If you are a patron member of your local symphony, or if it is your obligatory duty to attend a concert just once a year, it is of utmost importance to help enhance the experience and not be an embarrassment to yourself and everyone around you without even knowing it.
Good concert etiquette helps both the audience have a wonderful musical experience and helps the musicians perform to the best of their ability.
Tips to remember before leaving home for the concert
Dress the part! Dressing up is more common for the classical and traditional symphonies and business attire is acceptable for the pop series. Check with your local symphony; different regions of the nation are more casual than others where casual dress is acceptable.
Babies and small children should be left with a caregiver. Think of the frustration of those who are trying to escape the chaos of life for a few hours only to find their seats are behind Kate, her date and her eight very young children.
It is best to check with your local symphony to find out if there is a certain age for children to attend. Also, most symphonies have children’s musical programs throughout the year.
Tips to remember when arriving at the concert hall
There is no “fashionably late” when you are attending the Symphony.
Turn off anything that beeps including your digital watch beep, cell phone, pager, and text toy. If you are so important that you must have your cell phone “on” then by all means place it on silent – not vibrate, which is called “manner mode,” and minimize the light on your display.
Tips to remember before entering the concert hall
If you have a pesky cough in your throat, make sure to take unwrapped cough drops with you. Many symphonies supply lozenges at their information table. Remember: You do not want the embarrassment of unwrapping cough drops in the middle of the concert.
One more thing: Hearing aids above a certain volume "whistle," creating ambient noise disturbing the audience and musicians. It is a good idea to check with your symphony to see if an alternative assisted listening device is available for the performance.
When entering a row, the etiquette rule is to enter facing the people in the row, in order not to put your backside to their face. This way you can look them in the eye and say excuse me if necessary. Note: If by chance you have to get up or move or any reason, wait until between selections when the audience is applauding.
Very important! Don't talk or whisper during a performance. Concert halls have excellent acoustics, and even a whisper can be heard a row or two away.
Applauding made simple
How to clap
The art of clapping- Remember, the appropriate way to clap is holding your hands slightly to your left and clapping small brisk claps. Never clap in front of your face. For a standing ovation – stand, lift your elbows high and slightly to the left, then clap small and briskly.
For whom to clap
Always clap at the entrance of the Concertmaster, any soloists, and the Conductor/Concert Maestro, at the end of each piece.
About the Concertmaster
This person is the First Chair Violinist and is second in command of the entire orchestra. 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.
About the Conductor/Maestro
: It is customary to applaud when the conductor first comes out on the stage. He or she will bow to acknowledge your applause and the concert will begin.
When to clap
Most classical works are broken down into parts called "movements." There is often a brief pause between each movement, almost like chapters in a book. The tradition in the concert hall is that applause should only occur when the work is finished and not in between movements.
To find out the number of movements in a particular piece, turn to the program page in your Playbill program. Applause should occur only after the last movement and the conductor has dropped his hands and has turned around to acknowledge the audience. Another way to tell is when the conductor turns around and smiles to the audience.
While some are fans of Mahler Symphony and others only look forward to the Pop Series the symphony should be experienced by everyone. Now that you know the basic protocol of the concert hall, you can experience the symphony with comfort and confidence – enjoy!
Joy Weaver is a renowned etiquette expert, speaker, and author of “Just Ask Joy… How to Be Socially Savvy in All Situations”—a book highly endorsed by Jean and Zig Ziglar. Joy represents designer Joseph Ribkoff and is a regular guest on ABC’s Good Morning Texas. Her clients vary in range from corporate giants such as Raytheon, Sprint and Balfour Construction to Junior Leagues and National Charity Leagues across the nation. Joy is nationally published and has been featured on ABC’s The View, in the Associated Press, New York Times, USA Today, Southern Living Magazine, Dallas Morning News, and The Dallas Business Journal. Protocol Enterprises/Just Ask Joy is based in Dallas and has served clients across the country since 2000. You can follow Joy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SociallySavvy and learn more at www.justaskjoy.com.