Boston Symphony ponders change after kicking out mother and child

Boston Symphony ponders change after kicking out mother and child


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2016

An official from the BSO has written to Adele Ohki apologising for her eviction from Symphony Hall while pointing out that the orchestra has ‘a long-standing rule’ not to allow children under five into concerts, or rehearsals.

Kim Noltemy, chief operating an communications office, adds: ‘I oversee the various audience policies at the BSO and yesterday I brought your concerns to the attention of the senior management, including Mark Volpe.

‘We will study the issue further and survey the current audience on the subject. This will be a process and I cannot promise you that there will be a change, but we will review the matter anew.’

That seems fair enough.

Except ‘the long-standing policy’ is inaccurate. A former BSO assistant concertmaster has commented on Slipped Disc that she remembered infants being brought to rehearsals in the 1970s and 1980s. Cecylia Arzewski added: ‘I am very sad to hear how you have been treated!’


adele ohki


  • Peter says:

    Why do people think that rules don’t apply to them? If the orchestra has a rule, whether or not it’s been in place for many years or just recently, the fact is there is a rule. You might not agree with it, but it seems to me Ms Ohki was well aware of it before she turned up to the rehearsal. She just hoped it wouldn’t apply to her. What next? Can I use my phone or take photos, does the rule really apply to me?

    I agree the debate should now happen, and children are to be welcomed into some forms of performance when appropriate, but let’s not mistake that for a right to ignore the rules.

    • ConcertGoer says:

      Yesterday, I attended a matinee performance of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. A couple with a child of about one had to be asked to leave when the little girl became too loud and disruptive. Prior to their departure, the mother tried to quell the noise by sticking the kid under her sweater and fidgeting about with the child. It ruined the first movement of the exquisite Debussy Nocturnes. It was also incredibly rude to both the musicians and the audience. Get a baby sitter, go to Chuck E. Cheese instead, or stay at home. This is a symptom of the overparenting that is so prevalent in America today. Where have good manners and common sense gone? Many national orchestras host concerts for children. PLEASE stick to those until your child can control themselves and sit quietly through a two hour performance. As my father did, you can introduce your children to classical music by playing it for them at HOME. Parents, believe it or not, the world does not revolve around your precious progeny.

  • Arabella says:

    BSO needs to program baby and kid friendly concerts, like most up-to-date orchs are doing. Babies are going to have the best concert experience at a concert planned for babies not grown-ups. There are plenty of concert organizers who are doing this. Get with it, BSO!

    • Steven Ledbetter says:

      The BSO offers a varied schedule of performances for young audiences. But 5 years old is a reasonable lower limit for children who are asked to sit quietly during a rehearsal or a performance intended for adult audiences. Obviously the nature of concerts for children vary, depending on their ages. But in addition to the concerts in Symphony Hall, children of every age are welcome at Tanglewood, where even babes in arms are admitted — though not inside the Shed, but rather to sit on the lawn with thousands of others.
      Last summer I enjoyed a special family weekend at Tanglewood all day on a Saturday in which my grandchildren and great-nieces and nephews were able to learn about Tanglewood and, among other things, actually try playind all of the orchestral instruments,, under the sueprvision of the college-age musicians of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, yet another way of connecting with the young.
      But to bring a young child to an indoor rehearsal or performance of a program intended for adults is too risky and far too likely to be problematic for both musicians and auidence.

      • Arabella says:

        Hi, Steven, I respect what you’re saying but “youth oriented concerts” have evolved – ARE evolving – more quickly than you might imagine. And evidently more than BSO imagines.

        Good children’s programming is an art. You don’t just slap Peter and the Wolf & Carnival of the Animals on a program & call it educational or “youth oriented” anymore. You also cannot expect a baby or child to enjoy an orchestra concert aimed at adults.

        There are so many nuances now in educational programming. And one of them happens to be the movement to present concerts just for babies. These are orchestral programs redesigned to be of special interest to babies. Shorter selections, pleasing instruments, rhythms that babies understand, closer proximity to the players. Much more.

