You in Row F, Put Away That Cell Phone!

Monday, January 17, 2011 - 11:14 AM

At a performance the other day, the guy across the aisle from me had his cell phone on and open, sending e-mail. During the performance. A dozen rows in front of him, people were giving their all, but it never occurred to Mr. E-mail that he was being unspeakably rude to them, and to those around him who were participating in the show.

I say participating, because live performance is a participatory event. Back when I sang for school kids who were much more used to watching a T.V. or computer screen than live human beings, I made a point of telling them that a live show is a two-way street. People onstage can see and hear the audience. (Like Santa, they know when you’ve been naughty or nice.) In addition to giving energy, performers draw energy from a good audience, which enhances the experience for everyone concerned.

But how to point this out to Mr. E-mail, in the middle of Act II? Fortunately, someone in front of me took matters in hand, silently winging a program across the aisle at him. It made the point.

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Comments [109]

Elaine Werner from NYC

If someone goes to a concert, it is their responsibility
to shut off a cell phone. If not & it goes off , that person
should be removed from the concert!!
If they are so un-disciplined, stay home and listen to the radio!

I am sure such an event would not happen in Europe!

Jan. 12 2012 10:25 AM
CeltieTCB from NJ

The abuse of cell phones is getting worse. My husband and I are sitting in the audience at Carnagie Hall for (the first time) and someone, then someone else, and so on and so on TURNS ON THEIR CELL PHONE to check messages. We have to put up with it in movie theaters, NOT Carnagie Hall.

Feb. 08 2011 01:45 AM
I don't own a cell phone

I would see nothing wrong in banning ALL electronic devices at classical music concerts, just like cameras are prohibited at many museums. *Including* employing an airport-style device you have to walk through.

If we have to accept the fact that we have to take off our shoes to get on a plane, we shouldn't have that much trouble with having our precious cellphone put in storage for 3 hrs.

Feb. 04 2011 10:20 PM
RP from New York Ciry

One goes to a concert to listen to a performance, to pay attention to the interpretation of a specific piece by the conductor or the soloist/s and to appreciate the fact that one is in a live concert as opposed to sitting in front of a piece of technology that continuously keeps making it's own noise ad infinitum. If one is there just to satisfy one's personal ego, one's own needs whatever they are, please stay home. Your presence is not required.

Feb. 03 2011 06:06 PM

I attend a regular series of concerts. There's a note in the program to turn off all cell phones and pagers.

There's a real, live person who makes the same announcement. Invariably (sorry, ladies) there's a cell phone that rings -- then can't be found in the depths of an oversized purse.

Incredibly rude.

Jan. 30 2011 03:05 AM

Here's a novel concept. Be like me. No cell phone, no iPod, no BlackBerry. No problem. No disturbances in concert halls.

Jan. 30 2011 02:55 AM
Michael Meltzer

In major league baseball, if you throw anything at all onto the field from the stands, you are immediately escorted out of the stadium by security. Interrupt play, and you're out of there.
The example is there to follow.

Jan. 27 2011 05:58 PM
Ken Thompson from New York

Last night at the Met. Violetta's death scene. Loud cellphone goes off in the auditorium. There is no escaping these cretins! They are everywhere.

Jan. 27 2011 01:47 PM
Elizabeth Manus

I wrote about this in my blog in December:

Jan. 27 2011 10:06 AM
Fly Over Country guy from Ohio

As a baby boomer who had gone to Catholic grade school for eight years one thing that was instilled in all of us by the good sisters was that everything you do affects those around you. A rule in manners that seems to be getting more distant everyday. Gizmos in concert halls are a case in point.

Jan. 24 2011 05:17 PM
J Lester from Pgh. PA

WOW, I have never seen so many responses to a post on this website before.
What's clearly evident is that Cell Phones, netbooks, iPads etc... do not belong in a music hall. The technology exists to keep a wireless device from functioning, via RF suppression. I say use technology to disable the abilities of those rude and inconsiderate enough to attempt to ruin a performance.

Jan. 23 2011 04:53 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from BOONTON, NJ

PARTICIPATORY, interactive, is the way Shakespeare's audiences at the Globe Theater and the Blackfriar's Theater in 16th and 17th century London, responded with catcalls, cheering, booing and laughing DURING the performances, each confident in their own perceptive critiquing of the performance they were watching. In the space of 400 years we now have sophisticated hand held contraptions to serve our spleen. Will wonders never cease?

It's a suffocating imagery to consider as the sole prospect of one's musical diet any one, or any limit, to one's options. There are composers and writers and painters and other artists whom today are not recognized as such, but whose talent may be appreciated at later times. It is SO COMMERCIAL, SO PANDERING TO FADS to suggest a mere ten as the greatest. Schubert and Wagner if asked about their contemporary, might honestly, without equivocation have named Beethoven. The version of the Beethoven's 9th Symphony that we hear today is Wagner's musical editing versionjh. Remember, Beethoven was totally deaf when conducting his own major symphonic masterpiece. He had to be nudged to stop conducting, as the music had already been fully completely performed by the orchestra.

Jan. 23 2011 03:51 PM
Michael Meltzer

Microdoft Word, in its Labels & Envelopes software, has a do-it-yourself business card matrix I've had some fun with. When appropriate, I've handed out the following, and anyone is free to copy me:
The Good Lord gave us cell phones
to let us show all our neighbors
how really boring we can be.
Avery makes the blanks, you can get them at Staples.

