Family Life

To the Parents Who Leave the School Concert Early

It’s holiday concert season again. All the “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman” you can handle (and more)!

My kids and all their classmates have been practicing for their concert for weeks. Like a lot of parents, I’ve listened patiently through dozens of run throughs of the same Christmas carols over and over again the past few days.

Finally, after all the rehearsals, tonight was the night. The girls got out their fancy holiday dresses, and I did their hair. Since it was a special event, Tee got to wear a hint of blush and some lip gloss, and Kay got to wear one of my necklaces. They were both so excited!

Hubby and I were running late but managed to squeak into the gym just before the first class walked onto the stage. It was standing room only so we scooched into the back with the other parents who had arrived too late to snag a folding chair and got ready to stand for the next hour.

First up were the 5-year-olds singing “Little Snowflake.” You know that one, right?

Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake.
Falling, falling, falling, falling, falling,
falling, falling, falling, falling…
falling on my head.

We all clapped appreciatively, but before the applause was even over, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to let the couple behind me get by, then someone else, and then a stream of parents walking past me, down the aisle, and out the door. As the next class was filing on the stage and getting ready to sing “Frosty the Snowman”, they continued leaving from all over the gymnasium. At least 30 parents walked out.

At first I was confused. Did they know something I didn’t? Were they going to pick up their kids and bring them back? As far as I knew, all the kids were being supervised by their teachers until the concert was over. I looked around and saw they were carrying their coats, umbrellas, bags, and purses.


These parents weren’t coming back. They’d come to see their child sing, and now that their child was done, they were leaving.

Seriously? When did this become okay? Maybe I’m being too blunt here, but it was rude and self-centred and disrespectful to all the kids who had worked so hard on their performances.

I understand that some parents really do have a good reason to leave early. Perhaps you or your child has special needs. Maybe the dog is sick and you need to get home right away. Maybe your baby is too fussy to stay any longer. I get it. I know there are lots of possible circumstances why some couldn’t stay an extra 30 minutes to watch and clap for the other kids. (Please remember, we’re not talking about a three-hour commitment here. The entire thing from beginning to end was less than an hour.)

But I doubt all the parents leaving had reasons like that though. Most of them had simply seen what they’d come to see and just didn’t feel like sticking around to watch anyone else’s kids stumble through some more Christmas carols.

Was I really looking forward to yet another version of “Winter Wonderland” where half the kids had forgotten the words, and the other half had forgotten the tune? Probably not. But there’s a social agreement when it comes to school concerts. We sit and listen and clap for your kid, and you’re supposed to do the same for everyone else’s.

As each class finished their song, parents continued to leave, usually walking out during the next class’ performance. By the end of the 50 minute concert, only about half of the audience was left. My 8-year-old daughter’s class went last, and she noticed. She noticed that the gym had been full to bursting at the start and was now half empty. She noticed all the empty seats. She told me she watched people walking out while she was on stage, and it hurt her feelings.

Later on, as we cuddled before bed, she whispered to me that she’d felt like crying, but wasn’t I proud that she’d tried really hard to stay focused on her song instead? It broke my heart.

To those parents and grandparents who stayed all the way to the end, thank you.

To those who didn’t stay, next time I hope you’ll do things differently. It’s not even an hour. Is it really too much to give up 45 minutes once a year so the other children don’t feel snubbed like that? Wouldn’t you want us to do the same for your child?

And if you really do have to leave early, then for the love of Pete stand near the exit door so you can go quietly and unobtrusively. Don’t sit in the middle of the row and make everyone stand up to let you through while the next group of kids is trying to sing their song as they watch you walk out.

Next year, it could be your kid who’s last to go on the stage. Even if my kids are finished, I promise to stay and clap for yours, and I hope all the other parents do too.