        This is something that I would encourage the BSO to explore.

    • Stuard Young says:

      Orchestra concerts programmed to appeal to children age three and up is not necessarily the answer to developing a young audience. At age three, I took my daughter regularly to Philadelphia Orchestra “Family” concerts. By the age of five, she had become so annoyed by the audience noise surrounding us, not just from other children, but from many adults, that she no longer wanted to go. I solved the problem by taking her to regular evening subscription concerts. We did this for years, and she continues to attend as a twenty something adult. Concerts designed specifically for the young are necessary for building a future audience, but that audience will only be built if it is trained to listen actively in quiet, out of respect for the music and others in attendance.

      The five year age seems to me arbitrary. I know many children younger who can sit quietly listening better than children twice their age. It begins and continues with parents. Parents cannot train their children to sit still and listen to live symphonic music without having the concerts available as a trading ground.

      Adults at symphony orchestra concerts can be very interesting. Some years ago I took my son, age five, to a summer evening Philadelphia Orchestra concert, which he quietly sat through in its entirety. At the concert’s conclusion, a woman who had been sitting two rows ahead turned around, and berated me for bringing my child, though he had made no disturbance. Another lady nearby came to me, saying, “I thought his behavior was excellent. It is wonderful to see a child here enjoying the music.” May the discussion continue!

  • Olassus says:

    Couldn’t help noticing that the Boston Symphony Orchestra website lists 173 administrators:

    Adam Twiss, Electrician
    Alana Forbes, Facilities Coordinator, Symphony Hall
    Alexandria Sieja, Assistant Director of Development Events
    Allison Cooley, Major Gifts Officer
    Alyson Bristol, Director, Corporate Partnerships
    Alyssa Kim, Senior Publicist
    Amanda Severin, Manager of Artistic Planning and Services
    Amanda Warren, Graphic Designer
    Amy Aldrich, Associate Director, Subscription and Patron Service
    Ana Costagliola, Database Business Analyst
    Andrew Cordero, IT Asset Manager
    Andrew Leeson, Manager, Direct Fundraising and Friends Membership
    Andrew Tremblay, Assistant to the Orchestra Personnel Manager
    Angelina Collins, Accounting Manager
    Anne McGuire, Assistant Manager, Corporate Initiatives and Research
    Anthony Fogg, Artistic Administrator and Director of Tanglewood
    Arthur Ryan, Box Office Representative
    Barbara Hanson, Sr. Leadership Gifts Officer
    Bart Reidy, Director of Development
    Bernadette M. Horgan, Director of Public Relations
    Beth Mullins, Assistant Manager of Education and Community Engagement
    Brian Van Sickle, User Support Specialist
    Bridget P. Carr, Senior Archivist
    Bridget Sawyer-Revels, TMC Office Coordinator
    Bruce Huber, Assistant Carpenter/Roofer
    Bruce Peeples, Grounds Supervisor
    Caitlin Charnley, Donor Ticketing Associate
    Charles F. Cassell, Jr., Facilities Compliance & Training Coordinator
    Christopher Barberesi, Assistant Manager, Corporate Partnerships
    Christopher W. Ruigomez, Director of Concert Operations and Assistant Director of Tanglewood
    Claire Carr, Senior Manager of Education and Community Engagement
    Claudia Calmo-Ramirez, Custodian
    Claudia Veitch, Director BSO Business Partners
    Darlene White, Manager of Berkshire Education and Community Engagement
    David Chandler Winn, Associate Director of Tanglewood Ticketing
    Dennis Alves, Director of Artistic Planning
    Desmond Boland, Custodian
    Diane Cataudella, Associate Director, Donor Relations
    Doreen Reis, Advertising Manager
    Drew Schweppe, Major Gifts Coordinator
    Eleanor Hayes McGourty, Assistant Director of Program Publications
    Ellen Highstein, Tanglewood Music Center Director
    Emilio Gonzalez, Manager of Education and Community Engagement
    Emily Diaz, Assistant Manager, Gift Processing
    Emily Fritz-Endres, Executive Assistant to the Director of Development
    Emily Reynolds, Assistant Director, Development Information Systems
    Emily Siders, Concert Operations Administrator
    Erik Johnson, Chorus Manager
    Erin Asbury, Manager of Volunteer Services
    Errol Smart, Custodian
    Evan Mehler, Budget Manager
    Fallyn Girard, Tanglewood Facilities Coordinator
    Fran Rogers, Major Gifts Officer
    Gaho Boniface Wahi, Custodian
    Gary Wallen, Associate Director for Scheduling and Production
    Greg Ragnio, Subscriptions Representative
    Gretchen Borzi, Associate Director of Marketing
    H. R. Costa, Technical Director
    Heather Mullin, Human Resources Manager
    Helen N. H. Brady, Director of Group Sales
    Himanshu Vakil, Associate Director of Internet and Security Technologies
    Israel Cuba, Infrastructure Engineer
    Jake Moerschel, Technical Supervisor/Assistant Stage Manager
    James Gribaudo, Function Manager
    James Jackson, Assistant Director, Telephone Outreach
    Jane Esterquest, Box Office Administrator
    Jason Lyon, Box Office Manager
    Jennifer Johnston, Graphic Designer/Print Production Manager
    Jennifer Roosa Williams, Director of Development Research and Information Systems
    Jessica Schmidt, Director of Education and Community Engagement
    Jill Ng, Director of Planned Giving and Senior Major Gifts Officer
    Jim Boudreau, Lead Electrician
    Johanna Pittman, Grant Writer
    John Demick, Stage Manager
    John MacRae, Director of Principal and Major Gifts
    John Morin, Stage Technician
    John O’Callaghan, Payroll Supervisor
    Jon Doyle, Graphic Designer
    Julie G. Moerschel, Executive Assistant to the Managing Director
    Julien Buckmire, Custodian/Set-up Coordinator
    Karen Guy, Accounts Payable Supervisor
    Karen Leopardi, Associate Director for Faculty
    Karol Krajewski, Infrastructure Systems Manager
    Katherine Laveway, Major Gifts Coordinator