Jan. 22 2011 02:24 AM
Frank in Brooklyn

Ms. Lewin: You raise an important point concerning a visual distraction and I agree that it is annoying but one can always close one's eyes. What about auditory and olfactory distractions? Needless coughing, heavy perfume, poor personal hygiene. These are more difficult to eradicate from the concert experience and equally distracting.

Jan. 21 2011 10:46 PM
Larry Stoler from Stamford, CT.

First of all, the title of your blog entry says it all.

I remember being in a restaurant and the guy at the next table was talking very loud on his cell phone.

He was dating a woman and I guess he wanted to make her believe that he had discovered cell phones or that all of us had to know or be interested in what he had to say.

I thought what he did and what you experienced recently were two very rude examples made by people who are selfish and think the world revolves around them. In reality, it doesn't.

By the way, if I were a woman and I was dating the guy in the restaurant I mentioned earlier, I would have walked out while he was on his cell phone. What a way to be treated.

Jan. 20 2011 06:44 PM
Steffie from NYC

Bravo Victor Borge! We miss you!

Jan. 20 2011 02:44 PM
Richard from Laurel Springs, NJ

Turn off that cell phone. It is so annoying when a phone rings in a restaurant let alone in a concert hall. Before I enter either, my phone, at a minimum goes to silent. If people are important enough that there is a need to be in constant touch with someone, at least put in the silent mode and if it does ring either ignore the call or try to leave to the lobby before answering it.

“Texting” is another extremely annoying habit. Leave the “texting” till the intermission or leave to the lobby.

People pay good money to attend these concerts, operas and recitals so have some respect for others and TURN OFF THAT CELL PHONE, please.

Jan. 20 2011 12:57 PM

There truly is nothing like a live performance and it is an honor when musicians share their talent. Cell phones, texting, even talking, the original low tech distraction, are all unspeakably rude. However, I think management should handle offenders. While satisfying on a primitive level (and don’t get me wrong, I am all for primitive satisfaction), I am not sure throwing something at them is not just as bad and/or borrowing trouble.

Jan. 20 2011 12:56 PM
Neil Schnall

Stokowski, to Carnegie Hall audience (1967): "A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. We provide the music, and you provide the silence."
Victor Borge, hearing a phone ringing from offstage during a performance (long before cellphones): "If it's for me, tell them I'm busy!"

Jan. 20 2011 12:27 PM
Marilyn from Queens

I wish this issue *were* just generational. While I think that perhaps more youngsters than oldsters are guilty of this kind of discourtesy, I've had more than one run-in with grandparents who couldn't resist playing with their cell phones in a movie theater.

In any case, I think stricter enforcement, and eviction if necessary, as has been suggested, is a great idea.

Jan. 20 2011 11:43 AM
Gev Sweeney from Ocean Grove, New Jersey

See the Nixon in China preview last night? I bet nobody dared to text in front of Madam Mao. She might have thrown "the book" at the individual!

Jan. 20 2011 07:03 AM
Michael Meltzer

Just trying to get inside the mindset of these fools (I'm not a psychologist but I was a salesman for a while), if they have an irresistible need to connect, and they don't care if they are rude to their neighbors, perhaps as Judith S. suggests they are young, and maybe they feel alienated (neighbors, then, may be enemies).
Perhaps what is needed is a rented set of headphones a la Museum of Natural History that talks to them constantly while everything is going on and makes them feel
attended to, and educated about the music they can't seem to enjoy by themselves.

Jan. 19 2011 11:15 PM
Judith Stuss from Boonton, NJ

Just say 'No". Never. Ever.

however.... just wondering. has anyone done any research on the ages of concert patrons? My guess that the over 40 crowd frowns upon cell phone/texting but i know for a fact that college kid don't think twice about texting and phone calls from 'whomever' during anything from Thanksgiving Dinner to concerts at Carnegie hall. I do believe there is a generation gap. Am I wrong?

Jan. 19 2011 10:34 PM
Marilyn from Queens

Michael B. from Morningside Heights:
NOBODY said that courtesy isn't equally important at free concerts. The point about the ticket price is that people using electronic devices are not only being rude, but also missing the performance they paid (and presumably came) to see or hear. They are adding foolishness to rudeness.

Jan. 19 2011 10:19 PM
MBL from Holmdel, NJ

The problem Naomi is primarily that these people who see nothing wrong with using cellphones at a concert or even in a movie house have no respect for others. I suspect that they are so immature that they cannot sit still and do nothing but LISTEN and ABSORB without constant social reinforcement. They do not comprehend that in such an environment they should put the rights of the performers and the people around them before their own. There is an etiquette involved in attending a live performance and those who violate that should be ejected. Also, signs at the entry points should clearly ban all cell phones along with the usual ban on cameras and recording devices.

Jan. 19 2011 05:28 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

To all those who included the price of the ticket as an argument, I suggest that the point about the cost as merely insult to injury.

The expectation that fellow audience members will be respectful & considerate of others (including the performers) is there regardless of the cost -- it applies equally to free concerts!

Let's not link the need and desire in any social gathering for good manners, respect, consideration of others, and self control with a price tag. It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with civility.