Leave a Comment


  • It’s really sad that this happens all the time now – skating/dance/school/etc. My daughter’s concert was earlier this week. It was fantastic. Her class was first, but we stayed to the end, even with two squirmy 4-year olds asking after each act if it was over yet. For the most part, everyone stayed. And those that did leave were pretty respectful about it. I feel bad for your little one. 🙁

  • That’s inexcusable! We have never left any activity or performance early! Through all the band concerts, dance shows, Christmas concerts, year end assemblies, we have sat through them all in their entirety! I can’t imagine what is more pressing or important these days than being there in the moment. These years really do go fast so we need to cherish them while they are here! In addition, that time spent “back stage” is important time for them to bond and enjoy their friends in a non class setting. There’s less and less schools actually doing holiday and/or Christmas concerts so we should enjoy them!

  • This seems to be a current trend and I really wonder what happened to respect and common courtesy. This is so incredibly rude to the children who are performing. I know our school doesn’t do concerts at all and I wonder if part of it has to do with this. When they did a dance performance last year the email that was sent out stated in bold that parents and families would be expected to stay until the end and not to leave as soon as their child was finished. That statement I thought seemed odd, but the more I see and hear, it seems to the current trend.

  • i was just telling my oldest about this, that he can’t just up and leave once his sister was done. It’s just plain rude…

  • How totally disrespectful, rude and self-centered. The children of those parents will also grow up to be the same, or even worse than, their parents. We all do things that are expected of us, and that is life. Those parents are doing their children a big dis-service, to be a self-absorbed person.

  • That is so sad. I always make a point of staying for the whole concert and clapping as hard for all the other kids as I did my own (and I still do). I just recently went to my son’s (highschool) winter concert. He is in jazz band which played last. There were 2 other bands before him but I enjoyed them as much as his group. When my kids were little I was lucky enough to go to every single Christmas concert and I enjoyed every minute of every concert.

  • Oh my gosh,my heart hurts for your daughter.This same thing happens at my daughter’s dance recitals and my son’s band concerts and it makes me so mad.Unless there’s an emergency then please everyone just sit and enjoy what these kids worked so hard on.

  • This is heartbreaking! I hate it when I see people hurting our children… and as a mom, how can we not be empathetic to other moms and their children? I am so sorry for your daughter – that was awful.

  • It’s so much a problem that our school announces at the beginning that students will not be released from their classes till the concert is done. Your right of course there are extenuating circumstances some time but unfortunately most is just selfish behaviour.

  • This is terrible! The music teacher could possibly take control of this situation and create a big final number with all of the kids. That way everyone would be finished at the same time!

    • I am a music teacher. We have a finale that includes the whole school every year. Makes no difference. And whichever class is last on the program – those parents aren’t embarrassed at all to tell me that they are upset about it.

      • Hi, I’m another Julie and a retired band director. You have to be a positive ogre these days to get people to do the right things. My beginner concerts were no more than 30 minutes in length. I would have parents show up LATE with their kid then get upset that they missed part of the concert or that the concert was too short! Doesn’t matter that there were handbooks with the schedule and times which they had to sign saying they agreed to abide by the band policies, didn’t matter that letters went home, that email blasts and school phone blasts went out, didn’t matter we had a Facebook page with the information—parents come and go as they please. And don’t get me started on the ones that didn’t bother to show up for their kid’s FIRST band concert and we waited on them to pick their kid up afterwards.

  • I get your point, but this seems a bit over the top? It’s a privilege to get to be in you and your child’s position in the first place. Rich country, good school, attentive family.

    • I am normally quite good at understanding other people’s views, but this is simply inexcusable. Just because there are worse problems in the world doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about this one. We can and must be concerned about both. Courtesy and respect are extremely important to our society. Further, this is indicative of greater problems, such as overcommitment and self-centeredness.

        • First let’s see the reality. Her child’s feelings were hurt. Therefore let’s write an article about how awful the other people are. In some ways the article is as self centered as the people she writes about.
          The reality is those people were there just to hear their kids, not make everyone feel good.
          Was it rude? Sure. Is it the end of the world? No. Kids tend to feed off of parent’s emotions. They are learning. If you treat it as not the worst thing, they won’t either.
          It probably could have been handled with a “Yes it’s too bad more people couldn’t stay. They missed out” and then go get some Ice Cream to celebrate a great concert.
          In a world where there is poverty and need, maybe some perspective is needed

        • It’s funny that you’re attempting to advocate for courtesy and respect by supporting LG’s point while making assumptions about Hannah’s behavior. You know what they say about assuming, right?

