A friend and I recently talked about the obstacles orchestras face in building audience. One of them is the perception that classical music concerts have mysterious special rules, and going to a concert is like traveling to a foreign country. Well, no one needs a visa to visit a concert hall. Anyone who has attended a ticketed event already knows the first step in the concert experience.
Concert Information: Orchestras and other classical music performers want the public to ask them for concert information. They advertise in newspapers, magazines, on the radio and online. Nowadays, it’d be strange if they didn’t have a website with everything you ever wanted to know about who they are, what they do, and a listing of concerts and an opportunity to buy tickets right there. Call the orchestra’s ticket office and request a brochure. Stop in at the box office and pick up a brochure from those displayed.
Which concert, or will I like the music? If you’ve never been to a classical music concert but you want to go, you’re halfway to liking the music. If you want to try it out, it’s possible to check out CDs from the library, or download classical music cheaply. If you’ve enjoyed the original music at a movie, you’ve heard classical music. You may be surprised how familiar it actually is, since it’s been used in TV commercials, movies, TV shows, cartoons, and in stores. Ask a friend who loves classical music to tell you about it.
The vocabulary could be intimidating. For example, what’s a symphony? A concerto? What do conductors do? Why are there soloists for some music and not for others? If you want to do some research to familiarize yourself with classical music and its forms, check out a good music appreciation book from your library or buy one. A quick Google search brought up lots of possibilities, including: Classical Music for Dummies, The Enjoyment of Music by Kristine Forney and Joseph Machlis (my recommendation), Music Appreciation by Roger Kamien, and How to Listen to Great Music by Robert Greenberg. Or you can just start by listening to the music.
What would I recommend as a starting point? I think Beethoven’s music is actually a wonderful place to start, or Mozart’s music, Brahms’ music, Rachmaninoff’s and Copland’s. Look for concerts that include these composers on their programs. If you don’t want to dive in right away, try a pops program or a family-oriented concert to help you acclimate to the concert-going experience at an orchestra’s concert hall.
Once you’ve chosen which concert, you need to think about which date, time, and how much you want to pay for the tickets. Classical concert tickets can range from $20 to $120, depending on the location of the seats and who’s performing on the program. There will be add-on fees! Expect a facilities fee for each ticket — this money helps with hall maintenance. There may be a processing fee if you buy your tickets online or call the ticket office. If you’d like to avoid a processing fee, go to the box office and buy the tickets in person. Be sure to ask if they have any discounts or special offers. Tell them you’re attending for the first time — maybe they have an introductory offer.
Buying the tickets: If you’ve bought tickets to a pop or rock concert, you’ll have no problem buying tickets to a classical music concert. Or to a sports event. The process is much the same. Most orchestras offer three options for buying tickets: online at their websites, calling the ticket office phone number, or visiting their box offices in person. The last two options give you a human who can help you with your seating choices. Online, you’ll see a seating plan of the concert hall. Follow the instructions for setting up your online account and buying the tickets. If you have questions, or run into difficulties online (this happens more often than orchestras would like), call the ticket office! They want you to buy the tickets you want, if they’re available, and will be eager to help.
Now you have your tickets, what next? Well, the concert. In Part 2, I’ll talk about how to attend a classical music concert and reveal the “special rules,” if any actually exist….