Jan. 19 2011 03:24 PM

I haven't been to a concert in New York, for many years, but I know that at the Marlboro Music Festival, in Vermont, we would probably do something quite dastardly , and probably illegal to someone, who had the temerity to use an electronic device, in the concert hall, or dining hall, during a concert. At Marlboro you can hear a pin drop. We are very serious about our listening up there in Vermont.

Jan. 19 2011 12:59 PM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

I agree with Mike Meltzer. An usher with a flashlight shining in the face of the offender should settle things nicely.

But the logic of paying such high prices for a ticket(s), and then not being completely immersed in what you paid for, escapes me.

An opera, for example, requires attention to sight and sound. You cheat yourself when you allow yourself these petty distractions.

Jan. 19 2011 11:21 AM

I think it is reprehensible to be so insensitive to other people sitting near you . Even though emailing texting and book reading are silent, there is still an LED light that will illuminate the surrounding area and disturb those people in the immediate vicinity. Most of us pay good money for our seats and have an expectation that we are entitled to enjoy the concert and be completely absorbed in the music, if we so choose. The NY Phil. takes care of this by announcing before the music starts the peole need to turn off all electronic devices. I assume other halls have similar announcements, so there is no reason other than a callous disregard for an other's rights that would motivate these selfish self absorbed boors.(see Gotham Chronicals- a new book about sociopathic behavior in our Society).

Jan. 18 2011 11:58 PM
Ian Liuzzi-Fedun from Rockville Centre, NY

I have to say that I understand the need to be in touch 100% of the time. I can see how our society has evolved (or de-evolved as some would put it) into this way of working. I will also say that it has no place in a performance whether it be a movie theatre or a real theatre - I must agree with those that have said take it home.

Jan. 18 2011 11:18 PM
John Goodwin from Demarest, NJ

I admit it. I do not understand why so many people feel they need to in touch 100 % of the time to the extent of being so rude to others. At performances such devices should be turned off. Such rudeness extends far beyond a performance. Recently at a supermarket I observed a person go through a check out process talking on a cell phone and never once acknowledging the person at the cash register. That was rude. For some reason I do not object to cell phone use, or eating and drinking, at most Summer outdoor informal concerts in the park.

Jan. 18 2011 10:59 PM
Michael Meltzer

George Bernard Shaw quipped that the biggest problem in communication was the illusion that it had taken place.
People who are not completely taken over, body, mind and spirit, by the musical experience will never understand people who are. They think their ticket money is as good, and that it rents for them a piece of real esatate in a concert hall where they are king or queen.
There is no reasoning, the only answer is strict house rules, STRICTLY enforced. It means ushers with flashlights that can be beamed directly in the face of a recalcitrant offender, and eviction when appropriate.

Jan. 18 2011 09:17 PM
Henry from NYC

This is actually a tough one for me. If the person texting is far enough away I am not distracted by the light of the device, I will not know (If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?). When first attending the opera I used try to follow along with the libretto. Later, I became so enraptured by the performances I could not imagine doing anything else.

It's one thing to work, talk, write email when home listening to a CD or the radio, but a live performance is very different - I feel as though I am part of the performance.

Jan. 18 2011 08:58 PM
Michael Miller from Brooklyn, NY

@Richard Lugar from Midtown East, it isn't a question of dividing YOUR attention during a concert. You have no right to divide MY attention. If you want to "multitask," stay home and listen to your stereo and twitter to your heart's content. A concert is a communal experience and some of our individual needs have to be sacrificed to the space and spirit of the performance.

Jan. 18 2011 08:44 PM
Michael Miller from Brooklyn, NY

Once I've met up with whomever I'm meeting for a show, I turn the phone OFF. I don't even wait until I get to my seat, lest I forget, and I don't trust it on silent. In the middle of a performance of La Traviata at the Met last season, not only did a woman's phone go off in the seat behind me, she answered it, exchanged a few words and got up and left--crawling at least half a dozen audience members on her way out. There is simply no defense for that. If you have to be on call for whatever reason, release your ticket and stay home. What I don't understand is that while everyone says it's unacceptable, it happens at nearly every performance I attend.

Jan. 18 2011 08:23 PM
Richard Lugar from Midtown East

I agree completely with OneCelloPlayer (3:43 pm).

There's no law that says people can't divide their attention successfully between two things and get something beneficial from each. Some of my best e-mails have been written while music plays in the background!

Jan. 18 2011 08:22 PM
Mark Adam Weylock

I find it sad that this topic needs to be discussed at all. If there is anything so important that it requires texting, e-mailing or calling then leave the auditorium, concert hall, movie theatre, etc. Have we forgotten what it is like to be present in the moment and be an "active participant" in whatever we do? Do we need to multitask 24/7? I think not. Isn't that why we go to these events in the first place? I am delighted to shut off my iPhone and lose myself in whatever I am seeing/hearing. I am aware that we need to encourage attendance at live performances, however I don't think it should be at any cost. We should all have respect first for the performers/artists but the audience as well. I would have been happy to "toss" a program at the offender.

Jan. 18 2011 07:11 PM
cindy from Union Square

We have mondo oblivioso audience members who simply can't believe the rest of us aren't fascinated by their relationship snarls, business deals and dinner plans, all being arranged while sitting in their seats, next to lucky us, during a performance? Glazed by the blue light of their high tech whoozitsberries? Bullfeathers. And the nice things about being my age?..I won't hesitate to play the curmudgeonette with these self-absorbed dunderheads: "snap that sucker closed, kiddo! NOW!"

