It’s treating yourself and your friends or family to a delightful evening or afternoon that is focused on a world-class musical performance. Our Concertgoer’s Guide offers you everything you need to plan a great experience with the Stamford Symphony.

Concert FAQs

I don’t know anything about classical music. What will I get out of a concert?

The Stamford Symphony’s audience includes many inveterate concertgoers who know music well and come to the symphony specifically to appreciate the composers’ skill and the performers’ artistry. But many who are less familiar with classical music come for other reasons and enjoy the concerts just as much. They may come to learn more, or to be entertained. Some find a spiritual quality in a classical concert, while others find the music therapeutic, even healing, especially in stressful times. Others attend the symphony as a personal reward, or to rediscover a comfortable ritual. Going to a concert can also be a social occasion, a chance to enjoy an activity with friends and family. Whatever your reason for attending a concert, the thing to remember is that no special knowledge is necessary. The Stamford Symphony is accessible, convenient, open, and user-friendly. Whether you are invited or come on your own, just sit back, relax, and let yourself go where the music takes you.

Can I bring my children to a concert?

The Stamford Symphony welcomes children, particularly since introducing them to classical music at an early age often helps them develop a deeper appreciation of music. Concerts can be a great experience for those who are studying an instrument or voice. Tickets to Stamford Symphony’s HARMAN Orchestra Classics Series on Sunday afternoons are free for anyone under 18, one free ticket per accompanying adult. Admission to our pre-concert MusiKids program is included.

What should I wear to a concert?

There is no particular dress code. People dress seasonally and comfortably, much as they would to go to a good restaurant. You don’t have to take your cue from the musicians’ formal wear, which is part of the nineteenth-century tradition attached to what we call “classical music” today.

What happens at a Stamford Symphony concert?

Spectacular sound. Emotional thrills. More specifically, a typical concert lasts about two hours, usually with a 20-minute intermission. An hour before the beginning of each concert, the conductor discusses the program and the music in a Behind the Baton talk from the stage. If you come just to the concert, try to arrive about 20 minutes early to find your seat and look through the program notes. Concerts start promptly, and it’s best not to be late, because you won’t be seated until there is a break in the music.

When should I applaud?

Audiences applaud for two reasons: to welcome the musicians on stage and to express appreciation for their performance. In the minutes before the concert begins, the members of the orchestra drift onstage, take their seats, and tune their instruments. When the lights dim, the concertmaster, who is the principal first violinist, enters the stage. The audience welcomes her with applause and then listens as she gives the other musicians a note for a final ensemble tuning. Then the conductor appears, usually accompanied by any soloists who may be performing. There is more applause. Then the conductor lifts his baton, and the concert begins. Some works, like symphonies or concerti, have several sections, or movements, with short silences between them. Don’t applaud then, but wait until the end of the complete work. Looking through the printed program will tell you how many movements are in each work being performed. If you’re still not sure what to do, take your cue from the rest of the audience. At the end of each half of the concert, your applause tells the conductor, soloists, and members of the orchestra how much you have enjoyed their performances. It is polite to stay in your seat until all the performers have left the stage.

What can I do to prepare myself for a concert?

For a preview of what the orchestra will play at the concert you are attending, please see the program notes, available here on the Stamford Symphony’s web site. You can read about the works being performed and their composers, and even listen to excerpts from the music.

To learn more about the music, you are always welcome to attend Music Director Eckart Preu’s Behind the Baton lectures, which are held one hour before each HARMAN Orchestra Classics concert in the Palace Theatre.

There are a number of references that provide more general information. Here are a few examples:

  • Classical Music for Dummies by David Pogue, Scott Speck, and Glenn Dicterow, For Dummies Publishing, Book and CD edition, 1997.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music by Robert Sherman and Philip Seldon, Alpha Books, 1997.
  • Classical Music 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Classical Music by Fred Plotkin, Hyperion Press, 2002.
  • When Do I Clap? A Slightly Irreverent Guide to Classical Music and Concert Hall Conduct by Fairfield County resident and New York Times journalist Valerie Cruice, Two Bytes Publishing company, 1997.
  • How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, a multimedia course published by The Teaching Company, taught by Robert Greenberg.

What is there to look at?

The musicians. The conductor. The concert hall. The audience. The printed program (if you don’t rustle the pages too much). Going to a live classical concert is not like most entertainment that today’s audiences are accustomed to. Everyone has become more visual since the invention of television, let alone MTV. A classical concert will stimulate a different sense, your hearing, and it can also appeal to your mind and your emotions, if you let the music push your thinking and your feelings where they want to go.

Why do tickets cost so much?

It all comes down to quality and scarcity. The Stamford Symphony is the only fully professional orchestra in southern Connecticut. When the Stamford Symphony’s musicians aren’t playing with the orchestra in Stamford, they play with such ensembles as the orchestras of Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Not surprisingly, the cost of bringing all of these musicians to play in Stamford is reflected in ticket prices. You won’t hear such consistently beautiful sound unless you go to New York, but it takes longer to get there, and your tickets will cost even more.

What about wheelchair access?

The Stamford Symphony is delighted to accommodate audience members who require wheelchair access on the orchestra level of the theater. Just remember to mention your needs to the box office when you order tickets, or call Patron Services at 203 325 1407, x 10, on weekdays between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Glossary of Terms

If a movement title or musical term has you stumped, visit the comprehensive glossary of musical terms at