RF Stock Photo
A musical post for you today. With some bragging, some questions and some ranting.

This week I have a proud mummy brag. My DD (the lovely Teen) has passed her grade 5 Music Theory exam with merit! She was not keen to do the exam and wouldn't have bothered except that to continue to the Clarinet Grade 6 you have to have passed the Grade 5 theory exam. She can read music of course and has been studying music since she was 3. And no, I'm not some wild tiger mother that beat her with a violin until she played correctly. She went to a toddler music group, Kindermusik, that is fun for little ones and teaches things like rhythm, keeping in time with others, following a conductor, looks at beats and speeds etc. She really loved it and at about age 5 she moved up to recorder and then on to the clarinet. So anyway, she passed and I'm proud.

Music is important for humans (and possibly some other animals too) and children have been shown to benefit from both playing and listening to it, so I was surprised to read a BBC News story in which a musician of some standing criticised a child and berated the parents for some concert disruption in the form of coughing.
But the 66-year-old took offence at a child coughing during her performance of Mozart's Sonata In G.
"Maybe bring her back when she's older," she scolded the parents from the stage.

I don't know about you but I sometimes cough in a concert (or theatre, or cinema) and you do your best to muffle it but mostly life (and the concert, play, film etc) goes on. Of course a prolonged hacking fit of coughing would make me leave but just a bit of coughing? I guess I might hope to find something to suck (behave!) in my bag but that's all. We are humans, silence is not always possible.

And what of the strange idea that a child is 'too young' for a concert? Can that be right? Are there 'adult only' spaces and if there are should they at least be clearly marked? If a concert plans to be adult only should it not at the very least say so on a ticket? I took my own daughter to many public spaces from when she was a baby and although I would take her outside if she was noisy for any length of time (I'm not a sociopath) I don't see that a baby or child cannot experience and enjoy music just as an adult can. Even the Royal Festival Hall are quoted as saying "We don't discourage parents or carers who wish to bring young people to an evening event".

So what are your thoughts (and do mention if you are a parent or not!) Do you get annoyed by children? Are there too many 'free range' parents that allow children to dominate public spaces or should we be prepared to share?

I like to think I take a middle ground, sharing spaces has a responsibility to others in the space and as a parent I take responsibility for my child, but as for the odd cough, I'm not convinced that warrants complaint.


  1. This is on my mind at the moment as my disabled daughter who loves music is now 18 and so can go anywhere in theory. But she has the mind and enthusiasm of a 2 year old, so where does that leave her?

    1. It's hard isn't it - I think everyone needs to be able to enjoy stuff so we have to take a bit of responsibility re noise etc but not excessivly! my local cinema has disability friendly screenings, baby screenings and even autism friendly screenings. It's a shame other events don't do similar more routinely.

  2. As I said on twitter, I feel very, very strongly about this, both as a musician and as a mother. In our folk duo, we try very hard to make families feel welcome at our gigs. We try where we can to have gigs in the afternoon rather than the evening, for starters. We gig a lot outdoors, so children can run about and make noise in a festival-ish atmosphere. On the very rare occasions we do end up doing a gig where the venue isn't open to children, we make this clear.

    My seven year old son does go to a lot of gigs (usually because we're playing) and has done since he was about about five. At that point, we expected a lot less of him in terms of sitting still; we always brought colouring books, paper, pens and pencils (quiet activities) and sat near a door in case he needed a break. Now he's older, if it's an indoor/sit down gig we take a book or two and he can read to himself if he gets bored. Sometimes he does, sometimes he prefers to listen. If it's an outdoor gig, he takes a football. He's building up a good idea of what music he likes, and what he doesn't.

    In terms of concerts, as in, classical music concerts, we only take him to family concerts (the Liverpool Philharmonic does a few of these each year and they're just lovely, place is packed full of kids and there's just a gorgeous atmosphere) or concerts in which he's expressed an interest. There have been one or two times I've missed out on a concert because it didn't appeal to him.

    Basically, I think promoters/organisers/venues should strive to make concerts and gigs as family-friendly as is possible (and accessible for people with disabilities too; would like to see more venues like this around Liverpool), but I do think there is some responsibility on parents to try to either avoid taking children to concerts that are plainly going to bore them to tears, or bring quiet activities along for the child/ren (and sit near an exit). I don't mean this so much for the other concert-goers' benefits, but for the child/ren!

    In terms of the musician who was upset by the child's coughing; I think they probably just didn't like children very much. After all, coughing isn't an age-related thing. I bet there were other people in the audience coughing, but it's easier to pick on a child. Not nice at all.

    Finally, in my experience, the worst offenders for interrupting gigs are not children at all but adults. We once played a gig where we were talked over - loudly - pretty much the entire way through by three adults discussing a book launch they were planning. Even the decent in-house PA system and speakers couldn't make up for the noise they were making. Nor is it children who spend their time lighting up a dark concert-hall with their smartphones. Nor is it children who watch an entire performance through the tiny screen on their smartphone, missing out - I think, anyway - on the ambience of it, because they're desperate to record whatever it is they're not really seeing. Nor is it children who go to an open mic event and then leave after they've done their set without waiting to hear the other performers!

    Anyway, did I mention we're doing a gig on December 21st in Liverpool in the Domino Gallery at 11 Upper Newington? Did I mention that it starts at 2pm? Did I mention there would be carols? Did I mention adults are a fiver each but children are FREE? Did I? ;)

    1. Thank you for the blog length comment! (That's not sarcasm - I love a good comment!!) and totally agree with it all! (and we shall be married in the spring......) Hope your gig goes well! - With no rude adults and much merriness


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