Jan. 18 2011 06:42 PM
Marilyn from Queens

At a play I attended long before anyone had heard of cell phones, emails, or Kindles, I was extremely irritated by a group sitting behind me, babbling incessantly, and without lowering their voices, about a lost umbrella and other utterly trivial things. But besides being irritated, I was BEWILDERED -- like me, each of those people had paid $35 for a ticket -- at that time an expensive one -- so WHY didn't they want to see the play? There is no question that such behavior, with or without electronic devices, is extremely rude to both audience members and performers, but it also seems to me to be spectactularly stupid.

Jan. 18 2011 05:35 PM
L.Lubin from Ft. Lee, NJ

I suppose one would have to make exceptions for surgeons on call, but they should be seated in quick-exit locations and act accordingly. Otherwise, No, Never, NOT EVER, on pain of certain damnation to a pit of Hell specially designed for the terminally self-absorbed.
Is there a reason why a text requesting liverwurst could not be retrieved AFTER the performance?
Not only is the blue light itself distracting, as is the physical action required to retrieve the phone and message, but once the distracted audience member's attention is diverted, it becomes harder to re-attune oneself to the performance. The rude behavior plays on one's mind, and the threat of a repeat offense lingers.
I can remember a number of performances I attended ruined by inconsiderate concert or opera goers with plastic bags played by concertinas, even a husband who thought he could listen to a ball game on a Walkman during an Alfred Brendel recital. Don't get me started...oh, wait, you did!

Jan. 18 2011 05:20 PM
Steffie from Manhattan from New York, NY

Multitasking my foot. This is a sickness called ADD. Totally disrespectful and insensitive to the arts. Stay home with your (de)vices.

Jan. 18 2011 05:15 PM
Susanna Gilbert from Rhinebeck NY

It is never all right to text message or send emails during a performance. At the age of eight I attended my first major concert, Gustav Holst's The Planets at the Royal Albert Hall in London. My mother instructed me to sit absolutely still and to stifle any coughs or sneezes that I might feel coming on. I was also told not to blow my nose or clear my throat. If I had an unbearable itch on my face I was to move my hand very slowly and then unobtrusively press the spot. I was also told to wait for a few moments at the end of the performance before starting to clap. I did as told and have always done so since.
During the performance, two women infront of us started eating sweets. My mother very slowly and quietly leaned forward and kindly pointed out that the noise was disturbing. They stopped. Perhaps they were turned off classical music forever, but I have always felt that the people sitting within hearing range were glad that my mother had the courage to take action.

Jan. 18 2011 04:49 PM
Hans-Hartwig Ehlers from New York City

When I go to a performance it is because of the artists and/or music. A cell phone does not provide either one. A person who uses a cell phone in a concert hall, theater or opera house, is imposing their rude behavior
upon fellow audience members. They better
do not try this sitting anywhere close to me.
I would try my energetic best to make that
an occasion that they will remember for a long time, I have experience using public transportation on a more or less regular basis,however, I always open my plea with a fair warning. If that does not help the culprit gets the full treatment.

Jan. 18 2011 04:47 PM
Michael Meltzer

Don't castigate, defenestrate! (and eschew obfuscation!)

Jan. 18 2011 04:28 PM
JoeKinNYC from NYC

It's never acceptable to text during a performance. It's disrespectful to the performers, and distracting to the audience. When you buy a ticket to a performance, you are entering into an agreement with the rest of the audience that you will not be disrespectful or distracting to the performers or your fellow audience members. If you're not up to upholding your end of this bargain -- stay home.

Jan. 18 2011 04:19 PM
Kathleen Marie from NY

I feel very strongly about this!, and hearing this topic on the radio today prompted me to join in...

Without QUESTION! people who engage in this behaviour should be REMOVED promptly
by the ushers, and not allowed back inside during the performance.

I am a bit surprised auditoriums and halls do not have regular announcements before the show, or signs posted, that require all electronic media turned off during the performance.
( unless you are a doctor/ firefighter/ on call and you save lives).
I believe it will be/is needed...

If I was the solo performer, I would stop the show and walk off stage.

RUDE and Disrepectful beyond measure!

Jan. 18 2011 04:17 PM
Mary Nowak-Sturkie from Helmetta, NJ

Self inflicted distractions are selfish and disrespectful. Unfortunately, I feel they are one of the many new-aged mannerisms that make up a large part of this planet. Common courtesy is dying fast.

Jan. 18 2011 04:13 PM

Not only is it rude to use any type of electronic device during any type of performance it's also distracting to others. Like someone mentioned earlier, that we even have to debate this issue is indicative of how callous and thoughtless so many people have become.

Jan. 18 2011 04:12 PM
Gabby from Oyster Bay area

I have observed this behavior at a matinee performance & will not do those types of performance again. It is too disruptive for me. At this venue, I will only go to evening performances.
I believe it may come from people having been invited to attend, perhaps as an attempt to provide exposure to classical music. The instance that I saw it, the person was interested in the music for periods of time, interspersed with times manipulating an electronic device.

