V.com weekend vote: Has your cell phone ever interrupted a musical moment?

March 1, 2020, 4:26 PM · Most people who own cell phones - i.e. almost all of us -- have experienced at least one horrifying moment when the phone noisily asserted itself and interrupted the sanctity of a moment. Relevant to us music lovers: the phone can interrupt musical moments such as a concert, a rehearsal, violin lesson or lecture. Or it interrupts other parts of life -- a church service, a doctor's appointment.

It can be very embarrassing, and sometimes completely unexpected. Wait, I would swear I had this on silent mode! What kind of notification is this, that gets through the measures I took to silence this thing?

Cell phone concert

To be sure, the best way to ensure this never happens is to turn the power off or just leave the thing at home. But increasingly, this is difficult or even impossible. Our phones do everything. For example, your ticket to the concert might actually be on your phone. Your directions to the venue might be on the phone. Or your phone is your car key!

I teach many violin lessons each week, and my policy is to ignore calls and texts. But I sometimes fail to remember to silence phone before every lesson, as they happen nearly every day at all hours. So I have to confess that sometimes the ding of a text interrupts, or the phone will actually ring from a call. In such cases I turn to the phone and say, "Be quiet, you are interrupting Maya's lesson!" and I turn it off without even looking. I know it would be more ideal if it the phone never made a sound!

I'm lucky I've never had my phone go off during a concert, and I learned my lessons very early during the cell phone age, when I had a phone ring during a rehearsal.

During a concert I played just a few weeks ago, though, a number of us were waiting backstage during one piece, and in the middle of it, a phone started softly ringing among the dozen or so cases parked right behind the orchestra shell! This sent everyone scrambling in the near-dark, trying to locate the phone, retrieving it from someone's belongings and then trying to figure out how to silence it!

The big danger is when you get a new phone or a major software update: what protective settings are no longer in place? Is there a new or different way to silence this thing? Did some notifications get reset?

Ideally, we all learn to silence the phone, to turn off notifications, to simply stow the thing away. But truth be told, smart phones are designed to interrupt and steal our attention!

Has your cell phone ever embarrassed you by interrupting a musical moment? Please answer in the poll, and then use the comments to vent your frustrations about cell phones - your own, or others'! Have you ever had a moment where you thought it was off, but then it dinged or rang? Have you ever been trying to simply show someone a picture or article, but then some loud video came on? Or have you simply been enjoying a dreamy musical moment at a concert, when some cell phone jingle broke the spell? Please share your experiences!

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Replies

March 1, 2020 at 11:46 PM · Yes to probably everything -- if we're being honest -- except a concert. I'm very careful about that, and the venues remind you.

March 1, 2020 at 11:56 PM · Well, this wasn't while playing a violin, but during a gig when I was a guitar playing singer/songwriter about four years ago. I was playing at a small club here in Portland, Oregon. Four musicians were scheduled for the evening and I was first. As I played, the other three performers sat in the front row about ten feet away. They never looked at me. Each of them spent their time texting on their cellphones. None of them ever looked up while I played. When I'd end a song they would set their cellphone down on their lap and clap. Then they'd go back to texting. After about three songs, I'd had it. I stopped playing and put my guitar in its case. One of the musicians looked up surprised and said, "Can you play some more? My friends aren't here yet!" Well, I was tempted to say all sorts of things I'd never write on this website, but I held back and just shook my head and smiled. Then, I got up and walked out of the venue. I've never been back. If you are going to attend a performance, indeed, if you are part of the show, pay attention, be in the moment, and turn off that cellphone.

March 2, 2020 at 12:08 AM · Recently during my studio recital, I had an incident where a child was playing and I heard something but could not identify what It was hearing. Since I was positioned near the front I started glaring at two people who were passing a phone back and forth. I knew I had silenced my phone but I checked it and sure enough an alarm was going off. Who knows why there was an alarm set for 7:00 pm but it was and a “ wake up call sounds even when the phone has been silenced. I have a beautiful piece that Hilary Hahn is playing for my alarm. I was so surprised that I reacted strongly so everyone in the audience knew it was my phone. Was my face red!

March 2, 2020 at 12:09 AM · I'm careful about silencing my phone, including during rehearsals. But I've played in a community orchestra concert where a phone rang on stage, somewhere in the brass section, in the middle of a piece...

March 2, 2020 at 12:08 PM · Speaking of gigs, cell phones can do weird things if you set them on top of your amp. A guitar player that I work with frequently has to be careful about that. I found that my phone was doing weird things to my keyboard!

March 2, 2020 at 01:52 PM · Hasn't happened to me, but then most of my playing occurred before cell phones were invented! I"ve only got about 18 months of playing during the Era of the Cell Phone.

March 2, 2020 at 02:17 PM · I thought this question was only about recitals and concerts, so I voted a solid "NEVER!", but... a lesson?