    • Hannah, as a mom-of-two, I completely agree. Not desirable but there are worse things out there! Sounds like yet another parent who didn’t learn to manage their expectations, yet another emerging trend.

    • Hannah, as a mom-of-two, I completely agree. Not desirable but there are worse things out there! Sounds like yet another parent who didn’t learn to manage their expectations, yet another emerging trend.

  • Obviously this is totally different but it reminded me of the time my aunt came to watch me in a school concert and she had to leave early because she had gone into labour. She’d had my cousin less than two hours later ? (if there’s ever a genuine reason that’s it), but I do agree it’s horrible when you see lots of people walking out when you’ve worked so hard on your performance :/

  • I’m not sure what time your children’s concert is, but every year our school’s concert is midday. The majority of us have to fight with our employer just to get an extended lunch break. So while I get your point…please realize the majority of us are fight just to show up for our kids! There hace been 3 years that my kids didn’t see my face. It seems everyone makes a big stink about everything these days. I was once a kid who participated in an annual school concert, but concert times and content have changed since we were kids. Before being quick on this subject, maybe take a moment to think that those who are most likely leaving were feeling lucky to have made it there in the first place!

    • Nikki, anyone would be understanding with a midday concert during the week. However, most school performances are in the evening, and she clarified in the article that she understands occasionally someone has another event to get to. That is not the case for such large numbers though. Even if it was (it’s not), that is indicative of another serious problem in our society, over commitment and excessive busyness. 🙁 this isn’t some new thing that a person decided to make an issue of, it is something that didn’t used to be an issue but is now an epidemic.

      • Interesting . . .Never in my whole teaching career did we only have a midday concert. It was decided to accommodate parents and their busy schedules, so we always had an evening concert, as well as an afternoon performance.

    • The author was clear that this was in the evening. Teachers do this once a year so that the vast majority of parents can attend in the evening. They volunteer their time to supervise the kids and have to figure out what to do with their own children during this time

  • I’m a grandma who has been to many, many, many Christmas concerts, ice skating shows, band concerts, winterguard shows for my children and grandchildren. I would never, never leave until the show was over. Maybe turn up a little late as for the grandchildren we would be coming in from out of town, and you know what the traffic can be. By the way I’m Jewish and still went to the Christmas concerts (now called winter concerts for a reason I can’t fathom). I love Christmas songs and carols, maybe not the words but definitely the tunes.

  • Other parents could have written the same article about you. “I was just about to watch my child sing, when people were still entering the gym. I mean, seriously? They had practiced for weeks and now parents were noisily unfolding chairs and opening and closing the loud gym doors.”

    People have places to be. I imagine many of these parents are taking time out of their workday to see their child perform. Perhaps they only had enough time to get there early, wait for the concert to start before rushing off to work again.

    So though it’s annoying to you, I’m sure these parents had as a good as reason to leave as you did to arrive late.

    • Eric, aside from my own children’s performances, I coach dance, and I witness this twice a year at our fine arts performances. Other commitments are definitely not the case for most people. Even if it was (it’s not), that would speak to the problem of overcommitment, which is a serious ill for our society these days.

      One of the many ways I can know that having other commitments is not the problem is that many of the parents who leave early from our concerts congregate in the lobby and socialize for the next half hour, which is just the utter height of rudeness. They’ve shown they don’t care about the other performers, and that they don’t have somewhere to go because they sat there socializing outside the auditorium, and what’s worse, you can hear their loud conversations every time the auditorium door open with others leaving early. No excuse.

  • Sad reality is I get 10 vacation days a year, this represents all of my time away if the kids are sick, if there is a dentist/doctor appointment, time to spend with the kids during the holidays, field trips and school concerts etc. Concerts happen during school hours where my kids attend. While I would love to be able to stay for the whole show, my 80 hours off a year doesnt allow for it. Please dont judge, I am always respectful when I need to leave but simply cannot afford to stay.