Jan. 18 2011 04:12 PM
OneCelloPlayer from Jersey

MichaelB, I think its important to remember to chill. It's most important not to disturb others, agreed - you've got to be discreet as possible if you need to text or something. But its not worth getting bent out of shape. If someone starts snoring, give them a gentle nudge. If they're talking to themselves, best to let them work through it - let a sleeping dog lie, right? If you're someone whose ENTIRE performance experience is going to be RUINED if someone benignly sends a quick text, then maybe you should be the one staying home, in the unperturbable bubble of your living room. (so many great live performances on the radio, after all...)

Jan. 18 2011 04:06 PM
Rita Scholl from Middletown, NJ

I'm with you Naomi. If you must use your gizmos, stay home and text to your heart's content.

Jan. 18 2011 04:02 PM

Let's turn the tables. This fall I attended a dress rehearsal at Carnegie Hall. During the rehearsal, one of the four soloists took out his cell phone and began texting - first while the other soloists were singing then, during a number in which all four soloists were singing, he did it again. He kept singng but seemed totally disinterested in his fellow performers or, in fact,in anything but the phone. In this instance, how can that performer expect any more from an audience than he was willing to give. I learned later that he refrained from using his phone during the performance that evening.

Jan. 18 2011 04:00 PM
Graham from Gambier, Ohio

It's a question of respect: both for others attending the concert, and for the musicians who are performing. I've been on both sides of the stage, and even faint lights from electronic devices can be distracting to a performer; to another spectator sitting nearby, they can be downright intrusive.

I find myself somewhat in agreement with the reader from Haarlem: An occasional open rebuke from a performer might not go amiss. On that note, here's Blossom Dearie disciplining a member of the audience before performing in a jazz festival concert in Ireland in 1983:

Jan. 18 2011 03:58 PM
Carol Lyons from Irvington, New York

This person is RUDE!
Case closed

Jan. 18 2011 03:54 PM
Patricia Collins from Rockville Centre

The responsibility of an audience member isn't satisfied with the purchase of a ticket. Implicit in concert attendance, is the expectation of attention to the performance. Audience participation and enthusiasm varies, of course, and the range of response - from bravos to muted applause - reflects differences in appreciation. However, ignoring the performance and performers cannot be included in the range of audience response, because of the lack of attention it reflects and because it negates the possibility of participation in an essentially interactive artistic event. By texting during a performance, a person is virtually removing him/herself from the audience, and it would not be unseemly for an usher to suggest that he physically remove himself, as well.

Jan. 18 2011 03:52 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Jersey CelloPlayer, it seems to me you are missing the point entirely of those who object to this behavior.

No one would give a rat's bottom if the individual in question doesn't want to pay attention or even wishes to sleep. It is that the individual is doing something that disturbs OTHERS, distracts their attention, and ruins their experience and enjoyment of the concert.

The fact that he or she paid for his or her ticket doesn't give them license to ruin the experience for anyone else!

Look, if someone wishes to sleep and miss the performance, fine, that's his or her business.

But what would you say if that sleeping individual begins to snore or talk in his sleep?

Are you still OK with THAT?

Jan. 18 2011 03:51 PM
Gev Sweeney from Ocean Grove, New Jersey

@Eric vanden Bergh from Haarlem, Bravo! I think I'd shout at them to call another time, I'm too busy!

Jan. 18 2011 03:51 PM
linda Rozenfeld from New Rochelle NY

Sometime in the "50's (yes, last century) my husband was at a George Shearing concert. People were talking.(think texting). Shearing stopped leading the music, turned and said,"Either you stop talking or I will stop playing."
I heard you, on the air speak about the relationship between performer and listener. Somehow, that persuasive argument will escape the rude texters.

Jan. 18 2011 03:50 PM
Jim Gooley

I teach high school. Even though rules require students to keep their electronic devices stowed away I am disrespected daily and in every class. I've witnessed groups of young people supposedly 'together' where every member is conversing with someone not present. An amusing yet disturbing sight. We are now a rude, belligerent and disengaged population. We've lost something Naomi.

Jan. 18 2011 03:47 PM
Stephanie from New York

I don't think it's OK to text or email during a live performance - it's rude and distracting to the performers and to the rest of the audience. And blaming the performers for not being engaging enough is ridiculous. If it's that bad, leave! If it's an important business deal or an emergency, go out to the lobby and do what you have to do. However, I have a feeling that in most cases it's not an emergency - most violators are just not aware of how distracting and rude it is. They need to learn!

Jan. 18 2011 03:47 PM
Michael Meltzer

Addiction to electronic devices is an addiction like any other, and don't ever expect a straight answer or explanation from someone with an addiction. "Denial" is part of the disease.
For the real music lover, listening in a concert is an intense emotional experience.
The device junkies are emotional cripples, don't swallow the the ridiculous "multitasking" baloney, that's a cover for Attention Deficit Disorder."

Jan. 18 2011 03:46 PM
OneCelloPlayer from Jersey

As long as your not bothering anyone else - and one should take pains not to - who cares?

The audience is not beholden to the performers whatsoever; they paid for the tickets. Where in the world does it say that the audience is required to pay full attention at all times during the concert? A good performance can and should be participatory, as your point out, but it seems rather stuffy to castigate a ticket-paying audience member who doesn't seem to providing their full attention - Heaven forbid, they should have anything else on their mind!

