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Chattering adults insult their children

By MICHELE MILLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2000


The voices singing away are soft and sweet and I, like many of the parents in attendance at my daughter's elementary school spring concert, have come laden down with enough camera equipment to mark the day for eternity in photographs and videotape.

Two choruses made up of roughly 70 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, many dressed in their Sunday best, perform nicely along with the 15-piece band. Its young members -- some of whom had never even picked up an instrument before this school year -- have spent countless hours practicing after school with their dedicated music teachers.

The performance is an enjoyable one, well attended by a mostly captive and appreciative audience -- a testament that there is hope for the future of the arts in Pasco County.

Unfortunately, while these youngsters are offering up their best effort, they just can't seem to belt out those tunes or play their instruments loud enough to drown out the incessant chatter spouting out of a dozen or so ignorant adults who apparently see this occasion as an opportunity to socialize.

While the band plays a pleasant rendition of The Colors of the Wind, someone's Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma, along with Aunt and Uncle Whoever, are yucking it up in the back in what appears to be a makeshift family reunion. Three women in the third to the last row are babbling away, and a couple of guys, some kids' dads I'm betting, are trading tips on the latest in video equipment, all while the the third-grade chorus sings Can You Feel the Love Tonight. There are others huddled in a corner and carrying on about So-and-so's marital problems, oblivious to the fourth- and fifth-graders' cute versions of Rockin' Robin and Please Mr. Postman. Unfortunately, none of these loudmouths can take a hint. They won't be silenced by a well directed glare or even the more obvious "Shush!"

To be fair, most of these boorish grown-ups do quiet down a bit during what I figure must be their child's performance. But what does that say to the rest of us who would actually like to hear our own children sing? Can't put it in print, but you get the idea.

Even worse are the couple who shamelessly converse throughout the entire concert, a sad commentary on the message they choose to send to their own child singing on stage. Really now, I want to ask them, why even bother being here? In the 12 years I've been attending my children's performances and in the five or so years I've been covering such events for the Times, I have come to realize that background murmur created by the ill-mannered is sadly just part of the show.

It doesn't matter what the occasion is. Award ceremonies, school plays and concerts, even high school graduations are marred somewhat by those who just can't seem to zip it for a mere hour or so.

In recent years I've noticed that a few wise administrators have taken to giving gentle reminders on audience etiquette before introducing their young performers. Brings me back to the days when those words were more firmly directed my way, when I was a child sitting cross-legged on a hard gymnasium floor before the annual school talent show. "Remember," our principal Miss Wells would say as she wagged her finger at us, "it only takes a few bad apples to spoil it for everyone."

It is a shame that all these years later there are those who are still spoiling it for the rest of us. These "grown-ups" don't seem to realize that common courtesy is not something to be squandered, that children as well as adults are deserving of respect.

Those who are invited to these delightful performances -- and they are almost always delightful -- should come prepared to sit quietly and offer their attention as well as their applause to the youngsters who take the stage.

And to those who can't seem to fight the urge to prattle on: Do the rest of us a favor and take it outside.

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