  • And it’s not just the kids. I attended my niece’s university graduation last year, and yes, it was a three-hour commitment, and yes, it was tedious at times, but not only did more than half of the audience leave, more than half of the grads were gone before the program was done! I’ve seen a lot of graduation ceremonies and I had NEVER witnessed this before. Honestly, I figure if you can’t spend the morning or afternoon celebrating with the grads/students, just get the video. I can’t imagine how disheartening it must be to look out into all that emptiness when you saw it full at the start.

  • We have gotten so busy and selfish of our time that we can’t stop and smell the Rose’s anymore. Appreciated this well written article.

  • Can’t speak for other people but having been the one who had a child in one school and step child across town both with concerts at the same time on more than one occasion, and at other times an employer that would not grant time for more than 30 min to slip in and out at a specific time and that was all I had to give, I would say it’s a good chance to teach adults not to judge others and children not to assume that everyone is doing their best and that what others do is because of them.

    • I was the music teacher who did my own concert and had kids at three other schools, plus extracurricular dancing and choral, and managed to see them all while working full time. No judgement . . .i am now retired but flew back from Las Vegas to see the adult children sing and my daughter do her school concert. There is no excuse for bad manners.

    • I was just going to say the same thing! As a single parent, I missed a lot of my child’s activities and felt honored to be at those I could attend! She’s right, there were probably a few there to see only their child and left, but there are so many other things that can be the reason for leaving! Medical reasons that keep a person from being able to sit or stand for an hour or maybe they could only leave their live-in parent for a few minutes…The list could go on and on, but as rude as she and others think leaving is, judging others is up on that list to! If a child is upset with this, teach them not to judge and know they were ever so lucky to at least have their family there!

  • I am a retired music teacher, and the concert was always my big project. I quite often did it with no budget, at my family’s expense, pulling them in when I needed their help. My daughter now teaches music and audience etiquette has gotten worse and a staff uses every trick possible to make people stay to the end. A whole school finale only works if seating capacity allows.

  • WTF? No one in our school does that. Talk to your principal. That should never happen. Our principal sent out an email to parents before the concert telling them they had to stay for the whole 1hr concert or don’t come. The kids all went to their classrooms before the concert and the principal reminded the parents that they needed to stay for the entire concert for all the kids. Kids would be returning to their classrooms until the entire concert was over. This last concert. No one was rude enough to leave.

  • I have to disagree. It’s Socially acceptable to leave during. Just a small thing you could teach her is, to not perform for others but for herself and those most important to her. Your child may have been upset, but I’m positive not all kids feel the same.

    • Sorry…you are really not correct. There may have been SOME that had a good reason to duck out before the end of a less than 1 hour performance in the evening, but 30 all at once? Enough that there was a noticeable difference to the performers? I teach middle school band and orchestra, and my message to my kids is “we don’t do that here.” One child told me her dad didn’t come because he didn’t want to sit for an hour. It is not socially acceptable. It is, for the vast majority, a display of selfish, rude behavior.

    • I don’t disagree about the rudeness of only being present for your own child, and my daughter used to do three hour open mic on the regular – but I do think the way to teach your kids happiness is for them to find the intrinsic joy in the performance and not focus on the size of the audience.

  • It’s up to the teacher to set the expectation that no one leaves until the whole thing is over. This is what I do at my school and I don’t have a problem with this. Having a designated area for all the children to sit during the performance is also crucial. Children are not released to their parents until the whole concert is over. And I make sure it’s less than an hour every time. Each group must watch all of the others. It’s especially important for the young ones to watch the older ones.

  • When I was a kid I always was angling for a way that I could leave early myself.
    Also I never noticed who was or was not at any of my performances.

    But then I was biased as I did not really ever want to be there myself, specially once I hit middle school.

  • I was at a middle school choir concert last week. There were two small ensembles singing while the larger choirs changed places. I bet 70+ parents walked out while the ensembles were singing! Broke my heart for them. Also confirmed my belief that much of the disrespect that I see from students in school (I’m a substitute teacher) is simply what they have learned at home.

