V.com weekend vote: Can you live without the phone for an entire concert?

May 13, 2023, 10:50 PM · Let's face it, the smartphone is an integral part of our lives these days, like it or not. But can you live without the phone, for an hour? How about for an entire concert?

Cell phones don't necessarily go well with a symphony concert. If you forget to put the phone on "silent" and someone calls or texts -- it will be embarrassingly obvious when it shatters the mood.

That's apparently what happened about a week ago when one cell phone went off, then another, disrupting a Bruckner concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin was not happy. In frustration, he turned around to the audience and said, "Can we just spend one hour of our lives without the d@mn phones, please?"

Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin - and the orchestra's newest merch...

In response to an article about the disruption, VAN Magazine then tweeted "Dear @philorch: If you're not going to print "Can we live without the phone for just one damn hour? — @nezetseguin" on a tote bag, we will."

And the Philadelphia Orchestra responded with "challenge accepted" and sure enough, now on their website you can now buy a tote bag ($25), a T-shirt ($30) and of course, a cell phone case ($20) - graced with the conductor's quotation.

Still, Nézet-Séguin's question hangs in the air: can you live without the phone for an hour? How about living without it, for an entire concert?

Let's be entirely honest here, does anyone give up their phone, for the entire duration of a concert? That cell-free concert would probably be a beautiful break for the mind and soul. However, if you have kids home with a babysitter, you might just check it at intermission. Or, if you want to take a picture and post it to Instagram to say, "Hey, I just saw my favorite violinist play with my favorite orchestra!" - well, that involves having your phone on, and using it. (Some orchestras do allow that.) Or, if the program is actually online, you'll need your phone to see it. Or, maybe you just can't stop with that text conversation you had, or you need to google something, or...

There are reasons that people get on their phones during a concert. Also, there are reasons to take a break from the phone. The big thing for all of us is to know how to turn the thing to silent, and to do so!

For this week's vote, please chime in (haha) on whether or not you really truly can "live without your phone" for the entire duration of a concert. In the comments, please share your thoughts on the matter, on what happened in Philadelphia, or on cell phones and concerts in general.

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May 14, 2023 at 04:19 AM · I don't think I have once checked my phone during a performance at a concert. I do check at the interval though, then back on silent before I go back into the hall

May 14, 2023 at 04:21 AM · Comedy clubs take your phones and put them in little enclosures (which doesn't turn them off, but still) until the show ends, so perhaps there are some more drastic measures that could be instituted.

I have a more humane suggestion, which is immediate and silent public execution of the offender.

May 14, 2023 at 04:53 AM · I always turn my phone off and sometimes remind people sit next me to do the same. There’s nothing more embarrassing to hear someone’s phone ringing in the middle of a concert. And if it was my phone, I would wish the space where I occupy to instantly disappear.

May 14, 2023 at 05:46 AM · Since I don’t have my phone on stage with me….

I check it at intermission.

May 14, 2023 at 05:50 AM · If I attended a concert, I would want to check my phone during intermission but would otherwise not use it.

May 14, 2023 at 07:52 AM · I haven't attended a concert since before the pandemic. When I play concerts, I check my phone at intermission. It's especially useful if I'm trying to locate a friend in the crowd.

May 14, 2023 at 04:36 PM · Our main performance venue is the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech. The announcement just before the show asks everyone to turn their electronic devices "completely off" for the duration of the show. So, that's what I do. And I'm happy to do that because it means there's NO CHANCE that the phone ringing or any alarms will come from MY PHONE. Only if I'm in a situation where I really HAVE to check my phone at intermission would I turn it on for that purpose. I'd really rather say hello to friends that I always can find in the audience.

Last concert someone's phone went off during a quiet portion of Britten's War Requiem. It was an elderly person, and they didn't even realize it was their own device, and then they had to dig it out of the bottom of their purse and someone sitting near them had to help them silence it.

Don't be the one.

May 14, 2023 at 06:10 PM · My low-tech flip phone is usually on airplane mode. It stays back stage in the fiddle case during a concert.

May 14, 2023 at 06:25 PM · I leave it at home.

May 14, 2023 at 06:28 PM · I just saw a concert last night at the Maltz Performing Arts Center in Cleveland, Ohio, with the Listeso Quartet playing a program of mostly Vivaldi’s Seasons. I was tempted to pull out my phone to take an impromptu picture because I really don’t get to go to concerts AT ALL. It was candle lit and beautiful. But I didn’t because I was concerned the screen & flash would go off so I left it unused & silenced throughout the concert.

