All the questions you ever had before going to the Symphony...and some of our Answers to help you feel more at ease.

What is concert Etiquette?

Symphonic music can be bold and dramatic, or it can be wistful and soft. In all cases, if you can keep noise to a minimum, you will make your experience the best it can be, for you and everyone around you.

You are encouraged to:

  • Not to talk during the performance
  • Silence all cell phones and anything else with an on/off switch
  • Try to refrain from coughing during quiet musical passages for the respect of the musicians

When am I supposed to Clap?

At the beginning of the concert, the concertmaster will come onstage. The audience claps as a welcome, and as a sign of appreciation to all the musicians. Next the orchestra will tune and the conductor (and possibly the soloist) will walk on stage. Everyone claps to welcome them, too. This is also a good moment to make sure your program is open, so you can see the names of the pieces that will be played and their order.

In most classical concerts—unlike jazz or pop—the audience rarely applauds during the music. They wait until the end of each piece, then let loose with their applause. But this can be a little tricky, because many pieces seem to end several times—in other words, they have several pauses or parts called "movements." These are listed in your program (indented under the title of each work).

In general, musicians and your fellow listeners prefer not to hear applause during the pauses (movements), so they can concentrate on the progress from one movement to the next. Symphonies and concertos have a sort of momentum that builds from the very first note to the very last, through all their movements, and applause can "break the mood," especially when a movement ends quietly. Sometimes, though, the audience just can't hold back, and you'll hear a smattering of applause—or a lot of it—during the pause before the next movement. It's perfectly OK to join in if you enjoyed the music, too!

What if you lose track, and aren't sure whether the piece is truly over?

One clue is to watch the conductor. Usually, he won't relax between movements, but keep hands raised; the attention of the musicians will remain on the conductor. If in any doubt, it's always safe and sometimes easier to wait and follow what the rest of the audience does!

At the end of the piece, it's time to let yourself go and let the musicians know how you felt about their playing. Many pieces end "big"—and you won't have any doubt of what to do when! Some end very quietly, and then you'll see the conductor's hands raised for a few seconds at the end, to "hold the mood." Then the hands will drop, someone will clap or yell "Bravo!"—and that's your cue. There's no need to restrain yourself. If you enjoyed what you heard, you can yell "Bravo!" too.

If I'm late or I have to leave...

If you arrive late to the concert, the ushers will not allow you to be seated until a convenient break in the music. As a courtesy to the orchestra and other audience members, please remain seated throughout the performance. If you need leave for any reason and return, you will not be seated again until a convenient break in the music. Again, out of respect for your fellow audience members!

What to expect at the concert?

I have never been to a Symphony concert before. What should I expect?

Expectations at the Symphony vary, there just so many. For some it's a romantic night out, for others it may be a night to enjoy some of their favorite music, and still for others it might be a night of firsts, to learn about what an orchestra is all about. The truth is, experiencing classical music is a very personal thing and not one experience is right or wrong. We want you to be comfortable in every experience!

One thing is certain, expect to enjoy yourself! Let go of any preconceptions you may have about classical music or the "Symphony experience". If you feel a little nervous or out of place at first, that's OK, don't give up! Some things about the concert may seem strange because they're new to you, but if you just focus on the music, you'll have a great time. And don't be afraid to close your eyes from time-to-time to really feel the music. Allow the concert to effect you the way it feels right. No one will tell you any differently.

Open yourself to the music. Let it trigger your emotions—maybe even memories.
Sometimes people play back pictures or places they have been in their head while listening, almost like a movie sound track.
Feel the rhythms; follow the tunes. Watch the musicians and the conductor, and see how they interact with each other. Notice how the music moves along—surging and powerful at some times, delicate and fragile at others, and everything in between.

How long will the concert be?

It varies, but most classical concerts are about 90 minutes long, usually with a 15-minute intermission at the halfway point. Very often there are several pieces on the concert; but sometimes there is one single work played straight through. It's a good idea to take a look at the program before the concert to get an idea of what to expect.

Should I arrive early?

Absolutely! Plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before concert time, or if you want show up at 6:45 PM at selected concerts for our Pre Concert Chat with our Music Director and hear about the "ins and outs" of the music on the concert. Who knows, you may learn something really interesting or just have a better understanding of the music. By coming early you can coat check, find your seat, turn off your cell phone, take a look at your surroundings, absorb the atmosphere, and have time to glance through the program book, too. You won't be alone. Most concertgoers make a point of coming early to read the program notes, or just watch the orchestra warm up.

What can I wear to the concert?

We are happy to say that we do not have a dress code at the Symphony, although most people opt for business attire or business casual. This time is for you, and we want you to be comfortable. Whether you wear bejeweled rings or nose rings, everyone is welcome at our concerts. Some people enjoy dressing up and making a special night of it, and you can, too. Contrary to the stereotype, evening gowns and tuxedos are pretty rare unless you've bought tickets for a fancy gala. All that we care about is that you are being exposed to the music, whether it is in your best dress or suit or if it's in a pair of jeans, we want you to be a part of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra experience!

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