    Kathleen Pendleton, Assistant Manager, Development Events and Volunteer Services
    Kathleen Sambuco, Associate Director of Human Resources
    Kevin Toler, Art Director
    Kim Noltemy, Chief Operating and Communications Officer
    Kristie Chan, Chorus and Orchestra Management Assistant
    Kyla Ainsworth, Donor Acknowledgment and Research Coordinator
    Kyle Ronayne, Director of Events Administration
    Landal Milton, Lead Custodian
    Laura Hill, Annual Funds Coordinator, Friends Program
    Laura Schneider, Internet Marketing Manager and Front End Lead
    Laurence E. Oberwager, Director of Tanglewood Business Partners
    Leah G. Monder, Operations Manager
    Lenore Camassar, Associate Manager, SymphonyCharge
    Leslie Antoniel, Leadership Gifts Officer
    Leslie Kwan, Associate Director, Marketing, Promotions and Events
    Luciano Silva, Manager of Venue Rentals and Events Administration
    Lucy Song, Accounts Payable Assistant
    Maggie Rascoe, Annual Funds Coordinator
    Maggie Zhong, Senior Endowment Accountant
    Marc Mandel, Director of Program Publications
    Mario Rossi, Staff Accountant
    Marion Gardner-Saxe, Director of Human Resources
    Mark C. Rawson, Stage Technician
    Mark Paskind, Assistant Manager of Planned Giving
    Mark Volpe, Managing Director
    Mary E. Thomson, Director of Corporate Initiatives
    Mary Ludwig, Manager, Corporate Sponsor Relations
    Maurice Garofoli, Electrician
    Meaghan O’Rourke, Internet Marketing and Social Media Manager
    Megan Cokely, Group Sales Manager
    Mia Schultz, Director of Investment Operations and Compliance
    Michael Finlan, Telephone Systems Manager
    Michael Frazier, Carpenter
    Michael Miller, Director of Ticketing
    Michael Moore, Associate Director of Internet Marketing and Digital Analytics
    Michael Nock, Associate Director for Student Affairs
    Michelle Meacham, Subscriptions Representative
    Minnie Kwon, Payroll Associate
    Nadine Biss, Assistant Manager, Development Communications
    Natasa Vucetic, Controller
    Nia Patterson, Sr. Accounts Payable Assistant
    Nicholas Vincent, Assistant Box Office Manager
    Nick Squire, Recording Engineer
    Nina Jung, Director of Board, Donor & Volunteer Engagement
    Paul Ginocchio, Manager, Symphony Shop and Tanglewood Glass House
    Peter J. Rossi, Symphony Hall Facilities Manager
    Peter Socha, Buildings Supervisor
    Ray F. Wellbaum, Orchestra Manager
    Richard Drumm, Mechanic
    Richard Sizensky, Access Coordinator/Symphony Charge Representative
    Richard Subrizio, Director of Development Communications
    Richard Yung, IT Services Manager
    Robert Barnes, Director of Facilities
    Robert Kirzinger, Assistant Director of Program Publications-Editorial
    Robert Lahart, Director of Tanglewood Facilities
    Robert Sistare, Senior Subscriptions Representative
    Roberta Kennedy, Buyer for Symphony Hall and Tanglewood
    Ronnie McKinley, Ticket Exchange Coordinator
    Rudolph Lewis, Assistant Lead Custodian
    Ryan Losey, Director of Foundation and Government Relations
    Samuel Brewer, Public Relations Associate
    Sandra Lemerise, Painter
    Sarah J. Harrington, Director of Planning and Budgeting
    Sarah L. Manoog, Director of Marketing
    Sarah Radcliffe-Marrs, Manager of Artists Services
    Shawn Wilder, Mailroom Clerk
    Sid Guidicianne, Front of House Manager
    Sophia Bennett, Staff Accountant
    Stella Easland, Telephone Systems Coordinator
    Stephanie Baker, Assistant Director, Campaign Planning and Administration
    Stephen Curley, Crew
    Steven Harper, HVAC Technician
    Susan Coombs, SymphonyCharge Coordinator
    Susan Grosel, Director of Annual Funds and Donor Relations
    Susan Olson, Human Resources Representative
    Suzanne Page, Major Gifts Officer
    Szeman Tse, Assistant Director, Development Research
    Taryn Lott, Senior Public Relations Associate
    Teresa Wang, Staff Accountant
    Thomas D. May, Chief Financial Officer
    Thomas Davenport, Carpenter
    Thomas Linehan, Beranek Room Host
    Thomas Vigna, Group Sales and Marketing Associate
    Timothy James, Director of Information Technology
    Tuaha Khan, Stage Technician
    Vincenzo Natale, Chauffeur/Valet
    Wei Jing Saw, Assistant Manager of Artistic Administration
    Yong-Hee Silver, Senior Major Gifts Officer

