With all the amazing entertainment options that Seattle offers, we're ecstatic that you're thinking of attending an SFO concert! Making sure that you have a great experience is our utmost priority. The players can definitely sense when an audience is engaged and having fun, and it really increases the energy level. So we want to ensure that nothing gets in the way of that.
This guide (or list of FAQs more like) was created to answer common questions people often have before coming. If you want to know something not listed, shoot us an email or find us on Facebook!
How long are the concerts?
About an hour and a half for the traditional Sunday concerts; less for the family-friendly concerts.
What's the difference between the General and Family Friendly concerts?
A family friendly concert is shorter in length (a piece may be cut and/or pieces shortened), but includes a slightly longer intermission. The intermission features an instrument "petting zoo" where our musicians will demonstrate instruments and even let you try playing one! We also hand out different programs at the family-friendly concerts, with kids' activities included. Lastly, the family-friendly venue has a convenient "cry room" for kids/babies that need a break, complete with nursing chairs, toys, a bathroom, and a window looking toward the stage so you can still watch/hear the concert.
What should I wear?
The average is probably smart casual, but anything from jeans/t-shirt/sneakers to suits will fit in fine. Black tie would be overdoing it. The important thing is that you’re comfortable!
Where should I sit?
Anywhere! We don’t assign seats -- you can sit wherever you like. Seats in the middle and near the front strike a good balance in getting the best acoustic and visual experience.
How can I prepare?
Some people like to just show up and be surprised! Others find they enjoy the music better if they already know something about it (or have heard it already). On this site, you'll find Wikipedia is conveniently linked for all pieces. Additionally we really try to craft our concert blurbs to be both informative and entertaining.
When do I clap?
Sigh, this should be simple, shouldn't it -- clap or cheer when you feel particularly moved by the music to express what you're feeling, even if it's in the middle of a piece! This was how it was in the early days of classical music, but at some point things changed so that one must politely clap only at the absolute end of a piece (after all movements have concluded). This can be pretty awkward when, as is often the case, the first movement of a symphony or concerto ends really dramatically only to be greeted by silence (or coughing).
At SFO, we invite you to applaud whenever you feel moved to do so, as long as you're comfortable with it. If you're more timid and don't like making noise when no one else is, the safe bet is to wait until the conductor turns around to face the audience.
What about phones?
Surprise! We actually don't mind if you keep your phones on to share your experience on social media or to tell your friends where you are and what you're doing. Please do keep them on silent (even vibrate can be heard when all is quiet) and turn off the flash for pictures - the players will really appreciate it. Also, it’s best to be discreet with any phone activity to avoid distracting other audience members too much.
Why you and not the Seattle Symphony?
The Seattle Symphony is the premier regional orchestra. They're professional, and they're the best. We encourage you to attend their performances (we often do ourselves)!
A community orchestra like SFO provides a different experience in some ways. We often invite talented local youth soloists to play concertos with us. Some of these kids are embarking on a journey to become professional musicians, and it's fascinating to hear their playing so early on. Sometimes, we invite members of the Nathan Hale High School to join us. NHHS kindly allows us to use their music rooms to rehearse, and it’s always a blast to have them join us on stage. Also, it's worth noting that we rehearse much more for each set than a professional orchestra. So by performance time, the music has really become near and dear to us.
Lastly, playing in SFO is not a job -- the vast majority of members are not paid. We do it to see the visual effect of the music, feel the waves of sound, smile and laugh with our friends, and experience things inexplicably beautiful (or desolate) with others. Our concerts are a chance to share this with an audience, and we like to think there's something special about that.