Newcomers’ Guide to the Charlotte Symphony

Attending a Symphony concert for the first time shouldn't be intimidating! See below for answers to some frequently asked questions.


  • What is a symphony orchestra?
    • A symphony orchestra is a large ensemble of players of musical instruments arranged in four sections: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. Instruments you will see in these sections consist of violins, violas, cellos, double basses, and harps; flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons; trumpets, French horns, trombones, and tubas; and timpani, snare drums, bass drums, xylophones, and many others. You can learn about the musicians in each section by visiting our Musicians page.
  • Do I need to have studied music or played an instrument to enjoy classical music?
    • No! Think of classical music as any other art, which comes from and appeals to the human experience. Don't worry if you don't know the history behind the music or what tonality means. Just be open to the sounds you will hear. Close your eyes, block out distractions, and just listen.

      If you want to learn more about the works you hear, read the program notes in the concert program, listen to a recording the day before the concert, attend the pre-concert talks before concerts, or stay after the concert and ask the conductor and soloists questions. 
  • When do I clap?
    • Generally during a classical music concert the audience applauds when the entire piece is over, not at the end of a movement. To determine the number of movements, check the program and note the length of the piece. Another hint is to watch the conductor: When the baton goes down by his or her side, the piece is finished. 
  • What's with all the other clapping at the beginning of the concert?
    • In a symphony orchestra, the leader of the violin section is called the concertmaster. Often the concertmaster stays backstage until the concert is about to begin. He or she then enters and bows to the audience and the audience welcomes the concertmaster with applause. He or she then turns to the orchestra, plays a tuning note, and the musicians tune their instruments. The conductor then enters, shakes the concertmaster's hand, and bows to the audience as the audience claps. He or she then takes to the podium, raises the baton, and the music begins.
  • What should I wear?
    • There is no formal dress code; you will see people in everything from jeans and T-shirts to tuxedoes and cocktail dresses. Dress how you feel most comfortable! Often, people dress up a bit more for Classical serires concerts and are more casual for Pops and altsounds. 
  • What happens if I arrive late?
    • As a courtesy to all patrons, latecomers will not be seated until the first appropriate pause in the music. Please try to arrive at least 30 minutes before the concert to avoid having to wait to sit. 
  • Are refreshments available and may I bring drinks or food into the theater?
    • Yes, refreshments are available for purchase in each lobby before the performance and at intermission. Currently, you may bring purchased drinks into Pops and altsounds concerts. Food is not allowed inside the theaters.
  • Do I have to turn off my phone?
    • Please be sure your phone and other electronic devices are silenced.  If you are in a profession that requires you to be on-call, you may leave your electronic device at coat check and ask an usher come get you if necessary. Video is prohibited, but no-flash photography is permitted.
  • Where should I park?
  • What if I've misplaced my tickets?
    • Call 704.972.2000 in advance of the concert and we will reprint your tickets for you or leave them in Will Call at the theater. If you lose them on your way to the concert, don't panic! We can write you a seating pass to enter the theater.
  • What about accessibility services?
    • We are committed to serving all patrons. Visit our Accessibility page for more information.