It’s important to respect the artists who have worked hard to get to where they are, the music for its beautiful quality, & the other listeners who have paid for the opportunity to experience.

That being said, I did leave my phone on & silenced so as not to be a disruption. My daughter has come through a REALLY tough year & my wife & I needed to be available for an emergency (she stayed home) If something HAD come up, I would have discreetly as possible left the space to attend to the emergency.

We ARE attached to convenient technology HEAVILY these days, but not everyone is is lazy, inconsiderate, & self absorbed. I wanted to celebrate the beautiful concert. I chose to do it without technology. While I do believe it’s inconsiderate to sit through a concert with your face plastered to your device, & hope everyone can choose to sit through at least a concert without needing our phones, we can also choose to seek to understand. Maybe one of those interruptions was legitimate & an emergency. Perhaps not all, though. Our society has to find a place to respect one another again on both sides. There is a lot of us versus them going on already.

Who knows, maybe one of those calls was their child reaching out for help before they take their life. I’d give up a thousand concerts to keep my daughter alive.

Just a thought. I’m sure there will be plenty of boos in the comment gallery for my offering, I still wish you all peace & joy.

May 14, 2023 at 07:05 PM · It's easy to say "just leave it at home" but these days we use our phones for so much. There's navigating to the venue, meeting up with people there, finding a restaurant afterward, ordering in restaurants, paying for public parking, and sometimes the concert tickets are even on our phones!

If you need to be available in case of an emergency (everyone leaving the kids home with a sitter understands) then you can set your phone to vibrate. That option was available before cell phones for doctors using pagers. Ideally you'd ask the usher to help you exchange seats with another guest so that you'd be on the aisle.

Very often our concerts will begin with an announcement that comes through the speakers, as well as a person coming onto the stage to welcome the audience, etc. Throughout these events, people continue their conversations, ignoring the announcements. I was taught that all of that is extremely rude. When there's an announcement, you give it your attention. Sorry, but the same is true for the announcements on airplanes. You shut your mouth and you listen -- every time. You can "finish your sentence" afterward!! And in fact it's this rudeness that pays a grim dividend when the person who missed the announcement because they were jabbering away lets their phone go off during the show!

May 14, 2023 at 08:09 PM · If you can't be without your phone, JUST STAY HOME!!!!!

May 14, 2023 at 11:18 PM · It's usually more humorous than annoying to me when I see this, but a few weeks ago this happened during the very last notes of Bartok 6 in a Jerusalem Quartet performance. I cannot imagine worse timing. Mesto.

May 15, 2023 at 09:46 AM · It's helpful to reflect that we lived happily without mobile phones before they interjected themselves into our lives. Post-COVID I almost always need the phone for the ticket. Some venues pre-publish their programme notes, biographies and essays on their websites but also give you a printed programme. Some just publish on internet, which is less convenient. My first phone was stolen, so the mobile adds a layer of angst whenever I take it with me. I switch it off once I am in my seat and will generally not switch it on again until the concert/performance is over. Intermissions are for finding a glass of wine or coffee, maybe a something small to eat, chatting to friends or taking a little walk for the knees. Stan -the worst interruption I witnessed was in that beautiful violin solo in Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs.

May 15, 2023 at 09:55 AM · My "Flip-Phone", while still compatible with the local network, doesn't meet the definition of a smart phone. I can get phone calls and text messages. When at a concert it is on vibrate only and stored in my pocket.

I dread the day when the local network makes my flip-phone inoperable.

Since I'm a child-free geezer in my mid 70's I don't have a need for anything more than the ability to make and received phone calls and the occasional text message. I don't use the camera (actually don't know how it works) and live an undocumented life (no pictures).

May 15, 2023 at 12:03 PM · We have electronic tickets. Rather than printing them, I use my phone to show my ticket at the entrance. Then I switch it to silent mode. The problem for me is to remember to switch it back on..

May 16, 2023 at 05:42 AM · A little off-topic; another negative trend for musicians with smart-phones. I am sure that no one else on the panel will have this problem.