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Goodness! So many more flaks than musicians.

      • Olassus says:

        Of course, they have Tanglewood to manage, so that accounts for a number of positions. What impresses me is that, when people say classical music is “dead” in America, you have a robust organization like this. I guess William Osborne’s frequent observation is correct: the health is in the big cities.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Slightly reminiscent of something from the “The Compassionate Society” of Yes Minister; a hospital with 500 administrators but no medical staff nor patients.

        • Christy says:

          I don’t understand. The Berkshire Eagle reported that Tanglewood had something like 400,000 tickets sold. I would not call that ‘no patients.’ This, of course, does not include the BSO season, nor the Boston Pops season, nor the Esplanade Orchestra, which must add a good chunk more. My family and I (yes, young children) regularly attend the Holiday Pops, which runs for almost two months. Every performance I have been to has been sold out. Perhaps instead of criticizing the BSO we should be asking ourselves how they do so well?

          • Max Grimm says:

            The 500 administrators and no patients bit was about the episode of said series, not the BSO. I’m well aware of the BSO’s prosperity and happen to like the orchestra. The thing I don’t care for too much are people who ignore or break rules and then complain about the consequences after getting caught.

    • Dave Fox says:

      Nice cut/paste/sort, but the listing is for “Staff & Administration”, and a quick look at the titles shows that these are not all administrators, or “flaks”. I’m rather impressed that they list stage technicians, electricians and mailroom clerks. It’s good for team building, and most organizations that size wouldn’t even think of recognizing these positions on their web page.

      Of course, now they will have to add more “flaks” in “Child Assessor” positions to conduct extensive interviews and evaluations of every under-five child to determine which ones are sufficiently well-behaved to be admitted to concerts and rehearsals.

  • V.Lind says:

    Surely some of these are part-time positions? I notice they have a grant-writer. That function is usually one of several for a member of the communications staff, as is responsibility for programmes. Either these are part-time or too many people are hanging about too much with not enough to do.

  • Halldor says:

    Many of these do look like part-time positions (and why shouldn’t part-time staff be acknowledged? Part-time musicians – harps, bass clarinets, tubas, percussionists, etc – always are). Given that the BSO apparently runs Boston Symphony Hall, Tanglewood, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and the orchestra, they’re effectively running two major venues plus two substantial symphonic ensembles, as well as chamber music and outreach programmes.

    173 staff seems like a fairly reasonable number to be doing all that – quite lean, in fact. Though if you count the membership of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (and again, why wouldn’t you?) musicians massively outnumber administrators in the organisation as a whole.

    • Gerhard says:

      Sorry to say, but you seem to have not much insight in orchestras concluding from the way you speak of “harps, bass clarinets, tubas, percussionists, etc” as “part-time musicians”. My orchestra regularly needs more subs in the percussion than in any other section. And while harp and tuba players may have a more uneven workload than most of their colleagues because it depends on the scheduled repertoire, they are fully employed in every professional orchestra I have ever known.

      • Halldor says:

        My point precisely. ‘Part-time’ staff are full-time members of the team. They all deserve equal recognition.

        • Gerhard says:

          Forgive me, but I still don’t get it why you claim for instance that a bass clarinet player on a full time contract, doing exactly the same number of services as everybody else in his section, is only a “part-time musician”. It is nice that you concede him or her to be a “full-time member of the team” nevertheless, but this whole distinction doesn’t seem to make any sense.

    • Steven Ledbetter says:

      In addition to the musical ensembles you mention, the BSO also has the Bostono Pops and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, adding to the programming, booking, fundraising, and other administrative issues. it is, as I undertand it, the largest orchestral organization in the world.
      Some years ago the BSO management decided that it was worth given recognition to everyone who worked in Symphony Hall, recognizing that electricians and stage crew do work that is just as essential (and often more difficult) than that of administratore, fund raisers, publicity personel and the like. It stries me as a valuable and truly American gesture.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Next platform for fame: Baby Ohki Instagwams Fwum Michelin-Starred Restawants.

  • Eric says:

    Just because infants came in in the 1970s and 1980s, doesn’t mean that a) they had the same policy as they do now or b) that they had any policy at all. I think it’s fair for BSO to review in light of this.