I don't think neither a student or a teacher would care if the phone sounded during a lesson, unless it's a masterclass in front of an audience. If it accidentally sounds in the middle of the class, you put it in silence and nothing happened, you go on. The only time it could "hurt" would be if your teacher tells you to play that 2 min passage to see how good it is over all, and suddenly a loud melody interrupts. I'm sure anyways that the teacher wouldn't care the slightest, unless it's a repeated behavior of that student and doesn't change. Then of course that would be a problem.

My point is that a cell phone interrupting a lesson once doesn't cause any problems, of course the owner of the cell phone immediately stops it and puts it in silence. Go on.

By the way, I don't only silence my cell phone during concerts, but I also try to be as less distracting as possible, that is, I try not to move my head, arms or legs, and if I do, it's very slowly so no one, not even me, notice there's something moving. I do this for the others, since it's distracting to be watching down there the orchestra and in the way you see something in the dark moving, but I also do it for me, it distracts me as well.

Actually, 8 months ago I went to a concert, $45 ticket. I was a little sick, had some "cough attacks" very now and then, but I was equipped with honey and lemon hard candies, wrapped in a custom silent paper, I had drunk a hot coffee before the concert and that evening I was not coughing. So I went. The concert was about to start and I started to cough a little, so I shove 2 candies. Everything fine for 2 minutes, piece already going, and suddenly felt I had to cough, but I forced myself not to do it, oh the agony, but I kept it. I knew I was doomed so I coughed in the fortissimos and planned my run away. I left after the first movement of the first piece (a symphony) because I knew I was going start coughing a lot, and there's nothing I would hate more than interrupting a classical piece. I left the hall and kept listening from outside (they put little TV's with speakers so you can "enjoy" the concert if you had to leave or arrived late). Worst 14 minutes of my life.

This is one of the things that still shocks me. Why do people cough between movements? I've been going to classical concerts a lot, and it's always the same, there's a pause, and suddenly you hear everybody coughing, like, why? I don't do that. When I'm home or class, no one coughs "just because", only when they are sick. Why?

I cough may be once a day? Zero? We are silent in a concert, we are not even talking, there's nothing that can make you cough unless you're sick.

My father is not into classical, so the first time he came with me he asked "why are they coughing when the orchestra rests?", and I said "oh, that's what you do to show respect between movements, you friendly cough". It's the only explanation I've encountered after +10 years seeing the same spectacle.

March 2, 2020 at 04:25 PM · Never- The phone goes into the case while performing. And it is always on vibrate mode.

March 2, 2020 at 04:25 PM · I don't have a mobile phone - hate the things

March 2, 2020 at 05:24 PM · There is a trick called do not disturb. Try using it:)

March 2, 2020 at 05:48 PM · Someone's phone beeped in a concert, and I realised I hadn't silence my own: I took it out to mute it and folks assumed it was mine that had rung...

In the days of cassette tape recordings, even a muted phone will create terrible interference in the recording if it receives a call.

March 2, 2020 at 06:17 PM · I think the phone can be a distraction during a lesson if either teacher or student is constantly checking texts or interrupts the lesson to take a call. There are some emergency situations where it is merited, but in most cases the phone should be ignored for lessons.

March 2, 2020 at 10:45 PM · I leave my phone in the car during lessons, but then I can park directly outside my teachers house.

I voted never, as I can’t think of an incident. However years ago I was in the back row of Rod Laver Arena for a Paul Simon concert.

I was always losing my keys, so someone had given me a gadget that made ringing noises when you whistled, so you could find your keys.

During the concert it started to go off, so I had to sit on the keys and try and ignore it for the rest of the concert.

March 3, 2020 at 12:11 AM · I don't think I've had mine go off during a musical moment, but there are other undesirable moments when it HAS gone off.

But probably my most embarrassing similar occasion was around 1970, when instead of a watch (I had no functioning watch at the time) I was carrying in my jacket pocket a portable clockwork alarm clock: It was the silent time in the Sunday evening communion service when the (non-alcoholic) wine was being handed out (we took it small "cups"), and the alarm went off, ring ring. I couldn't get inside the little box to turn it off before it stopped of its own accord. Well, what could I say but offer to bring incense as well next time, so we could have smells with our bells!

March 5, 2020 at 01:05 PM · My phone hasn’t, because I turn it off. During lessons, it is on silent and often in another room.

Recently I saw a musical theatre production at my brother’s university, and low and behold... some one’s phone went off, in the quiet, sensitive, everyone crying moment. That was met with scoffs and scowls in their general direction.

March 7, 2020 at 10:21 PM · "In another situation." I have my cell phone turned off most of the time. The only interruption of a musical moment was about a year and a half ago when I turned it on to get ready for a tryout digital recording in the garage. After I'd tuned, and Before I could start playing, a call or text -- I don't remember which -- came in. So only a minor inconvenience. I ignored the incoming call or text and delayed recording only a half-minute.

March 8, 2020 at 12:42 PM · I voted "music lesson or lecture" because I once went to a concert which turned out to have some introductory talk by the conductor and my phone rang during that. I felt duly embarrassed and turned it off quick. Since then I commonly leave it at home; I am always sure to get concert tickets which are printed on card.

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