How to stay in control of your audience at a children's concert[This article was written by Maryann Harman, award-winning Children’s artist and founder of Music with Mar., Inc.]

You chose to be a children’s artist. Probably because you like kids. You’ve sung for small groups, and that was fun. Then you were asked to do a concert. You thought, “No problem. I’ve got this.”

When you get there, you start noticing things you didn’t think of. The first one is that concerts are different than singing to a group of kids at a party or in a school setting. Other things are:

1. Parents letting their kids run around;

2. Children trying to climb on stage;

3. Older children who will clearly get bored, and that leads to disruption;

4. Parents engaged in other activities (ie texting, conversation); and

5. The way the room is set up isn’t going to work!!


As someone who has been through this, I’d like to offer some advice.

First of all, be sure to outline to the person hiring you what age audience your show is good for. If you do multiple age groups, suggest two shows – one for 3 – 5 yr olds; one for 6 – 9/10 yr olds. They can choose if they want one show or two. Make them a special price for having two shows with a half hour break in between. (In a previous blog, I talked about playing to different ages and what their attention spans are.)

Before the show starts, give the parents some direction. Let them know what you expect from them. Do it in a playful manner. I love how Mr. Billy tells all parents to take out their cell phones, check into his show, and then shut them off for 45 minutes so they can be totally present with their child at the concert. Yay, Billy!

Remember these are children. You may have a set planned and as you are performing realize “Uh oh. My next song is not going to work.” You need to be flexible.

(Remember Eddie Murphy. “I’m Gumby. Damn it!” )

If the crowd starts to get loud, get softer. Children usually (definitely usually) will quiet down if you start whispering into a microphone. Trying to speak louder just makes others get louder. Parents who leave your concert with a headache and exhausted will not want to come back next time you are in town.

For children’s concerts for the youngest set, it is usually best to find a layout where the children are within the parent’s reach. I sometimes have extra wide aisles set up so the child can be dancing in front of their parent. If children are moving in and out of the aisles, someone is bound to get hurt. In today’s climate, liability has to be a factor. Controlling your environment limits the possibility of accidents.

Children’s concerts will go best when there is a mix of high and low energy music. Brain Fact: Children’s hearts cannot sustain high energy activities for more than one or two songs.

Start out with something that catches their attention. Get them up and moving and then settle them down. Talk to them. Tell jokes. (You know the topics that make them laugh.) When you know there are about 10 minutes left, slow your roll. Always end on something they will remember and keep it at an energy level parents can handle when walking them out of the concert. Parents appreciate when they see you understand children.

So, who’s in control at a Kid’s Concert? You are. And, the more you understand your audience and are willing to follow their lead, the more fun everyone will have. That includes you.

How do you stay in control of your audience? Let us know in the comments section below.

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[Picture of unruly kid from Shutterstock.]