Newcomer’s Guide / FAQ

Welcome to the Athens Symphony!  Let go of any concerns you might have about classical music or the concert experience. These answers to some frequently asked questions will help you plan your concert visit. . .

About the Orchestra

  • What is a symphony orchestra, exactly?

    A collection of about 90 musicians who play four types of instruments:

    • Strings — Violins (smallest, highest in pitch), violas, cellos, and double basses (largest, lowest in pitch).  These players sit in a semicircle directly in front of the conductor and make up more than half the orchestra.
    • Woodwinds — Flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and related instruments. These players sit a few rows back from the conductor, in the center of the orchestra.
    • Brass — Trumpets, horns, trombones, tubas, and similar instruments.  These instruments are the loudest, so you’ll see them at the back of the orchestra.
    • Percussion — Drums, bells, and other fascinating paraphernalia that are struck, plucked, rubbed, etc.  This includes kettledrums, the harp, and, on occasion, the piano.  Some musical works use lots of different percussion; others may have a single musician playing the kettledrums, or no percussion at all.  The percussion section is also found at the back of the orchestra.
  • Why are there more stringed instruments than anything else?

    The sound of an individual stringed instrument is softer than a brass or a woodwind instrument.  But in large numbers, stringed instruments make a magnificent, rich and full sound.

  • Who is the Concertmaster and what does she do?

    The concertmaster sits in the first chair of the first violins.  She acts as leader of that section, but also plays a leadership role for the orchestra as a whole.  She is also the last orchestra musician to enter the stage before a concert, and cues the principal oboist to “tune” the orchestra.

  • Why do all the musicians tune to the oboe?

    The penetrating tone of the oboe is easy for all players to hear, and its ability to sustain pitch is very secure.  The principal oboist plays the note “A,” and all the players make sure their “A” is exactly on the same pitch as the oboe’s.  This ensures all musicians agree about the tuning before the concert begins.

  • Do I need to know anything about classical music before I come?

    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 being performed or what “tonality” means.  Just be open to the sounds you will hear.  Close your eyes, block out distractions, and just listen.

  • Where can I learn more about the music being performed?

    If you’d like to study up beforehand, our program notes are published on this website four weeks before the Fall and Spring concerts.  They are also printed in our program handed out to concertgoers, so plan on being seated in time to read through them before we dim the lights.  You could also listen to a recording before the concert, or stay after the concert and ask the conductor and soloists questions.


  • Where and when do I get tickets?

    Tickets are available at the Classic Center’s Box Office beginning two weeks before a concert date.  The Box Office is located at 300 North Thomas Street in Athens and is open Monday-Friday from 10:00 to 6:00, and 9:00 to 1:00 on Saturday; closed Sunday. 

    Even though there is no charge for Symphony tickets, The Classic Center policy is that all patrons, regardless of age, are required to have a ticket to enter the Theatre and, for the Pops, the Grand Hall

    Go to our Plan Your Experience page for the dates tickets are available for each concert.

  • How do I get to the Classic Center? Where should I park?

    Go to our Plan Your Experience page for directions, maps, and parking information.

  • Should I arrive early?

    Absolutely! Plan to arrive at The Classic Center 20 minutes before concert time, so you can find your seat, mute your cell phone, absorb the atmosphere, and have time to glance through the program book too.  You won’t be alone. Most concertgoers make a point of coming early to read the program notes, or just watch the orchestra warm up.

  • How long does a concert last? Will there be an intermission?

    Concerts are usually 90 minutes long including a 15-minute intermission at the halfway point in the program.

  • What if I arrive late?

    Concerts begin promptly at the scheduled time and latecomers will be seated at a natural break in the music, guided by ushers.  If you must leave the hall during the performance, please do so quietly.  Re-entry while the concert is in progress is at the discretion and guidance of Classic Center Theatre ushers.

  • How do I find my seat?

    All tickets to Athens Symphony concerts at The Classic Center are unreserved open seating.

    Go to our Plan Your Experience page for a seating map of the Classic Center Theatre.

  • What about accessibility services?

    Accessible seating is available in The Classic Center Theatre.  In addition, for individuals with limited mobility, The Classic Center can provide a wheelchair to transport guests from the Main Lobby to their seats.  Upon arriving at the Theatre, please ask a Classic Center staff member or usher for assistance.  Please be aware, Classic Center personnel will not remain with the patron during the concert, nor will they allow the guest to remain in the wheelchair for the duration of the concert.

  • May I bring food or drinks into the theatre?

    Food and beverages purchased at the Theatre’s concessions can be taken into and consumed in any part of the Theatre, including the seating areas.  Food and drinks purchased outside the Classic Center Theatre are not allowed to be brought into the facility. 

    That does not apply for the Pops concerts, however, which are performed in The Classic Center’s Grand Hall, not the Theatre.  Pops concert-goers are encouraged to arrive early bringing their picnic dinners to enjoy before the concert at one of the 10-seat tables set up in the Grand Hall. 

At the Performance

  • What should I wear to a symphony performance?

    Most patrons dress in business casual, but there is no dress code.  Please feel free to wear whatever makes you comfortable.

  • Can I take pictures?

    Feel free to take still photos without a flash during the concert and share on the Symphony’s Facebook or Instagram sites.  We just ask that you stay mindful of your neighbors.

  • Can I take audio or video recordings?

    No. Due to copyright laws, audio and video recordings are strictly prohibited inside the concert hall.  Video recording includes video clips recorded on personal cameras, phones or tablets.

  • When do I clap?

    Applause is meant both as a welcome and a sign of appreciation for the musicians.  Just before the concert begins, and after all the other musicians are seated, the concertmaster takes the stage.  Traditionally, the audience applauds at this time to greet the concertmaster, and then again a few moments later to greet the conductor (and possibly a soloist).

    Many musical works have multiple movements or sections.  A short pause often follows each movement, and it is customary to not applaud during these pauses.  However, after the final movement of a work, applaud to your heart’s content! If in doubt, applaud with everyone else. 

  • Can I bring my children to concerts?

    Yes!  Our conductor, Susan Dinwiddie, encourages children in the audience for all concerts.  Of course, the Christmas concerts are the most popular for bringing children, but their attendance is appropriate for any concert.  We ask parents to be mindful of those seated nearby if the child becomes disruptive.

  • What should I do with my cellphone during concerts?

    Silence it! The same goes for pagers and alarm watches. It’s a good idea to double-check in the few minutes before the concert begins, and again as intermission draws to a close.  Texting and tweeting is very distracting for those around you, so please refrain! For doctors and emergency workers who are “on call”, please set pagers to the “silent” or vibrate setting.

  • And if I still have questions?

    Go to our Contact Us page and ask your question via email or a Facebook Message.