Good to Go: Field Guides to the Arts for Parents

A Parents’ Field Guide to the Symphony

The basics for a harmonious outing

Before the Show

Here are some tips to minimize the fuss and maximize the fun of your concert-going experience.

Before you even leave home...

•  Look online. Check the venue’s Web site for educational material about the performance you are attending, including information about the composer(s), and/or orchestra and conductor.

•  Dress thoughtfully. No formal wear, but do dress nicely (Sunday best). To ward off air-co chill, bring sweaters or jackets.

•  Arrive early. Thirty minutes is ideal. Latecomers are usually not seated until intermission. If you have time, let your kids explore the venue. Hit the bathroom before taking your seats.

•  Turn off, tune in. Switch off your electronic devices, then make sure your kids have turned off theirs. Warn them not to text-message or take photographs during the performance.    

•  Bone up. Study the program with your kids. Make note of which pieces have more than one movement (symphonies and concertos, for example). Play “I spy” with instruments or other items on the stage.

•  Don’t miss this opportunity! Before and after family-friendly concerts, many symphonies offer hands-on musical activities for kids. Children can watch demonstrations by orchestra members, play interactive games, or try out instruments on their own. Be sure to check your venue’s Web site for details about these special programs.

During the Show

Once the show begins and music fills the air, remember...

•  Don’t snore! Or talk, text, eat or drink. In short, model good behavior for your kids.

•  Do clap! But follow concert etiquette. For orchestras, clap when the concertmaster, or first violinist, appears onstage, then when the conductor appears. If a piece has more than one movement, applaud only after the last movement. Don’t clap in between movements, even if there is silence. The conductor will signal the end of a piece by lowering fully his or her hands.  

At Home

Deepen your concert-going experience through discussion and at-home activities.

•  IMHO. Urge your kids to share their impressions of the concert. Which pieces did they most enjoy? How did each piece make them feel? Did the pieces remind them of other types of music? If they heard story music like Peter and the Wolf discuss how the characters were represented musically.

•  Compare and contrast. Listen to recordings (available online or at your public library) of the show’s music with your kids. Discuss differences in how each orchestra or group performed the pieces.

•  Make memories. Create a play scrapbook or journal. Paste in ticket stubs, programs, photographs, autographs, etc. Include comments and impressions.




Amy Dunkleberger
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Doug Cooney

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