Maestro to audience: Turn on your phones, tweet and take pictures

Maestro to audience: Turn on your phones, tweet and take pictures


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2014

Leonard Slatkin has opened the Detroit Symphony’s Florida tour by telling the audience to loosen up.

At the end of the concert, but before the encore, he announced: ‘You’ve heard that we’re the most accessible orchestra on the planet, and tonight you’re going to be the most accessible audience on the planet. For the first time I’d like to invite you to turn your cell phones for a change, and cross the stage’s barrier by capturing this moment and posting your photos to your favorite social media channels.’

So they did.


detroit so



  • Guy Chapman says:

    Good on him! People will always be tempted to do this, so giving them a socially and musically acceptable way of capturing the event seems entirely sane.

    • Lesley Gould says:

      Yes Guy and Francois, I could not agree with you more. lag…and Maestro Slatkin, way to go! I’ll never forget the concert when Maestro James Dixon not only permitted us to wear any manner of bright colors we chose just so long as there was nothing in bad taste, but he ORDERED it. You know how he could be about decorum! What a fun concert that was! And it wasn’t,of course, Mahler or Shostakovich, mercifully! Bravo Maestro Slatkin and The Detroit! What fun!

  • francois grillot says:

    You go Leonard!!!

  • ginger baker says:

    do we want to encourage THIS?

    • john jenkins says:

      Ginger: I think that this is a brilliant idea! Doing this has the potential to help stir a buzz about live performances of art music via social media, and can make it “hip” to the masses once more. Of course, it does not come without its potential dangers either…

    • Lesley Gould says:

      absolutely we want to encourage this! We also should encourage open rehearsals so the public has the freedom to see what really goes on in rehearsal. And if the Maestro has the faith in his Symphonic Musicians and he adamantly REFUSES to stop the music for ANY reason so that The Full Dress is actually the FIRST PERFORMANCE

      then That fist performance should at least be made available to concert lovers at a reduced ticket fee so the poor and the lower “rungs” of society, including other artists and musicians and music lovers should be given the opportunity for a transcendent and transforming night of beauty and joy. The Arts aren’t only for the rich.

    • Guy Chapman says:

      Why would we not? If you give the audience a time to take pictures, then they are less likely to do it at the wrong time. Imagine if the phone announcements at the start of the concert said “please turn your phones off during the performance, we promise there will be a moment to take all the pictures you like at the end”. It’s a great idea, working with what people want to do rather than against it.

  • RW2013 says:


  • bratschegirl says:

    Speaking as an unregenerate Luddite, I don’t like this idea no matter which side of the footlights I’m on of a particular evening. If I’m performing, I would prefer that someone who intends to ignore me in favor of their device do it from home where I can’t see it. If I’m in the audience, I would prefer not to have my experience of the performance interrupted and disturbed by the light, sounds, and extraneous motion of people taking photos and interacting with their phones. World—> Hell —> handbasket.

    • They can always be asked to turn the flash off and sound down. No need for lights or noise.

      • bratschegirl says:

        I would bet good money that over 90% of those who use their phones for picture-taking don’t know how to disable the flash, and even if they do many will forget or neglect to do so. The display screen will still be highly visible in a darkened hall, and nobody is going to take a phone photo with the screen off since they won’t be able to see what they’re about to snap; the motion will still be there, and if the person sitting in front of me holds up his/her camera it will be in my line of sight. There is simply no way to do any of this without intruding on the experience of others seated nearby. Why do people feel entitled to do that?

  • José Bergher says:

    Loosen up? Great idea! Why not bring portable toilets into the auditorium isles and truly loosen up while listening to Haydn, Brahms and Beethoven? How about selling coffee and beer during the softest parts of “Ma Mère l’Oye” and the overture to “La Gazza Ladra”?

    • Guy Chapman says:

      Those are things that nobody currently seriously wants to do, whereas capturing a memory of a great concert using your phone’s camera is something very large numbers of people want to do.

      • Patrick says:

        Are you seriously equating tweeting during a performance to going to the bathroom in the middle of a concert hall? I think you need to gain some perspective.

      • Patrick says:

        Sorry, that was meant to be in reply to the comment above yours.

  • José Bergher says:

    I mean AISLES, not isles.

    • Dave T says:

      Jose Bergher:

      I think you were right the first time, in ways more profound than you intended. Perhaps Mr. Slatkin is trying to construct a causeway (which would be very Floridian) back to the mainland from these isles: isolated, cut off, and increasingly deserted.


      Relax, Mr. Slatkin’s tweeting invitation was for the encore, probably some trifling bon-bon. It’s not as if one would do this in the middle of Parsifal or Metamorphoses for 23 Solo Strings.If somebody whipped out their cell phone during that, someone else might end up looking at prison time.

  • Anonymous says:

    Fantastic!!!!!! What a way to break down barriers.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    “At the end of the concert, but before the encore…”

    Says it all.

  • Leonard!

    As we say in Brazil: “quem te viu, quem te vê”.. you have changed.. Or lost it, all together!

    It’s hard to believe that you, of all serious conductors, encourage such behaviour! Audiences no longer respect the sacred Music of our beloved composers or even think they owe it to the musicians at work, to listen with “all ears” and intensity in order to discover new musical experiences.

