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Parents must take responsibility for their kids

Guest CommentaryMary NooneGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I would like to clarify and set the record straight regarding recent letters to the editor published in your paper concerning the Summer of Jazz and, in particular, the increasingly inconsiderate and distracting behavior of certain children and their parents in the front stage area during the performances. In recent weeks we have been dismayed to see such inappropriate antics as grass fights among groups of children, running games of tag, including beer can-carrying parents urging their kids on, and games where groups of kids end up tackling each other, all accompanied by offensive shrieking and shouting. Again, all occurring directly in front of the stage during the performances.We agree with the many members of the audience and the musicians who plead with us weekly to intervene to stop this behavior that is highly distracting to the many who come to enjoy the music. This type of behavior is simply unacceptable at the Summer of Jazz, where the signature rule of behavior has been consideration for your neighbors. What is most disturbing to us is the aggressive reaction of certain parents who are directly responsible for their kids’ inappropriate and offensive behavior. They respond to our requests that they help calm their kids down with verbal insults and threats of physical harm if we attempt to calm the situation ourselves.We are at a tipping point where the future (or not) of the Summer of Jazz may well be determined by a few obnoxious and inconsiderate attendees who encourage their children to regard the front stage area as their private playground in total disregard for both the world class musicians who are playing and the audience members who have come specifically to see and enjoy these incredible performances. Obviously, we who make the SOJ possible do it for the love of music and the sense of community we enjoy each week. We certainly don’t intend to do all the work necessary to continue this amazing event if it means that we have to look forward to weekly confrontations with the few members of the audience who just don’t get it.Of course, this controversy may well prove to be a blessing in disguise. First of all, we love kids. My three children are the very reason that my husband, Bob, and I began this entire program 23 years ago. It is vital for their global awareness that the children of our community be exposed to the world of international music through jazz. Of all the types of music available, we chose jazz because of it’s improvisational nature and the connection and rapport it fosters between musician and those who attend the concerts, young and old(er) alike. It is equally vital that our children learn how to show respect to the musicians and the listening audience – even if they would prefer to be shouting and playing tag in the middle of a performance.Second, the children are not at fault here. It is the parents who are turning a blind eye to the activities of their offspring. For the last three weeks, we have featured more mellow and laid back jazz – Walt Smith, Ahmad Jamal and Steve Turre. What is occurring is that when the music starts, people in the front lay out their blankets and the children get up to dance, the beginning of a typical evening at SOJ. Then a change becomes apparent: Certain kids are not dancing to the music, but instead are screaming, shrieking and running around tackling each other. Admittedly, it is a very fine line in concert etiquette, but where a child’s – or a parent’s – enthusiasm for the music becomes fuel for games and roughhousing that have nothing to do with, and in fact interferes with, both the audience’s enjoyment of the music and the musician’s ability to perform at their highest level, the line has definitely been crossed. We have made announcements from the stage and have pleaded with the offending parents to control their own exuberance and that of their children, to no avail. Remember, the Summer of Jazz offers our community free musical performances and an opportunity to reconnect on a weekly basis with your neighbors and friends in a pleasant environment. We expressly do not offer, and are offended by those who apparently assume, that we also offer free child care. Feedback from the musicians and the listening audience members has been unanimous. The musicians are distracted and frustrated by the commotion, and the audience is, too. I am sad to say that I am embarrassed for my community by the rude and inconsiderate behavior of a few. I’m not saying children should be seen, not heard. I’m saying parents should be aware of what is happening and insist upon appropriate behavior from their children. The front stage area is reserved for those who are truly enjoying the music. It is not a playground. Something has got to give. Unfortunately, what is at work here appears to be a symptom of one of the greater problems in our society today: our refusal to take responsibility for ourselves and a conviction that we have the absolute right to do what we want, when we want, regardless of the greater good of the whole. There is nothing wrong with telling children that dancing in front of the stage is fun and is to be encouraged. By the same token, running, shouting and playing games of tag, tackle and Duck, Duck, Goose is to be discouraged. That type of playground behavior is inappropriate for the Summer of Jazz concert setting and belongs well away from the stage, on the other side of the berms that enclose the seating area. So why is this a blessing in disguise? It is forcing us to seriously re-evaluate our program. The Summer of Jazz has become an institution, established for the community. We have no desire here to dictate the activities of the audience. We come each week, like the hundreds of other families, to relax and remind ourselves of all the reasons we so love living in this wonderful town.We do, however, and will continue to insist upon responsible behavior. Common courtesy should rule. We should not be in the business of running down 4-year-olds and dealing with the wrath of their enraged parents. We do it for the music. … That’s it. We work all year long hiring the world’s best musicians, soliciting funds from more than 200 sponsors, booking lodging, setting the stage so the sound is perfect … a lot of work goes on here so we all can enjoy fabulous music that before was available only in large urban areas. Please respect what we do and the musicians that we bring here. Respect your children by teaching them appropriate behavior. Respect your community by allowing all of us, not just the under-10 set, to enjoy the music. My thought (and I actively encourage everyone to e-mail me with their constructive suggestions at summerofjazz@hotmail.com) is that if those intent on listening to the music were to simply move their blankets – no high back chairs – closer to the stage, this problem could well be nicked in the bud.Jazz is improvisational by nature. Let’s pull together and solve this issue like only we can in Glenwood. In Aspen, you are required to sit in your designated seat. In Denver, you have to fight the traffic. In both venues, you have to pay heavily for the privilege of hearing a world class concert. It’s all about the total experience. Please contact me if you have a problem with this or you want to be a part of the solution. This is why I live in Glenwood Springs!Respectfully,Mary Noone is co-founder of Summer of Jazz.


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