As I have mentioned probably too often the majority of my performing time and money is as a Mariachi Violin/Singer. Our band doesn't do concerts or use set lists. Instead we do audience requests at informal private parties. Before cell phones we usually were safe; If they could remember the title, we would probably know it. But now the clients search for and ask for the most obscure (for me) titles on their phone, songs that we don't know or have not rehearsed, or that I have never even heard! Instead of declining, the lead trumpet listens to a you-tube clip on his phone, the lead singer finds the song text on his phone and parks it on top of his guitar. Then there is a discussion of what key to use! Needless to say, it looks very unprofessional and the performance standard is a lot lower. Sometimes I just improvise backgrounds and fills, which is Not proper for this genre. Sometimes I just stand there and fume. They will even take calls while playing. Meanwhile, the guests are on their phones following, or singing along. The teenagers are staring at their phones, not listening, not talking to anyone. Occasionally the next day I will search for a recording only to discover that there is no audible violin part in the arrangement.

O well, they still pay me.

May 16, 2023 at 02:19 PM · Where I go to concerts, they seem to know to turn off phones. It is rude no let your device interrupt beautiful music and spoil the experince for others, or to attend a concert when you have an incessant cough, and not to mask. I have even offered a throat candy to someone who couldn't stop coughing. They were actually grateful!

May 16, 2023 at 05:14 PM · I do not have a mobile phone, I hate the things, mainly because of where I am now at a terminal in a public library, before covid there would be a serous row about people using mobiles about once an hour, now it is about once every four hours.

May 16, 2023 at 06:58 PM · I am dismayed by how many people find it impossible to live without having a smart phone practically grafted onto their bodies - let alone their ignorance of the fact that we all got along just fine before smart phones existed. I see too many people walking down the street minus the use of one hand and half their minds.

Click here for a tongue-in-cheek look at where smart phones have gotten us.

As for me, my flip phone gets turned off when I enter a movie theatre or concert hall, and stays off until I'm on my way home. I too have seen too many concerts disrupted by cell phones - including the glow of screens being used during concerts by the truly addicted. Even without online access, an alarm clock going off is bad - especially if the owner doesn't do anything about it until an usher escorts him out of the theatre.

If I buy tickets online I print them at home. Ditto for the program if applicable. I can find my way to the theatre without help - or will consult a map beforehand.

There is no need for us to be slaves to our phones - and certainly no reason to disrupt others' enjoyment of a concert because of them.

May 17, 2023 at 02:17 AM · “I don't even take my phone to a concert” because the concert hall is off the table for me now, mainly due to my schedule. If I were attending, I would take the phone with me but keep it turned off.

As I’ve said before, nothing can quite top the sound of a live symphony orchestra in a good hall. Besides my just-mentioned schedule, though, other factors keep me away these days: ticket prices, drive time, parking. And this blog reminds me of another factor that would really turn me off: patrons with an obsessive attachment to their phones.

I attended performances mostly during my student years and a little afterward. At that time, mobile phones weren’t everywhere, so there was less risk of disruption than there is now.

I work out 4 days a week and frequently see other gym members spend a lot of time fiddling with their phones between sets. No wonder their workouts take so long. I keep my phone turned off and put away in a designated pocket. My sessions take 45-60 minutes, depending on which muscles I’m working on a given day. That’s long enough. I wouldn’t want the nuisance of having to scroll through a phone to find music to listen to. Thank goodness the phone users are wearing ear-buds, because it means I don’t hear any music except what’s playing in the background over the on-premise sound system. I’m fully content with that. I don’t want ear-buds, or anything else, in my ears - only the foam earplugs I use when playing one of my instruments.

May 17, 2023 at 07:41 PM · Might be OK if your ring tone is the same as the music being performed, one of the performers loses her place, and your phone rings at just the right time (I was actually in a Brandenburg 5 audience when the violin soloist got lost. Unfortunately Brandenburg 5 wasn't my ring tone and I didn't know it well enough to start singing her part. and she remained out of it for a good proportion of the movement. Now if something like that were to happen now and they were performing the Schumann Piano Quartet ...).

May 18, 2023 at 05:53 PM · I guess it's time to post a link to this one again, in case someone hasn't seen it yet.

May 21, 2023 at 02:43 AM · One additional thought on this subject: Hats off to the conductor for putting his foot down and standing up to these inconsiderate disrupters. I don’t know how management handles things in Philadelphia; but, with mobile phones being everywhere these days, I would hope that the programs would contain a note to patrons to turn off their devices before the performance begins - and that there would be a public address announcement, before start time, to reinforce this.

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