I've often found the best naps I've ever had were in a Symphony Hall; who could ask for a better soundtrack to catch a few Zs, or send an email if necessary, sketch notes in a notepad, or get lost in a day dream? Everyone experiences live music differently - whose to say which way is correct? As a performer, I don't care what the listener is doing, as long as they feel they've gotten their money's worth. If the performer is offended that their audience isn't 100% engaged, they should check their own sense of self importance and wonder if maybe they are actually in fact, simply giving a boring performance.

Jan. 18 2011 03:43 PM
Victor from New York

To those of you who think that it is OK to use a cell phone to text or send emails, you have to think if this behavior is acceptable or not to other concert goers or performers. If this behavior annoys others and there are more than one who are offended, than you are saying, in effect, that you have the right to control the feelings of others. Any adult who believes this is emotionally immature.

Jan. 18 2011 03:43 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Two further comments:

The decline in courtesy, manners, etiquette, & consideration for others started long before the plague of electronic pests infested our society.

The existence of these devices only provided yet another means by which those who are either oblivious or so self-centered, self-involved, and over-indulged can foist their poor manners on those around them.

Answer to Brad from LES:
"... Go to a rock concert and everyone's talking on their phones, taking pictures, etc. Classical shouldn't be so different, no?"

Why shouldn't it be different? Or should EVERYTHING in our society just roll downhill to the lowest level and to placate & satisfy young people, who haven't yet learned any better? Does every aspect of our society have to be super "casual" where anything goes? Where do "standards of behavior" ever fit in?

Jan. 18 2011 03:39 PM
Rob Darnell from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Rude ! Arrogant ! Distracting ! Be mature and put that cell phone away. There is NO excuse
for being at a performance, a movie theatre,
or any place where your full attention is required. If you want to use your cell phone
LEAVE THE THEATRE and HAVE RESPECT for the people who want to concentrate on what is happening on the stage. A few years back I was at a performance in an intimate theatre space across the way from BAM watching the Brooklyn Philharmonic perform. After about one minute someone in the audience had a cell phone that rang aloud and Robert Spano the conductor stopped the orchestra and turned around in the direction of where the ring came from
totally embarrasing the cell phone owner
we in the audience applauded. Naomi Lewin is right on the money with this topic.

Jan. 18 2011 03:35 PM
Marie Alpert from Briarcliff Manor NY


Jan. 18 2011 03:30 PM
Rob from Lafayette NJ

How rude! Here I am trying to seal an important business deal... and some clown is playing a violin!

Jan. 18 2011 03:27 PM
Sallie McKenna from San Francisco

Never. First the phone should be off and out of easy reach. But if it is on -- only a true emergency (rarer than hen's teeth) should result in someone actually using the device.
Perhaps I'm a too sensitive listener, but my seat companions' actions (whispering, shifting in their seats, coughing, blowing their noses...ugh!, noisily turning the program pages, checking messages, actually keying -- and the list goes on) affect concentration and therefore enjoyment of the music I came to hear (as did they -- purportedly). Visual distractions matter too...I am alerted by my peripheral vision to even quiet moves and certainly lights from electronics.

Silent and still is the ideal for seat/row/hall companions.

Jan. 18 2011 03:26 PM
Rita from N.J from Middletown, NJ

I wonder if these same people text during a church service. Probably. Rude does not say enough. I'm with you Naomi. They should pay attention to the performance, or go home.

Jan. 18 2011 03:24 PM
Bill Brown from Chappaqua NY

It is sadly characteristic of society these days that this should even be an issue. Studies have proven the developing inability of people to mentally focus given their obsession with technological multi-tasking. Add all this to the gross insult to any performer who is giving their all and the rudeness to their fellow audience members and we have a forlorn formula indeed.

Jan. 18 2011 03:24 PM
Stephanie from New York

I don't think it's OK to text or email during a live performance - it's rude and distracting to the performers and to the rest of the audience. And blaming the performers for not being engaging enough is ridiculous. If it's that bad, leave! If it's an important business deal or an emergency, go out to the lobby and do what you have to do. However, I have a feeling that in most cases it's not an emergency - most violators are just not aware of how distracting and rude it is. They need to learn!

Jan. 18 2011 03:23 PM
Werdna from Connecticut

Well, maybe it would be acceptable to text a friend sitting elsewhere in the audience to encourage extra applause or to throw roses at the end of the performance. Otherwise, the sound of typing and scrolling could be annoying to those around you who paid good money to listen attentively. Perhaps it would be better to leave the emailing to when listening to a CD.

Jan. 18 2011 03:23 PM
Joe from Manhattan

No, it's not OK. It is rude to the performers and distracting and inconsiderate to the people around you. If it's that important to be in touch for a couple of hours with your peeps, stay home and don't ruin the performance for others.

Jan. 18 2011 03:22 PM
Eric vanden Bergh from Haarlem,Netherlands

If I where on stage,I would adress myself to the cellphone reader and shout :what the hell do you here ?

Jan. 18 2011 03:22 PM
Jim Canna from Pitman, NJ

It's RUDE and distracting to those around you; especially to those behind you. The people that do that are of the opinion that they are all that is important. The people performing on stage take send fiddle to their, (the cell phone user,) needs. They have no concern for the people around them, as they are not as important as the person using the cell phone.

If you're going to call, or text, or even worse, play games, at least go out into the lobby so you don't show all of the other people around you what a self-centered moron you are.

Jan. 18 2011 03:20 PM
Ernie from new jersey

No its not right and just "because you can" is not enough reason in my mind to do what ever you want to do. There are unspoken rules of modern etiquette and you give up some of your individual rights for the sake of the greater good when you sit as a member of an audience for a performance.