  • Gerald Elias says:

    Infants don’t need to go to a concert. They can listen to music at home or go to a kiddie concert somewhere. It’s not going to ruin their future potential as musical geniuses to not go to a Boston Symphony dress rehearsal. Parents who bring infants to concerts are inconsiderate of the musicians and the audience around them. Most infants and children under five get fidgety (at best) at concerts after ten minutes, whether it’s the Moldau or Mahler. And what do most parents do when that happens? They pretend they’re not there, ruining the experience for everyone else for the next hour-and-fifty-minutes. That’s why there’s the rule.
    And yes, it applies to everyone, believe it or not even if you yourself are a musician or the child of a musician or the parent of a future musician.
    Furthermore, it was a rehearsal. Work needs to get done in preparation for a concert that thousands of other people are going to pay a lot of money to listen to. The musicians don’t need distractions. And when you’re kicked out once, please don’t complain when you’re kicked out a second time. Use it as a learning moment.
    It’s not going to decrease audience numbers to prohibit babies from going to the Symphony. In fact, it would probably decrease attendance if they ARE allowed because a lot of people might prefer to stay home and listen to great music in peace or go out to dinner.
    Now, just in case you think I’m a schmuck for having this opinion, when my own children were toddlers, I TOOK THEM TO CONCERTS. For example, they sat in the front row of a performance I played of the Brahms Piano Quintet at the Gardner Museum when they were three and four years old. And you know why I allowed them to go? 1) I knew they would behave, and 2) THE HOUSE RULES PERMITTED IT.
    By all means, well-behaved children should be allowed to concerts. If they start acting up, though, the parents should remove them immediately. If they don’t, the ushers should. Likewise, those children who, in their 40s and 50s, who never grow up and can’t resist texting or playing video games during a concert should likewise be kicked out. Everyone is not entitled to everything.

  • Richard says:

    Children, babies at concerts are not a serious discussion. The kid-oriented culture has gone way too far. I knew it when I was in a bar in Brooklyn after midnight and a guy was drinking with a baby strapped to his chest.
    The bar had put up a sign weeks before saying “we love kids and hope you bring them here, but after 8pm this is an adult bar.” There was a revolt and the Park Slope people made the bar take down the sign!!!!

    As for the BSO, you expect them to be progressive on any front? Yes they have almost 200 admin people but that’s 800 less than the Met Opera and yet the BSO has more money that the Met?

    Gear some programs to kids? How about gear some programs to people under 85! They have so much money in fact that they have become untethered from any sort of obligation to fill the hall or program to the taste of the public.

    As for the “Pops”, evidently their concept of popular music repertoire is the kind of stuff which you could hear on Mom and Dad’s Victrola in 1958.


    • Mark Henriksen says:

      Symphony orchestras obviously do try to program to the tastes of the public. Maybe its not what you prefer but they obviously look to maximize attendance through programming. What do you believe they should program to “fill the hall”? Every orchestra executive director would like to know your suggestions.

  • Rom says:

    I know that if I go to either a concert or rehearsal (assuming I’m paying something) I don’t expect to have an infant or small child whose behavior could interfere with my being there to enjoy the sounds. So, make clear to ALL if small children or infants are allowed so I can avoid those events, or go if I want to bring my grandchild; but make clear ahead of time.

    It sounds like the BSO was doing this at the rehearsal being discussed; so if infants are not allowed, don’t bring one.

  • jim says:

    I’m all for exposing young children to music of all kinds, but if this is the only way this mother can think of to expose her child to music then the real problem here is her lack of imagination and not the BSO’s policy. It’s been my observation that what an entitled parent views as acceptable behavior from a child is often experienced quite differently by other people in the immediate vicinity and it seems pretty clear from reading this woman’s post that she has little regard for either the rules or consideration for the right of the other audience members to enjoy the performance undisturbed. Apparently the lesson she wants to teach her child is that rules are for other people. If I was running Symphony Hall she would be banned from the hall with or without her child.

    I would also like to put in a word for the Symphony Hall staff who have been unfairly maligned in some of these comments. I have been attending concerts in Symphony Hall since arriving in Boston as a college freshman in 1969 and I have never been treated with anything other than consideration by any of the staff or ushers. Those who have had problems have probably been kindred spirits to this woman – entitled people who feel violated when somebody tells them “no.” If the staff reacted aggressively towards this woman it seems clear from her post that her behavior left them without other options.

  • Scott Fields says:

    And still not a peep from BSO about their jack-booted thugs gleefully enforcing discriminatory, anti-pet policies.