New to the Symphony?

What To Know Beforehand

The music will speak for itself. Just come and enjoy!

Over time, many frequent concertgoers do find their enjoyment is deeper if they prepare for a concert. This can be simple, like reading the program notes beforehand (they're posted on our website); or it can be more involved, like listening to recordings of the music to be performed in the days before they attend a concert. Music Director, Julia Tai also does a pre-concert presentation one hour before showtime for most of our concerts (not for Holiday Pops or the Family Concert) that is free for ticket-holders. This interesting presentation, called Downbeat Lowdown, provides some back story on the concert, listening tips, and more!

You might recognize the music. Classical music is all around us: in commercials, movie soundtracks, television themes, cartoons, retail shops, and even some elevators! 


There is no dress code! Anything that makes you feel comfortable is fine. You'll see everything from jeans with a nice shirt to cocktail dresses and suits. Some people enjoy dressing up and making a special night of it, and you can, too. It's Missoula – anything goes!

When To Arrive

Plan to arrive 20-30  minutes before concert time, so you can find parking, find your seat, grab a beverage, turn off your cell phone, talk to people you know and have a glance through the program book.

There’s another good reason to come early: Most concerts start on time. If you're late, you may end up listening from the lobby! If that happens, the usher will allow you inside during a suitable pause in the program, so your arrival won't disturb other concertgoers.

Concert Length

It varies, but most orchestra concerts are about 90 minutes long, with an intermission at the halfway point. Very often there will be several pieces on the concert; but occasionally there is one single work played straight through. It’s a good idea to take a look at the program before the concert to get an idea of what to expect.


No one ­­wants to clap in the "wrong" place.

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.

After the orchestra tunes, the conductor (and possibly a soloist) will come onstage. Everyone claps to welcome them, too.

Then everything settles down and the music begins. Just listen and enjoy! The audience doesn't usually applaud again until the end of each piece.

In general, musicians and your fellow listeners prefer not to hear applause during the pauses between these movements, so they can concentrate on the progress from one movement to the next. Symphonies and concertos have a momentum that builds from the beginning to the end, through all their movements, and applause can "break the mood," especially when a movement ends quietly. Sometimes, though, the audience just can't restrain itself, and you'll hear a smattering of applause—or a lot of it—during the pause before the next movement. It's perfectly OK to join in if you enjoyed the music, too.

What if you lose track, and aren't sure whether the piece is truly over? One clue is to watch the conductor. Usually, s/he/they won't relax between movements, but keep hands raised; the attention of the musicians will remain on the conductor. If in any doubt, it's always safe to wait and follow what the rest of the audience does!

At the end of the piece, it's time to let yourself go and let the musicians know how you felt about their playing. There's no need to restrain yourself. If you enjoyed what you heard, you can yell "Brava!" too.

Cell Phones

Please turn all cellphones to mute or off!


Audio or video recording of our concerts is not permitted at any time. And, please refrain from taking pictures during the concert – it is distracting to the performers and to your fellow audience members.


It's a short rest period for the musicians and conductor—once you see how much activity goes into a performance, you'll understand why they need a break!

Listening to music is also an intense activity (even if considerably less physical), and a break in the middle helps the audience concentrate better in the second half. Rarely, a concert will have no intermission because it would interrupt the flow of a long work.

Bringing Children

Generally, yes! However, it may depend on the concert and on the age of your kids. Many standard-length classical concerts can be unenjoyable for small children because they require an attention span that is difficult for youngsters to maintain. Our Saturday concerts begin at 7:30pm, and may stretch beyond "bedtime." Our Sunday matinees begin at 3:00 in the afternoon, which may be better for families.

You can always check with the Symphony office if you are unsure whether a particular concert is appropriate for young children. We may be able to recommend additional events we're presenting during the season that would be great for families looking to enjoy classical music together. When you do attend a symphony concert as a family, try to sit up close to the orchestra so your kids will have a good view of everything going on. Young children are especially intrigued by the many different instruments of the orchestra and the way they are played.

Our annual Family Concert is a terrific way to introduce kids to the world of symphonic music! Every season brings a new, family-oriented concert theme, suitable for all ages. 

Be sure to ask us about discounts for students, children and families!


Strings - violins (smallest, and highest in pitch), violas, cellos, and double basses (largest and 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 - the drums, bells, and other fascinating paraphernalia that are struck, plucked, rubbed, etc. This includes the timpani (kettledrum,) the harp, and, on occasion, the piano. Some 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.

Learning More About Classical Music

You can read program notes online in advance of a concert, or in your seat before the concert begins. Most concerts are preceded by our 1/2 hour talks with Music Director Julia Tai - Downbeat Lowdown. These free discussions are both enlightening and entertaining. Sometimes the conductor or soloist even talks about the music during the concert.

Aside from our resources, Google and YouTube are great tools for folks looking to learn more about classical music in preparation for their time at the Symphony. You can also find the repertoire for each concert on our website.

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