  • As a retired music teacher this always u pop set me too. Our solution was to have everyone perform a song together as the finale. Sadly, some still took their child and left early

  • I’m a middle school music teacher, and when I opened this article, I was prepared for it to be a tirade about “how dare we music teacher’s steal an evening from families during the holiday season”, because we do get a lot of that… so thank you so much for saying how important it is to the kids to have an audience! Because they work so hard, and you are right, they do notice! Thank you!

  • I am an elementary music teacher and this happens ALL.THE.TIME. This and the fact that the audience seems to think we’re a lounge act they have to compete with in their conversations. Even after reminders before and during the program and written in the program! Only 1 more year to endure this. Then maybe I’ll volunteer to be the bouncer.

  • Hi,I’m a music teacher and I try so hard to communicate this to my students and ask them to explain to their parents that they are expected to stay to listen to the other students’ part of the concert. I think that making an announcement in advance makes a difference, but there are some parents who honestly don’t care that it is rude and hurtful. Thanks for this article, because I believe it is becoming the norm and that people now think it is ok to be this selfish and thoughtless. In general, parents seem to be teaching their children to be sure to get THEIR turn or THEIR share, but not anything about actually thinking of others. I find it very discouraging, and if I were back in public school, I would send an announcement that everyone is expected to stay for the whole concert, unless there is a family emergency, which would actually mean that the child wouldn’t be there to do their bit in the first place. If I were a teacher with a class that had grades for the students, I would let the parents know that their child’s grade would be affected if they left before the end of the concert, unless they received special permission. Another thing to try is to have everyone perform for the last number in the concert together. So sad that this is even an issue–who goes to a concert and leaves after their favorite performer is done, without hearing the end of the concert?? Ugh, I feel so bad for the kids who are cheated out of a good audience by parents’ selfishness.

  • Speaking as someone who had a LOT of concerts and performances growing up and as someone who now sits in the audience to watch my nephew, let me just say people need some lessons in performance etiquette. If you were at a professional performance would you get up in the middle of a song and leave? My high school chorus director talked to us before every performance about what was expected of us, as audience members. We would file in to the auditorium after our performance and sit quietly, watching the other groups perform. We were not to whisper and giggle with each other and if we had to leave our seat we were to wait until a song was over and leave as unobtrusively as possible during the applause. When we returned we were to wait at the door until the song being played was over and then return to our seats during the applause. If he caught anyone being disrespectful there would be hell to pay the next day in class. We were never yelled at in class the next day. If high schoolers, with their hormones and self-importance, can be good audience members, surely parents can, too. They just need to be taught, apparently!

  • As a former music teacher, It’s the teacher’s fault.
    What you do, is prepare a “finale”, in which ALL groups/grades participate,
    so everyone must stay for everything!

  • LOL – you do what you want, I’m NOT staying to watch your kid sing a damn song. I have shit to do, I’m going to go do that. All of you who are huffy & calling those who leave rude, grow up & get your head out if your ass!

  • My daughter is a high school chorus teacher and we travel round trip 3 hours Several times a year to watch her students perform and support & encourage her and her endeavors! She is the oldest of my 4 children, and her siblings understand the importance of being there for each other! She typically has one big concert each season to correspond with the grading quarters, but they also have numerous opportunities to go to competitions and community events throughout the year. So much work goes into the preparation, especially with rehearsals that often occur outside of the regular classroom time. I have gotten to know many of her students and these kids have made this class a priority because they love to sing.i am a huge supporter of the arts in schools because of the value that it adds to the world. I don’t think that’s people stop to think of how drab our world would be without it…but if a child never got a chance to learn to play instruments or exercised their ability to sing or draw or dance or act we would all be deprived of so much beauty! And often times the exposure to courses in school is what helps us identify our strengths and gifts that will shape our lives and allow us to pursue our dreams and passions.

  • As a retired elementary music teacher I had all students participate in the last song so parents would stay until the end. Worst than leaving early are the parents that drop their kids off for the program AND DON’T STAY FOR THE PROGRAM! They also forget to come back to pick them up. I would call them, wait with the child and frequently drive them home!

