Thursday, October 18, 2007

A musical feast—with a side dish of annoyance

Today the kid and I had a lovely opportunity to go hear a live musician who was performing an abbreviated set for little children, in support of his upcoming family album. A local radio station that we support was the sponsor and host, so I pre-registered, we waited with anticipation, and this morning we got ourselves together and drove there.

The performer, Ellis Paul (, was a lively, gifted and patient entertainer who also happens to be a parent. That’s good, since performing for a group of 30-something preschoolers can be rather challenging. He did a fabulous job, sang some old Woody Guthrie tunes, some other popular kid tunes, and he did it all with just an acoustic guitar, a microphone, and an impressive ability to stay focused and tuneful in the face of madness.

And it did become a tad mad. The session was 45 minutes long. That was probably a bit too long for a number of the children gathered there. I must praise my own little guy; he was fully attentive for about 38 minutes, clapping, bobbing his head, really listening and looking at the guy and enjoying himself. Even when he started to fade during the last song or two, I was honestly right there with him—and our distraction was entirely due to the madness. We both have some anxiety issues when the noise and confusion levels are high, especially when there are numerous rowdy strangers around—which was the case.

Where is this going? Well, I just want to sing out loudly in favor of controlling your children. The radio station, God bless ‘em for trying this, asked in the registration confirmation that we bring only a blanket and our best listening skills. Okay—do good listening skills include jumping up and down on a nearby stage to hear the loud thump that the hollow floor makes? Is good listening illustrated by crawling around on the floor, standing, falling forward, nearly hitting a tiny girl in her mom’s lap, all the while growling loudly? Does good listening translate as running through the throngs of people who are seated on the floor, trying to see the singer and listen to his music? And let me make it clear that all this was happening while the poor fellow sang and strummed. I’m not talking about kids dancing; that happened too, and we were all delighted by it. Dancing to the music was not the issue.

I don’t want to be ridiculous in my expectations, because it WAS a roomful of kids under the age of 6. And yet, can’t we begin to set realistic expectations for behavior by controlling, and if necessary removing, the kids who are becoming bored and restless? When an audience member becomes louder than the performer, perhaps that’s a clue that the member in question is no longer interested and might prefer to be elsewhere. Perhaps he or she should be taken out of the situation, thus sending the message that such behavior is inappropriate in that setting and won’t be tolerated. Doesn’t the performer deserve that respect?

Then again, why would kids be any different from adults? I’ve attended countless public events, indoor and outdoor, at which I was appalled by the behavior of the audience regardless of its average age. And if the event is free of charge, as was today’s event…? Oh, my—those are, sadly, the worst examples of human behavior. Rudeness rules at free events. And that’s a shame—because for some attendees, free events are their only options.

Anyway. Am I being silly? Should I just relax and let kids be kids, as I’m so often told? And when does that adage become a hackneyed excuse for poorly behaved children? Let me know where you stand on this. Seriously.

And seriously, thank you thank you thank you to WYEP ( for holding just such an event. Many more, please! Maybe you can rope off a holding pen for the more rambunctious fans next time…? Or not.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I will never understand parents who wont remove their child. Its ridiculous and ruins it for others. I had a similar experience when I took my kids to a nature thing at the local park. While the poor woman was trying to talk about owls, a boy about 8 pounded his feet on the wood floor. No one could hear her, yet he pounded on and on and on. His dad sat next to him, finally notice that it was HIS kid causing the noise--10 minutes later. What are people thinking???? If a kid is jumping up and down on the stage, remove him....dont get me going. LOL

Chris H. said...

Thanks, Melanie. I'm not often asked to comment on such things because, not having kids, I can't possibly know anything about them or have a valid opinion. But of course I agree with you! Kids cry. They have tantrums. They get rambunctious. That's their job. It's their parents' job to control all that for the benefit of their kids and everyone around them. I guess, though, that becoming a parent somehow makes you lose your hearing, common sense, and manners. I wouldn't know for sure, not having kids and all... ;-)

Cari Skuse said...

I agree whole-heartedly! As you know I have 3 boys, one seven and two that are five. I expect them to behave--especially when we are out in public. And as a rule they do. BUT there are times when things do go as they should and I have to remind them how to behave and if they cannot, I will remove them.
While it is nice when people comment on how sweet or how well-behaved they is kind of sad because that is how they should be.
I worked in a retail store in a high-end mall for several years. I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end of what kids did. And their parents would not say a word to them. Only after we would say something would they do something about it or say something to us because "how dare we tell their kid what to do."
Sad really.
I have read some good books that address this and make accountability to you and your child. Check out

Mel said...

thanks for the feedback, all--and chris h., it does not take a parent to recognize inappopriate behavior, in a kid of any age. shame on parents if becoming a parent causes them to forget all they knew about common sense and consideration for others. cari--was the store you mentioned the l.a. store in chitown? bet it was. I still don't know how you handle 3 boys!!!!!!!!!!!!!! makes my life seem like a cinch. ; )

RJM said...

Dear Mel,

As someone who’s written wonderful words about the great music coming from singer songwriter Ellis Paul – first I’d like to tell you thank you. I’ve been Ellis Paul's friend and manager since 1992 and his music, words and friendship are jewels in my life. Upon examining the state of the music industry, Ellis and I have realized that far and away the most important connections that we have are not at all on the business side of the equation – it’s the people that love Ellis’ music. They’re more important than the biggest retailer or the most powerful radio station - so we’re starting a campaign to empower the people. Ellis’ new album “The Day After Everything Changed” was completely funded by his fans and is one of the finest he’s ever recorded. Many of Ellis' fans and folks passionate about great songwriting don’t even know that it’s been released. So if you’d like to help support a truly independent artist – here’s how. The lead single track on TDAEC is “Annalee”, and if you go to you can download “Annalee” for free. Unlike so many other free song offers – you don’t have to give us your email, sign up or register for anything at all. It’s free for the taking. The small favor we would ask? Please share it with any and all of your friends that would enjoy Ellis’ music. This would help our efforts and help spread the music. This truly is a campaign about the power of the people in the support of independent music and artists.

Please stay in touch.

And thank you.

Ralph Jaccodine, Manager