How do you know when your child is old enough to go to the symphony?
Many organizations print an age minimum on tickets, which is more of a guideline than a strictly enforced rule, said Crystal Young-Otterstrom, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera audience-development consultant. Most important is the parent's realistic assessment of the individual child's attention span. Here are some pointers for parents.
Listen to the piece beforehand and see how the child responds. If you don't want to splurge on the CD or iTunes, there's always the public library. Jon Kahananui, a violinist and violist who mentors musicians in the Utah Youth Symphony organization, said it's a good idea for adults to familiarize themselves with the music before going to a concert, too.
Make your expectations clear before going to the concert. "It's not OK to bring candy, coloring books, bags of Cheerios or Froot Loops," Kahananui said.
Many local orchestras, such as the American West Symphony, Salt Lake Symphony and Utah Symphony, offer concerts aimed specifically at families and young people. These concerts typically are shorter, start earlier in the evening (or during the day), offer more applause breaks and feature more accessible repertoire than a typical "grownup" concert. Often, the conductor or narrator will explain what's going on as the concert unfolds.
Remember that kids can be unpredictable. If your little one's attention span runs out, do your fellow concertgoers a favor and retreat to the lobby. Most venues have TV monitors so you can see and hear what's going on in the concert hall.
Catherine Reese Newton