  • Before all the music teachers/fans get all holier than thou…..this goes on in Sports too. My son’s team just won the State Championships with an undefeated season. Unless the weather was bad, most of the fans would stay through the games (although some would leave due to a blowout), but the BAND families would leave as soon as halftime is over.

    The downside to musical presentations in schools….they are agonizing. What you think is cute with you kid is annoying to other parents. This is why we stopped participating in these type of after school affairs long ago, the kids hate them and parents hate them….was just easier for to enjoy time as a family.

  • Well said. Nice example these parents are sending their children. People are down Right rude. And true there are extenuating circumstances but I’ve been to way too many shows and have seen them leave In droves. In all fairness concerts should not run more than an hour. It’s a lot for older people, families with smaller children amd others that have things to do. That being said here’s a thought.
    How about schools start ending ALL SHOWS with a grand finale in which all singers and band members must perform. Problem solved!!! I know Some schools will not let parents sign their children out until the concert is over. Still people leave and go outside and play on social media and Choke down a few cigarettes! We should continue doing the right thing and hope some people snap out of it and stop belthat time is more valuable then everyone else’s. Thanks for sharing

  • Im a music teacher. I have concerts. We stagger 3 groups across 3 hrs. This prevents parents leaving early, and gives parents plenty of parking and plenty of places to sit.
    The audacity of some teachers who brag about “having standing room only” at their concerts is appalling to me.
    Parents are busier than ever.
    No, they should not leave early.
    But we, as teachers, can help too.

  • I am a music teacher in South Dakota. I have seen this time and again, and this is why I do a very short concert, and the last song is an “all groups” number. Then no one can leave until the end. It forces everyone to stay and support the other groups performing.

  • Thank you for pointing out this ‘faux pas’ to today’s parents and grandparents. A performance is a performance and if one would not walk out in the middle of a concert in an upscale concert hall, they should not do so for a small concert of blossoming performers!

  • I’m in my 30th year of teaching music and this has been a problem since the beginning. When I first started at my previous position 20 years ago, I was appalled at how rudely the audience acted. We called them “shopping mall” concerts because it was similar to performing in a mall with constant traffic and noise. We quickly discovered that we have to educate the audience as well as the students about concert/performance etiquette, but it’s still an issue. We’ve always done combined numbers at the end, but there are still parents who think that doesn’t count. How can the kids have a clue if the parents don’t?

  • As a retired music teacher I appreciate your comments. I would never by choice have each grade level performing at any concert and especially not at a December concert. I do know that some administrations require this kind of concert but I think it is ill advised. These parents who leave probably aren’t going to change. So, if I were you I would find out from the music teacher if this is a requirement for the concert. If it isn’t, suggest that it be handled by one or two grade levels and that they do a big combined number at the end. It’s probably difficult to have a combined number with all grade levels, but if it would work, this might help. You don’t actually indicate there is a music teacher involved so if there isn’t, please become proactive and speak to your principal or head of school. Usually they quite enjoy having a lot of parents at the school but may not realize the effect the dwindling audience is having on some of the students.

  • I agree it is unthoughtful and rude to hurt a child’s feelings that way. It is only 60 minutes out of your daily route to sit patiently and respectfully until the program is finished. Thank you.

  • Unfortunately it happens everywhere. I would have no qualms about bringing it to the schools attention and asking that they send a note to parents. Then I would make sure I spoke to some parents asking if they saw people leaving, even some that left pretending I didn’t know they left and being sure to say it was really rude and the kids noticed. But that’s just me. If the school and parents allow this behavior to continue it will and nothing will change. Plus, when their kids become parents in the future they will continue the behavior they were exposed to thinking it’s totally OK. People need to speak up.

  • I am the parent of an elementary school music teacher. I still go to his concerts. I do not have a child or grandchild in the school, but still stay and enjoy all those little ones. I am appalled at the amount of people who leave.
    It is 45 minutes out of your day.
    They all practiced, and all deserve your attention. Not just yours.