How To Succeed In Bringing Your Kids To A Concert Without Really Trying

In the wake of the whole Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) kerfuffle over asking a mother and young daughter to move seats in the middle of a performance, Neo Classical author, and Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Concertmaster, Holly Mulcahy published an article with some genuinely spectacular, and simple, steps parents can do to not only prepare their young ones for an enjoyable early concert experience but make the entire process one that develops an enduring bond.

Adaptistration People 084Here’s an overview:

Part 1: Groundwork Preparation
Spoiler alert: it involves cookies!

Part 2: Pre-Concert Preparation
Spoiler alert: more cookies.

Part 3: Your Rules

Part 4: Post Concert Follow-up
Spoiler alert: one more celebratory cookie.

If you love step by step instructions, this is most certainly something you don’t want to miss and I hope orchestras and operas take advantage of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and redistribute the article to their own patrons and/or use it as a springboard for some sincere interaction with patrons.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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4 thoughts on “How To Succeed In Bringing Your Kids To A Concert Without Really Trying”

  1. Some important points were raised – especially about knowing when your child is ready. There are some things that might backfire. Saying you will remove them if they misbehave is like saying if you don’t like it, just make a fit. The cookies could also backfire, because it’s more or less telling them classical music is painful so cookies are involved.
    Going to a concert should accompany other special things. Dressing in their favorite best clothes. Going to a restaurant they love beforehand. Maybe make it just a Dad or a Mom night out – so a one on one experience. And it should start days before. Playing a favorite recording of the music a couple times in the days before the concert is good. Get the imagination going during the recording, and then the concert becomes a lot more fun – because hearing an orchestra live, even after the best recording, is really amazing. You don’t realize how much sound a live orchestra actually makes. If you can convince them that a live orchestra beats a recording, something good has been achieved. And if they want to hear the recording again, that’s also the jackpot…
    I don’t think she said stick to shorter works at first – but works that are less than 40 minutes (from personal experience) are easier – or at least try them first, then work up to longer pieces.
    OK – back to the cookie idea, for the car ride home, I do crave chocolate sometimes. That’s the time to break some rules – eat chocolate in the car in the favorite clothes. What child is not going to want to go again after that night? And while I lean towards the classical side of things, it’s good to introduce jazz along the same lines.

    • Regarding the “backfires” I believe a good parent would know if their child wanted to go to a concert and have solid rules laid out. Why would a parent imply “make a fit” if you don’t like it? In theory, if a parent went through the steps and had a good feeling the child was enjoying the music, they would have a set up the child to have a positive experience. And why would the cookies backfire? It is just one of many ways a parent can share a special moment with a kid. I seriously doubt most parents would agree that a cookie tells a child that they need one in order to swallow the bitter pill classical music is. Please. I do agree, however, with your idea of a date night with just mom or just dad.

  2. Getting out of doing something by misbehaving. Rewarding has its downsides – because children learn if they resist enough, the deal sweetens. Maybe it’s just unique to my family – but there is a negotiation with these things. At some point it just becomes less about what’s good for them, and more about pleasing the parents. In my case, they don’t need cookies or any reward – they just want to be with me and hold my hand.

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