At a recital Jean-Yves Thibaudet.simply stopped playing when he heard a whisper..yes a whisper.

Jan. 18 2011 03:20 PM
Gev Sweeney from Ocean Grove, New JErsey

Alas, I do know of concertgoers who think they can do as they like during a program because they paid to attend; it's their money behind the performers. v sad reely

Jan. 18 2011 03:19 PM
Judith from NYC

It seems our society has become totally addicted to these little machines. Using any kind of hand-held technology during a music, dance or theater performance -- and yes, even in a movie! -- is totally rude and disrespectful of the performers and other audience members. Common courtesy (which is not common) fell by the wayside a long time ago.

Jan. 18 2011 03:19 PM
Susan from New York

Please. It's just common courtesy to turn off your cellphone. Texters may think they're being discreet but those blue lights glowing down in the orchestra section are incredibly distracting to those of us sitting up in the peanut gallery.

Jan. 18 2011 03:17 PM
Frederic Wile from New York City

I think it's a sad thing that so many have been so taken over by this technology. Recently, at a movie, a lady in front of me was silently texting, and just the light from her whatever-berry was distracting me. I asked her, firmly I regret to say, to turn it off and she did....Probably ruined her whole day. This technology has brought a huge rise in lack of consideration for others.

Jan. 18 2011 03:13 PM
Nadine R. Gill from NYC

There are no ifs, ands or buts about the issue of cell phones or other devices at any performance. If the user is that addicted they should stay home rather than annoy those around them. This happened to me once, as I sat next to a cousin during my sons performance. I was shocked into speechlessness. It is rude, thoughtless and extremely self centered.

Jan. 18 2011 03:12 PM
Brad from LES

Michael Meltzer, it's that kind of condescending attitude from conductors that turns people off from classical music. Go to a rock concert and everyone's talking on their phones, taking pictures, etc. Classical shouldn't be so different, no?

Jan. 18 2011 03:11 PM
Boris from Manhattan

Respect is something that is somewhat going down the WC in our country.

It is completely unacceptable to text or even turn a cell phone on during a performance. The point of being at such a performance is to respect the performers on the stage. Apparently the person texting is from the "entitled" group....I can do anything I want and not respect another person.

Why attend a concert, the opera, the ballet and so on if they are so busy trying to keep up with their "social" schedule?

And not only is it disrecpectful to the other audience members it is of the utmost disrecpect to the performers on state.

Good for you Naomi.........

All the best

Jan. 18 2011 03:10 PM
Maddy from Queens

If nothing else, this practice is rude to the people sitting near this texter. It is distracting to see a light on, to notice hands moving during a performance. The same distraction is true if the person nearby has a lit Kindle or Nook and is reading. It would take away MY RIGHTS to enjoy the performance for which I had paid dearly.

Jan. 18 2011 03:10 PM
Ellen Liberty from Manhattan

I invited a friend to see 'Waiting for Godot' with Nathan Lane and John Goodman at the Roundabout Theatre. Not only was the performance sold out, but I had orchestra seats. In the middle of the performance he began texting, which lasted 10 minutes. Needless to say, that was his last invitation. It is NEVER acceptable.

Jan. 18 2011 03:10 PM
Benita from Cary, NC

Kudos to you Naomi! The dress code has changed over the years and gone down hill and now people are glued to their electronic devices. Give it a rest folks. Unless it's an emergency - put it away. Have respect for the performance/ performers and those around you. Stay home if you can't let go your "toy".

Jan. 18 2011 03:09 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

The fact that this is even a debatable question shows how far downhill we have slogged.

Hi Ruth S.!

Jan. 18 2011 03:04 PM

This is nonsense. Texting or emailing during a performance is perfectly ok. The man was not making any noise. If you go to a concert, you should be able to mind your own business. Concentrate on the stage instead of the people around you. If the performance was not engaging enough to get this man to stop his emailing, then something else was not right. I had a violinist colleague (in two different orchestras) who insisted on texting during rehearsals. She was fired, of course. That's different.

Jan. 18 2011 11:46 AM
theo from Spain : Madrid

I think the problem is that the cell phone means a connection with the outer world that doesn't doesn't belong to the moment.

I agree with roscoe george though. There is not such pleasure as enjoying live music but for some people the whole situation is just too uptight and they would enjoy more if it was more relaxed (but with just the same respect for the musicians).

Reading, drawing and other silent activities don't bother me as much as the "outer world" getting in the room from a cell phone!

Jan. 17 2011 07:01 PM
Phyllis Sharpe from Teaneck, NJ

Geewhiz, Naomi, I expected better than this from you. Classical music and programs are not sacred.
Think of the what ifs. Not everyone works 9 to 5 or 12 to 12.
What if for a business man this was a big deal about to go south? What if for a parent the child's medicine had not come?
Maybe it's milk for Mom, or it could be more important.

Jan. 17 2011 06:53 PM
Pam from Alaska

Wireless devices---especially wifi and the new 3G & 4G--- give me a headache. (Please, no tinfoil hat jokes; they really do.) I symphathize with doctors on call, who can set their phones on vibrate, but everyone else is making me miserable for no good reason.

Jan. 17 2011 06:45 PM

Are there not signs posted which state cell phones must be turned off?

