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First Timers' Guide

What should I wear?

There is no dress code for Cleveland Orchestra performances. For evening concerts, many patrons come from work in business-appropriate attire or dressed for a night out. For matinees, Family Concerts, and Fridays@7 concerts, some patrons dress a bit more casually.

When should I arrive?

Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the concert start time. This will give you enough time to park, find your seat, look over the printed program, and relax before the music begins. You may want to arrive earlier – to eat at Severance Restaurant, have a drink or snack at one of the lobby bars, or to attend the Concert Preview presented prior to many Cleveland Orchestra concerts.

For Family Concerts, many families enjoy arriving in time to participate in the pre-concert activities that begin one hour prior to the start of the concert. These activities include a hands-on instrument “Petting Zoo," story-telling related to the concert’s theme, and music-building games.

How do I find my seat?

Severance Hall has four levels with concert seating. Reinberger Chamber Hall is on the Street Level, while seating for the Concert Hall is accessed from the Orchestra Level, Box Level, Dress Circle, and Balcony Levels. There are staircases and elevators from the Street Level up to these levels. The Ticket Taker who takes your ticket at the door will be able to give you directions. If you need additional help, just ask any of the ushers as you enter the seating areas, or speak with any house staff wearing a badge.

How long will the concert run?

Orchestral concerts vary in length depending on the music being performed. Most concerts last between 90 minutes and two hours, including one intermission. Fridays@7 concerts last about 75 minutes with no intermission. Family Concerts and Friday Morning Matinees last about one hour.

How long is the intermission?

For Cleveland Orchestra performances, intermission generally runs twenty minutes. This may vary for certain kinds of performances. A bell will ring shortly before the end of intermission, so that you have enough time to return to your seat before the performance resumes.

When do I clap?

There are a few traditions that have developed as orchestral music has evolved over the centuries, including when to applaud. These days, audiences generally applaud to greet the performers and to show appreciation after a performance. Most people clap at the beginning of a concert when the concertmaster (the lead violinist) enters to tune the orchestra – this is in acknowledgement of the concertmaster and the entire orchestra – and then again when the conductor and any soloists come onstage. 

Once the music starts, there may be a brief pause between the movements, but people usually reserve their applause until after the final movement of each piece so that the performers and audience can maintain their focus. At the end of the work, the conductor will lower the baton all the way, signaling that the piece is over. At that point, applause is most welcome. You can also check the program book to see how many movements there are, so that you can keep track.

Do I need to know anything about the music before I come?

No. In fact, it can be a wonderful discovery to simply sit down and listen to whatever the orchestra plays. However, some people like to know a bit about the music before they hear it. For most Cleveland Orchestra concerts, Program Notes are provided with background information about the works, composers, and guest artists on the program. If you would like to read the Program Notes in advance, we also post them online, usually by Monday of the concert week.

For even more insight into the music, local and national experts lead our engaging Concert Previews one hour before most Cleveland Orchestra performances.

Find program notes, preconcert lectures or other information related to a performance by going to the event calendar. Hover over the performance you plan to attend, and click the “learn more” button. 

If you want to keep learning about music,consider attending our Music Study Groups, or explore even more in our Education and Community section.