Why to Remember to Turn Your Cell Phone off at a Performance
Does anyone remember a time when there weren’t pre-performance announcements asking for electronic devices to be turned off? And how many of us remember pre-concert announcements of twenty years ago asking the audience to “please silence your pager”? That announcement has now become “please silence all cellular phones and other electronic devices”. Unfortunately, at most performances, from beginning Suzuki violin recitals to high school plays all the way to Broadway shows and major popular music concerts someone leaves their cell phone on and the entire audience gets to hear their ringtone.
The most obvious issue with cell phones going off during a performance is the disruption to both the audience and performers. Regardless if it is a play, a musical, or a concert of any kind people are there to hear the performance and no one wants to miss a part of what they are listening to because a phone rings. It is distracting for everyone. However, when wireless electronic amplification is used, like many high school and Broadway shows, cell phone signals can disrupt the signal from the mic to the speakers. This can cause loud static to come across the speakers rather than what is being said or sung. While this is disrupting to the audience, in other shows these signals can cause safety hazards. If a show involves pyrotechnic effects, the same signals that can interfere with wireless mics can cause a wireless detonator to go off. Many work areas where blasting is happening have warning signs regarding cell phone and radio use for the same reason. If a pyrotechnic charge were to go off prematurely not only would it create a danger for both the performers and the audience, and it further disrupts the performance.
In one instance of a cell phone ringing during a concert, violinist Lukas Kmit played the Nokia ringtone that interrupted his recital back with a short improvised solo. Unfortunately not all cases of concerts being interrupted are met with the humor that Mr. Kmit was able to react with. At a New York Philharmonic concert on January 10th, 2012 a patron, sitting in the front row, forgot to silence their phone. This patron, according to FoxNews.com’s article, allowed their iPhone to ring continuously for “minutes”. This forced maestro Alan Gilbert to stop the performance until the phone was silenced and ask the owner of the cell phone, “is it off? It won’t come on again?” While cell phones ringing at concerts is a common occurrence, most of the time the owner of the phone quickly turns the ringer off, causing a minimal disruption. This incident stands out because the phone’s owner allowed their phone to continue to ring. This is fortunately a rare, extreme example of a cell phone bringing a concert to a halt.
The next time you’re at a concert or performance of any type try to keep these things in mind. Cell phones at performances are distracting to both the audience and the performers.