Does Sousaboy feel he's got diplomatic immunity?

Here's news for you: that only applies at curbside!

Jan. 17 2011 06:42 PM
Roscoe George from Manhattan

Assuming the cell phone user is not making any noise then let him be. If someone were reading a book during a performance would you object? On the other hand if the cell phone user is making any noise, however slight, he should be ejected from the auditorium by management.

Jan. 17 2011 06:37 PM
Michael Meltzer

If you did something like that during a concert conducted by the late Jens Nygaard, and caught his attention, Jens would "multitask." He would keep conducting while he stared you right out of your seat and out of the hall.

Jan. 17 2011 06:34 PM
vivienne gilbert from New York

I just leaned over and said
"That's incredibly distracting." and the fellow looked as though he'd been shot! (He turned it off immediately).
I think most of these folks think they can't be seen. I've seen people dining with others and surreptitiously" texting" away as though people two feet away couldn't notice. It probably comes from being alone with their computers too long.

Jan. 17 2011 06:31 PM
Chris from Brooklyn

It is a disease of epidemic proportions. More and more people are co-dependent on digital electronic whatever devices. They cannot turn them off for fear there will be a request for the deli. If you have to multitask at a live performance, don't go. There are still a lot of people who are able to remain in the moment and be happy with a live performance as the sole thing occupying their minds. If there is an intermission to come, I would certainly report such self-centered behavior to an usher.

Jan. 17 2011 06:27 PM

It is never alright to use a cell phone during a live performance and for that matter any performance. If you are really that important that communicating with the outside world cant wait until after the show then you obviously have no time to be there in the fist place. It is very rude to those around you and as others have said to those on stage. It is not something that we need to "just get used to". And if you think that way then you had better get use to me bitch slapping you when you do use it.

Jan. 17 2011 06:23 PM
Ron from Lawrence, L.I.

For violent crimes, murder, armed robbery - make the culprits move once a week and paint their apartments. For cellphone use in a theatre --- that's what the death penaltyis for.

Jan. 17 2011 06:20 PM

Heck. I've had people removed from movie theaters for cell phone use. I'd offer the same removal process for a concert. If I've plunked down my silver for a seat, I expect to be able to enjoy the entertainment.

Take yourselves out to the lobby to text or talk.

Jan. 17 2011 05:52 PM
Michael Meltzer

Gev Sweeney describes the essence of the performing experience. I don't think the problem starts with the offender not being aware, but with not even caring to learn whether they are offensive or not.
We are reaping the rewards of a couple of generations of child-rearing by nannies and day-care centers instead of parents.
I have no positive answer on how to introduce and welcome them to the community of human beings.

Jan. 17 2011 05:51 PM
Dirk from Greenwich Village

I don't have a problem with people using their phones as long as 1) the light doesn't distract others, and 2) it doesn't make any noise. I frequently read program notes or sometimes even a book during concerts.

I think most people's minds are developed enough that we can multitask and still enjoy the music while doing other things. Especially in NYC, audiences can be generally quite loud, so we might as well get used to it.

Jan. 17 2011 05:44 PM
Gev Sweeney from Ocean Grove, New Jersey

People who "do things" during a live performance have no idea what it's like for a performer to connect with an audience. Sitting in a concert hall or in the opera house is not the same as sitting at home in front of the wide screen, where you can indulge yourself by doing as you like. The audience is part of a live performance; no musician plays or sings to a brick wall. As a pianist, I FELT my audience; I played FOR them, not TO them.

Jan. 17 2011 05:28 PM
Claudio Garcia from Sunnyside, Queens

It is very unfortunate that manner and decorum are being lost at such a rapid pace. What is even sadder is that most people just accept it.

Jan. 17 2011 05:18 PM

No, no, no it is never ok to use a cell phone during a live performance! If you worry it might be urgent or you just can't stand the suspense of waiting until intermission to see who wants to talk to you, excuse yourself and go to the lobby.

Jan. 17 2011 05:17 PM
Dan McCracken

I hate the practice. Let's start a campaign. Could there be special glare for people showing such disrespect? Hissing wouldn't do, of course.
I'll ask my friend who knows a lot about sign language: is there a sign that says, "Stop that, you idiot!"

Jan. 17 2011 05:15 PM
Ruth Shoenthal

Sorry Sousaboy, I don't care if your Mom wanted champagne and caviar, that blue light is annoying and distracting and your behavior was just plain rude. When I'm at a concert, I listen and pay total attention to the music, soloist (if any) conductor, orchestra or chamber group. When that blue light it breaks my concentration. I always ask people like you to put the damn thing away, nicely the first time, not so nicely the 2nd time. There has never been a 3rd time.

Jan. 17 2011 05:14 PM
DUPONT from New York

Try stopping audience members from reading program notes.
There was once such a suggestion in a Playbill article on Etiquette.
Naomi, don't spare the Liverwurst and give us a Schubertian repeat. And, da capo

Jan. 17 2011 05:12 PM
Tessa from Boston

Never Ever EVER! Even a quiet text lights up the entire row and distracts.

Jan. 17 2011 05:07 PM

SORRY Naomi....( It was MY cellphone) And the phone call was from my mother asking me to stop by the deli for some liverwurst & rolls! If I knew it was YOU in the next isle, I would have at least smiled to say hello.....

Jan. 17 2011 02:28 PM

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