Tuesday Tirade If a Tree Falls in the Woods…(aka what if no one’s listening?)

Hello to all the Tuesday readers out there. I apologize for what’s about to happen. I’m about to go rogue and do a big rant. But then again I think most of you will be okay with what I’m about to lay down.

I am sick of the decline of audience etiquette. You know?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a chorus concert at the Wellington High School led by Bradford Chase, who aside from being a friend of mine, happens to be a ridiculously talented and incredibly gifted musician, conductor, and leader. If you’ve never been to one of his concerts, I’m sorry for you. Because he puts together one fine night of music every single time. I mean, he brings it. And you never know what he’s going to throw at you. In the past he’s had an ensemble chorus (forgive me if I’m using the wrong terms here) do a few movements of Rutter’s Gloria. I’m not kidding. Another time it was a few movements of Carmina. He’s had his kids sing with Journey. I’m still not kidding. Students have conducted. They’ve stretched. They’ve donned beach gear in the middle of the concert and danced to Too Hot to Salsa. So has he. They’ve put together acapella groups. He’s built this amazing program to include a men’s chorus that boasts over 50 guys, not to mention two woman’s choruses, a symphonic chorus, and a chamber choir.  The dude is the Big Pappi of music. True story.

So when you go to his concerts, guess what you should do? You should listen. And be inspired. And be blown away, not by him, but by his students, because once the concert starts, he gets out of the way and lets the kids shine. It is an incredible experience to watch them. Trust me. You are witnessing true beauty when these amazing young people find that deep part of themselves that only art can touch. When these kids step on stage you should be awed.

Here’s what you don’t do. You don’t play on your phone to order really ugly man jeans. Nope. Not acceptable. You don’t hold your phone to record your little darling’s song. It’s not that you don’t deserve to record this video that you probably will never really watch, it’s that you owe it to yourself and the audience members sitting behind  you to immerse yourself in the show. When you record something, you don’t experience it. You distance yourself and you miss the most vital part of the event. Being there.

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Art exists to elevate us. Sports can be art. Music can be art. Cooking can be art. Acting or writing or playing the spoons can be art. You know what’s not art? Playing Candy Crush on a big assed iPad. What’s wrong with people? You interrupt everyone else’s enjoyment AND you rob yourself of the opportunity to be swept away.

How many times do you experience that in your life? I’m sure not enough. When these kids take the stage, even if they aren’t your kids for this particular song, you are still witnessing something incredible. You are seeing hours and hours of hard work refining and perfecting techniques. You are seeing collaborative work on a level adults may never reach. This is a real life example  of the sum of the whole being equal to way more than the parts. Your heart and mind are elevated when you see kids do their best at anything.

How can we as writers expect people to recognize our artistic souls when adults can’t get off their phones long enough to see what’s right in front of them. The kids in the audience, the ones we say are never off their phones or gaming devices? They were amazing. They were cheering and chanting and rumpusing for their friends as each group took and left the stage. They got it.

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Tonight the concert started with a meditation, Lumes, that included the middle school and high school choruses combined. The kids surrounded the audience and chanted and it was so ethereal that I was breathless.

At one point the elementary school kids sang. They were so great that halfway through their rendition of Fight Song the audience couldn’t hold back and cheered like they were the Beatles.

It was a beautiful night for those of us who recognized what we were witnessing. Kids aspiring to be great. I felt lucky to be part of it.

You may be asking how this rant relates to writing or writing tips, or what my mission for today’s post was supposed to be. So here is my tip for you. Be present. Experience. Participate. At the Florida SCBWI mid year conference, Jonathan Mayberry talked to us about creating stories that leave room for the reader to engage. The same has to be true for other forms of art, doesn’t it?

As artists we put ourselves out there. We recognize moments. We report stories. We immerse ourselves in the divine and the wretched. But I am asking you whether you write, or don’t write, whether you read or don’t read, whether you buy my books or not, can you please put your phone down and experience beauty when it’s served up? If you can’t not check your Facebook status or Tweet about what you ate for dinner when a stage full of ardent performers are giving it their all, I’m pretty sure you’re not my reader anyway.

I will be back next Monday for Tuesday Writers, hopefully less scold-y and more on track. Until then have an art filled week and allow yourself to be surrounded by joy. Can I get an amen?

4 thoughts on “Tuesday Tirade If a Tree Falls in the Woods…(aka what if no one’s listening?)

  1. Since I’m involved in live theater, I couldn’t agree more! I was in the audience of a play two weeks ago and some woman was doing a crossword puzzle. In the dark! I would love to see phones confiscated at the door of live events but I know that’s too extreme. Maybe all we need is manners, people!

  2. Carol Gibson

    Amen. I am old enough to have lived most of my life not connected to a cell phone and sometimes wish they had not been invented. I understand how convenient they are but I get tired of how they takes us out of the moment. Not just at movies or theatre but sitting with family and friends at a dinner table. I have often seen people sitting at the same table and they are busy eating while looking at their phone. They are missing one of the joys of sharing a meal with someone the chance to have a conversation.

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