Symphony 101

A Guide for New & Returning Concertgoers

If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re about to join us for a concert soon – which is great! We want to make sure people who are new to classical music (and symphony veterans, too!) have a fanastic experience at our concerts. If you have a question that’s not answered here, please send us a message and we’ll get back to you with an answer as quickly as possible.

What’s Covered in this Post

  • What to Wear to the Symphony
  • When to Clap at the Symphony
  • How Long is the Concert?
  • Can I Use My Phone at the Concert?
  • Can I Bring My Kids to the Concert?

What do I wear?

Anything that makes you feel comfortable is perfectly fine. There is no official dress code, and you’ll usually see guests wearing everything from jeans and a comfortable button-down to a coat and tie or cocktail dress. Most guests opt for business attire or business casual. Others prefer to make a special night of it and dress up, and still others go for something more laid back. The only people wearing tuxedos will be the musicians on the stage.

When do I clap?

Clapping at an orchestra concert can often feel like an impenetrable social convention, like a secret handshake or something you need a decoder ring to understand. Don’t fret! It’s actually pretty straightforward…

The Easy Part

At the beginning of every concert, two things usually happen and you’ll always want to clap for them:

  • Concertmaster enters, you clap. The Concertmaster will begin to tune the orchestra after acknowledging your applause, and you can stop clapping when the tuning starts.
  • Conductor enters, you clap. The conductor usually invites the whole orchestra to stand, acknowledges your applause, and then turns their back to the audience to begin the concert. When they turn their back to you, stop clapping.

The Clapping Conundrum

In the earlier days of classical music (think 1700s), audiences were actually kind of rowdy; they’d clap, talk, and even shout during the performance. Sometime in the 20th Century, this convention changed and it became the norm to only applaud at the very end of each piece – and never in between movements. So what should you do?

We encourage the audience to clap when you are moved to do so! It’s perfectly fine to clap in between movements if you enjoyed the music, or you can hold your applause for the very end of each piece.

A Note to Frequent Attenders

If you’re a seasoned concertgoer who feels moved to clap only at the very end of each piece, and never in between movements, that’s great – the orchestra is happy to hear your applause whenever and however you give it!

However, we ask that you please be gracious to other attendees – especially newcomers – who might feel differently than you. It can be rather unwelcoming to correct someone or glare because they broke your rule about clapping in between movements. Be glad that your fellow, clap-happy concertgoers are supporting the arts!

How long is the concert?

Concerts vary in length depending on the program, but typically clock in around 90-100 minutes. Most concerts start with a shorter work or overture about 10 minutes or so in length. That’s usually followed by a concerto (a piece for soloist and orchestra, pronounced “con-CHAIR-toe”) which lasts 20-30 minutes. After intermission is often a performance of a full symphony with multiple movements, totaling 50-ish minutes. This isn’t always the concert format, but it gives a good idea of what you can usually expect.

Can I use my phone during the concert?

Patrons are welcome to use their phones before and after the concert, and we encourage folks to post about their experience on social media – please @ us and use #elmhurstsymphony.

However, during the actual performance of the music itself, we encourage patrons to switch their phones off, to disconnect and unplug, and to focus on the music. Please make sure your phone is off completely or on silent during the performance, and please do not record the concert from your phone – stay with us in the moment.

Can I bring my kids to concerts?

The Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra welcomes children of all ages, and invites parents to use their discretion to determine the age-appropriateness of our performances based on time of day and programming. For help or clarification, please contact us.