    In all of Asia, theya re now installing BLOCKERS at every such venue >> THUMBS UP!

    if they want to use their mobiles.. they should stay at home, or be outside. — NOT IN A COCERT HALL >> NEVER dare to turn it on until the musicains have LEFT the stage! Ask Christian Zacharias

    Absolutely UNACCEPTABLE, in my view.

    C* Ortiz

    • Anon says:

      Blockers, I suggest, are also unacceptable. You can’t enforce good manners, and suggesting signal blockers (illegal in many countries in any case) are the answer is akin to suggesting that ushers stand over each block of seats during a concert and admonish people who cough, turn pages noisily, and so on. None of which is desirable – neither the noisy page turning nor over-zealous ushers.

      Good manners, such as they are, are not formed by enforced dictatorship. If someone is ill-mannered enough to use a personal electronic device in a manner which is disturbing to other patrons, I have no doubt that if signals were blocked they would be prepared to continue to use said device to take pictures or video footage, perhaps have a whispered (but audible) conversation with their neighbour, or shuffle and cough loudly… you just can’t enforce these things, however much you try.

      (And over-enforcement, of course, leaves the entire audience feeling oppressed, which hardly helps to encourage new audiences).

    • Leonard Slatkin says:

      Context is everything. This really was between the end of the printed program and the encore. We are on tour in Florida, with many Detroiters wintering down here. We wanted them to share the experience with their friends back home. Nothing was done with any intention of downgrading why we were all there in the first place. There is no harm in relaxing the unwritten rules once in a while as long as it does not interfere with the music making.

      But it was very nice to hear from you in any event.

      • Cicely Woodruff says:

        Well done Leonard! Anything that will help break down the stuffiness of the average concert is good in my book. That’s what makes the BBC Proms the most accessible and appealing concerts in the world – and to which you gave sterling service!

  • William says:

    Welcome to the future. Evolve or die a slow, painful death.

  • Anon says:

    A good idea – and perhaps one to appeal to most, an idea to try and move the “norm” to be a concentration during the most serious programme, but hey, if we want to have a bit of fun with an encore for a giggle, why not use that as the moment to share? Recognising that a growing number of people will wish to do so, harness that energy to promote the players and the music – but in doing so finding a way to make that happen outside the core of the concert.

  • Mathieu says:

    He did it before the encore. I am not sure whether he would have allowed tweeting and texting and whatnot during the rest of the concert.

    I just do not understand what all those activities bring to the concert experience as it is. What is the point of tweeting “I am currently listening to the last notes of Mahler 9” if the music is covered by the sound of your fingers on the screen or keyboard ?

    And I am not talking of the inconvenience for the “non connected” members of the audience siting next to you.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    That kind of move may increase the audience in audience in absolute numbers and decrease the number of true listeners. The latter will not necessarily die out (reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated for decades), but will certainly stay away from such events.

  • Alison says:

    So expecting people to show consideration for others is a “barrier”?

    Seems that any form of moderate to high expectation is now a barrier to someone.

  • Wanderer says:

    Desperate times…

  • Janey says:

    I am unable to find any photos. The experiment does not seem to have been successful.

  • Matt says:

    Regardless of how you feel about whether this is the answer, we shouldn’t chastise someone for at least trying something a bit different- perhaps it worked for some and not for others? Either way, I guess it’s worth a shot.

    Let’s hope we can all put our heads together and try and think up some ideas of how we can both preserve the concert hall experience (which we probably all are familiar with and quite enjoy) whilst also attracting new audiences to our concert halls and ‘rituals’ (which for many are a major barrier to engaging with classical music).


    • Good thoughts Matt… and many of us agree with you… that experimenting with classical music presentation for the sake of new audiences is worth a shot. There are many of us who have started such series in our cities. Many are under the Classical Revolution (.org) banner, while others are unaffiliated as Open Classical in Dallas, Classical Underground in LA or Poisson Rouge in NYC. Look for a chapter or series near you. Here we can go by club rules in bars (hopefully amplified), request concert etiquette in bars (if totally acoustic), or something in between (like request silence for certain pieces to introduce its value). I think we CAN have both traditional concerts and gateway experiences for new audiences which could spinoff into their own popular formats.

  • Here’s our favorite pic from the other night:

  • Wanderer says:

    “Last night we got one step closer to becoming the most accessible orchestra on the planet when Maestro Slatkin asked the audience to turn their cell phones ON and share their concert experience with family and friends!”

    One must be very detached from artistic realities, if one thinks that a concert experience can be SHARED over a “smart”-phone. Don’t know if one should cry or laugh about this idiocy.

  • This is the sort of thing for which I have always admired Mr. Slatkin: an ability to break down barriers at appropriate times and places. When I was in college, he hosted summer “rug” concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra. During the summer pops season, main floor seats were covered with platforms for table arrangements. The tables were removed for rug concerts, allowing audiences to informally sit, lie, lounge on the platform floor and hear programs that were generally a mix of something quite new and a standard warhorse. Slatkin addressed the audience, explained, set up demonstrations of something interesting and generally let mostly younger audiences informally enjoy a concert. There were other times when he was the dead serious, formal conductor as expected, a role at which he also excelled. He has a skill for knowing how to be serious without being aloof and for being informal without being trite. I’d say his personality is just what Detroit can probably use right now.

    • Wanderer says:

      What barrier exactly has Mr. Slatkin broken down by allowing picture taking and internet uploading? The bandwidth barrier of the local mobile phone cell? Please enlighten us.