Just came across this memento from our last SoCal tour (April 2009). It was discovered backstage at the beautiful Dore theater in Bakersfield.
It is, essentially, a guide for audience behavior, and it appeared on the back of a program for a Middle School concert (which took place at the same theater a few weeks before we were there). You can click the image for the full text, but briefly, here are some of the highlights:
A peaceful environment is necessary for the enjoyment of concert performances. [...]
Arrive on time and stay until the concert is over. [...]
Clapping is the only way to show appreciation to the musicians, not whistling or shouting.
Applaud only after the end of the piece, not between movements. If you are uncertain, be the second one to applaud. [...]
Please do not use flash photography during the performance, as it is a distraction to the musicians who are performing.
(Whoops -- that last one sounds familiar.)
I came close to incorporating this into my onstage patter for the Bakersfield show, but then thought better of it.
Context is important. Believe me: as a music teacher myself I totally get how a middle school audience would need an extra dose of "polite" in order to make it through a concert by a band of their peers.
But on my grumpier days, I tend to think that precepts like this are actually teaching kids something else altogether about what it means to be an audience. Here is my "translation":
There is an impenetrable wall (or at least a pretty sturdy museum-case glass) between an audience and the music it listens to. "The performer" is to "the audience" as "us" is to "them."
Music is much less about the body than it is about the mind.
Musicians are fragile. Catch them on the wrong night, and a few random lights can fuck everything up.
Music itself is fragile, like a hothouse flower.
Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little. Clearly some performances benefit from utter silence and propriety. And (despite my various anti-social proclivities) I'd never advocate for outright disrespect by an audience.
But I happen to think that whistling and shouting are not necessarily (or even usually) disrespectful in the context of a performance. And given the choice between respect-shown-through-audience-politeness, and respect-shown-through-actually-paying-musicians-for-their-work, I'd choose the latter, thank you very much. (I would also be willing to bet that the former variety of respect is much more commonly enforced, and assumed to be "good enough.")
In any case, the deeper issue here is whether music of any genre can truly grow, evolve, or thrive when it is being treated with kid gloves. This problem, of course, pertains to creativity and play in general -- if it's not at least a little messy, it's not likely to be very good.
(One more thought: I actually perform better when people are taking pics. I think of it as an inexpensive laser show.)
By the way, did you know that the Industrial Jazz Group is currently going full speed ahead with our fall fundraiser, in support of our October tour? You can find out more, and contribute to the cause, here. Thank you!