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Attending My First Concert: Three "M"s to Maximize Your Child's Experience

By Debbie Cavalier

Do you remember the very first concert you attended as a child? Whether it was a symphony orchestra, a rock band, or a sing-along with your favorite children's artist, your first-time concert experience was probably a memorable one. There is nothing like the sound of a live musical performance, the excitement of the crowd, and the connection felt between the performers and the audience. If you are getting ready for your child's first concert, here are some fun things you can do—before and after the concert—to help make it an even more meaningful experience.


Three "M"s, to focus on before the concert: Music, Milieu, and Manners.

1. Music: Getting to Know You!
The best way to maximize the concert experience is to listen to the music several weeks before the show. Buy the artist's most recent CD and actively listen to it together. Familiarity is bliss! Although the saying isn't an elegant one, it's true. (Can anyone say "oldies" collections?) Take some time to help your child get to know the music she will be hearing at the concert. Dance to it, sing with it, and discover your favorite pieces together. Read stories or articles about the band or composer. Draw pictures of what the band might look like on stage performing. Your child will feel more connected to the overall concert experience if she's gotten to know the music ahead of time. That's one of the reasons overtures are so effective. The audience is presented with all of the main musical themes before the show begins. Then, when those musical themes are played within the context of the show, the audience is already familiar and comfortable with the music. Remember, familiarity is bliss! Immerse yourself and your child in the music you will experience live, several weeks before the show.

Talk about the band, the musicians, and their instruments. What kind of group will it be? Is it a concert band, orchestra, jazz band, folk group? What are the names of the instruments will you be hearing? What instrument families do they belong to? (string, brass, woodwind, percussion) What styles of music will the band be playing? Do you have other recordings in those styles? Listen to them together and compare.

2. Milieu: Here at last!
What is this place going to be like? Talk about the concert/theater setting. It is a very different place for first-time concertgoers. Explain that there will be musicians on stage. They will be playing and singing through microphones that are connected to a sound system with big speakers. Explain that the sound system enables vocalists to use their regular singing voices and still be heard by everyone in the audience; even the ones seated way back in the last row.

In addition to the sound system, there will be a lighting system. The lights will project different colors on stage to support the songs. Speaking of lights, be sure to share that they will probably flicker on and off when it's time to be in your seats, and they will dim as the show begins.

Talk about who you will see on stage. (conductor, instrumentalists, singers) Who will you interact with before the show? (ticket-taker, the usher, the snack vendor) Explain that there will be other people there to see the show sitting in front of you, behind you, and on either side of you. Being aware of the surroundings ahead of time will help your child to relax and enjoy the show.

3. Manners: Excuse me, Pardon me, Excuse me ...
Concert etiquette varies by concert type. Of course, good manners always apply, especially in a concert setting. However, this is a good time to talk to your child about concert-specific manners known as "concert etiquette." The time to clap, for example, varies by the style of music being performed. Some of us have learned the hard way that you don't clap in between movements of a classical piece, but in a jazz concert, you clap in the middle of the song each time an instrumentalist finishes a solo (this can happen three or four times in one jazz performance). Talk about what's appropriate for the concert you'll be attending. There are other concert etiquette considerations such as when it is ok to talk and move about. Will there be an intermission break? What is a standing ovation? Why does the band come out and play another song after they've already said goodbye? (encore) The more your child knows about the rules of the concert game, the more comfortable she'll be, and the better the overall experience will be.

Postlude: The Reviews Are In!

Once the show is over, it's time to put on your critics hats and review the performance together! Lookout Ebert and Roeper, it's "Mommy and Me!" (or Daddy, Auntie, Grandpa, etc.) Talk about your favorite part of the show. Was there a least-favorite part? Were there any surprises in the show? Would you recommend the concert to your friends? Why or why not? Compare/contrast the concert to the recordings you listened to at home weeks before the show. How was the live performance different from the recorded version? Which did you like better? Why?

I hope these tips help you to maximize your child's first concert experience. Studies show that experiences in music are important to developing the whole child. Attending musical performances are an important part of those experiences, and so much fun to share together.

Enjoy the show!

About the Author
Debbie Cavalier is the Dean of Continuing Education at Berklee College of Music. A prolific author, she has penned more than 100 music method books and arrangements. Debbie is also an award-winning children's musician with "Debbie and Friends" including a 2008 Parents' Choice Approved Award. For more information, please visit

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