SYMPHONY 101: A Guide for New & Returning Concertgoers

If you're reading this, it probably means you're about to join us for a concert soon - which is great! We want to make sure people who are newer to classical music (and symphony veterans, too!) have a fantastic experience at our concerts. If you have a question that's not answered here, send us a message and we'll get back to you with an answer ASAP!


Lakeview Orchestra performs at The Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N Southport Ave) in the Lakeview Neighborhood of Chicago, IL. Learn more about the Athenaeum Theatre here, and view information about parking & directions here.


We want you to be comfortable when you join us for a concert, so you do you! Because our concerts take place on Tuesday evenings, lots of people come in after-work or business casual attire. What you won't see: Tuxedos - not even the orchestra wears them! If you'd like even more information on this topic, we'd recommend What To Wear To The Symphony by violinist Holly Mulcahy (who's appeared as a soloist with Lakeview Orchestra).


Concerts vary in length depending on the program, but typically clock in around 90-100 minutes. Most concerts start with a shorter work or overture about 10 minutes or so in length. That's usually followed by a concerto (a piece for soloist and orchestra, pronounced "con-chair-toe") which lasts 20-30 minutes. After intermission is often a performance of a full symphony with multiple movements, totaling 50-ish minutes. This isn't always the concert format, but it gives a good idea of what you can usually expect.


There are two parking lots adjacent to the Athenaeum Theatre. These parking lots use a Pay-and-Display system: $2 per hour, or $6 maximum until midnight. Metered street parking is available on Southport Ave and Lincoln Ave, and there is free, unrestricted street parking in the area west of Southport Ave. Arriving at the theatre early is your best bet to get a good parking spot! See these same suggestions, but with a cool map online here!


Controversy alert! This is one of the most hotly debated topics in classical music. In the early days of classical music (think 1700s) the audience was actually kind of rowdy; they'd clap, talk, and even shout during the performance! At some point in the 20th century, though, this changed and it became the norm to only applaud at the very end of a piece (and never in between movements). Here's what we think: If the music you've just heard moves you so much that you feel like applauding, do it! Bare in mind not every orchestra feels this way, so don't take our policy and apply it everywhere. We'd also recommend reading this informative and funny blog post by violinist Holly Mulcahy (who's appeared as a soloist with Lakeview Orchestra!): When To Clap At The Symphony


Similar to our answer about applauding above, we're a little different than lots of other orchestras when it comes to phones. What we DON'T like: Phones ringing or making noises during the concert, or your screen blowing up so much it might as well be a strobe light! What we DO like: People having fun and sharing that fun experience with others! So post selfies on Instagram (tag us, please!) and check in on Facebook (tag us, please!) - just do so silently and without disrupting the performance.


Going to the symphony for the first time can be an odd experience: You might see the timpani player sniffing his drums (he's actually not!), a French horn turned upside down and shaken (they're not mixing martinis in there - at least, we hope not!), and the first-chair violin player entering the stage WAY later than everyone else (this happens on purpose!). We recommend reading this edutaining blog by Holly Mulcahy (in case you couldn't tell, we love Holly - did we mention she's appeared as a soloist with Lakeview Orchestra in the past?!): Why Is The Timpani Player Smelling His Drums and seven other awesome questions from the audience.


What to do now?

Now that you’ve read through our handy guide, you’re a solid Level 1 Certified Symphony Orchestra Expert! Upgrade to a Level 2 by reading all about the composers and music we play in our Notes & Noteworthy section, or gain first-hand experience by coming to a concert!