We see our diverse series of live musical performances as contributing to the holistic education provided at Calvin College. Our aim is to “change the conversation about pop culture,” and presenting popular music as a form of art, rather than entertainment alone, is central to our mission.
One of the ways we attempt to enrich our concerts is by inviting visiting musicians and our audience to stay after the show (or occasionally meet earlier in the day) for a conversation about the music. This is not a meet-and-greet or an autograph signing; this is an opportunity for our students and the public to engage in a dialogue with a group of artists about their work.
Often a topic we explore in these conversations is the question: how do we be a good audience? A live performance is involves two-way relationship: the audience is sending something to the performers just as they are sending music to us. Therefore, we believe that audience is not merely a passive observer, but rather has a role to play. Different artists, presenting diverse styles of music, of course, have hopes, desires, needs, and expectations for their audiences.
The audience at Calvin SAO concerts is frequently quiet, reserved, and respectful, which is often an appropriate response to the performance. There are often times, though, when movement, even dancing, is called for by the music. Audiences need not fear, however, that they must resist their natural response to the music for fear of offending the artist; we simply encourage in our audiences, regardless of the the musician, and attitude of attentiveness, openness, and generosity.
The most frequent subject mentioned by our artists with regards to audience behavior is, not surprisingly, the ubiquity of cell phones. It occurs to many of them, and us, that in viewing a live concert through a tiny screen, in hopes of capturing a photo, or video, you are not fully present with the experience. They are often a distraction to you, the audience around you, and the artist. Facebook’s own statistics would indicate that you are likely to never view those pictures after uploading them anyway.
Wouldn’t it be cool, also, if the moments shared by the artist and the audience only exist in that one time and place? If the only way to be there...is to be there? Just a thought.
At this point, we are not barring our audience from taking pictures with their cell phones, but we are, on the record, discouraging it. We are pointedly frowning upon it.