Babies are great, but they don’t do much in the way of formal performing. Yes, they are fun to watch and, thanks to camera phones and tablets, parents have way too much video to share with you (don’t look at me, I’m a photographer). To truly get the kids on stage for parental bragging rights, you really need to water and nurture your little ones until their tiny fingers can finally do something useful, like play the piano in the case of our daughter. We settled on the piano after discarding all possible instruments that sound dreadful in the hands of little kids, i.e. recorders, violins, accordions, trumpets, drums, etc. Honestly, even the piano can test Baba’s ears were it not for the headphones. No, not noise cancelling headphones, the ones that can be plugged into our electric piano. I think you get the idea.
After months of taking lessons three times a week, news came down from our daughter of a pending piano and singing recital (she takes singing lessons too). This announcement caused me to reminisce about my own recital days as a child. I can still recall sitting in the front row with the other children as we patiently waited for our turns at the grand piano on the stage. No doubt we were fidgeting with boredom the entire time, but stayed put we kids did. As for the parents, they listened to each child’s performance and eagerly waited their own kid’s turn on the ivory. No doubt many of them were fidgeting with boredom too, but listen they did.
All of this was vaguely in the back of my mind as we entered the large music store in midtown Wangjing. There, in the back, was a theater with the requisite grand piano tuned to perfection (unlike those at my daughter’s piano school). Arriving late (twins!), I could see a girl dressed to the nines running her fingers along the keys. Unfortunately, standing outside the door of the small theater, it was difficult to hear her well-practiced performance due to the chaos in the audience. I didn’t expect silence, but the level of mayhem was disappointing. Children milled about the room, at times playing with the balloons on stage. There was a general inability of any two adults seated or standing near one another to shut-up for two minutes and listen to a single performance. Parents even talked while their own children performed and, if not, they were busy with their mobile devices.
Of course, all of this can be filed under cultural differences, but it did give me pause. Why would anyone expect a movie theater to be quiet in Beijing when parents cannot even sit still for live performances? Sure, the performers were kids and probably didn’t really mind either way, but the underlying message being taught to them was that when someone is on stage, it doesn’t matter what the audience does. It doesn’t matter that someone practiced for hours for her two minutes on stage; you owe her no respect, no attention, and no applause. It may not be politically correct to say so, but sometimes the culture of a group is wrong and needs to change.
In the end, our daughter carried out her brief piano solo and singing duet like a seasoned pro. I’m sure she outshined my childhood performances, but to be sure I recorded both so I could share the memory with her grandparents. No doubt the next time I see you, I’ll share both videos with you, along with some hilarious hijinks from our twin boys.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Lay