Arts4All Blog

CSMA’s Guide to Concert Etiquette

Posted September 3rd, 2018  |  By A4A.admin

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Attending a formal concert can be many things: exhilarating, inspiring, relaxing, or energizing (among many others!). However, new audience members may find the experience to be intimidating and stressful due to the unspoken etiquette rules that seasoned concertgoers all seem to know! How do you know what to wear, when to clap, or when it’s ok to enter or exit the concert hall?

Up until approximately a hundred years ago, “classical” music concerts were not much different than today’s rock and pop concerts: crowds walked around, attendees spoke openly with their neighbors, and the environment was a bit more relaxed. Today, however, concertgoers are expected to abide by a few rules and, as a result, a little etiquette guidance can help remove any nerves the next time you attend the symphony, opera, or any of CSMA’s Community Concerts.

Easy Etiquette Tips:

1) Be on time! This rule applies to so many parts of our lives (work, school, etc.) and concert attendance is no different. Plan on arriving in plenty of time to find a parking spot, use the restroom, grab a program, find your seat, and prepare yourself for the experience before the concert officially begins. Most concert halls will only let late arrivals enter during a break between pieces or between parts of a program, so plan to arrive at least 15-20 minutes before the performance starts. If a concert doesn’t have assigned seating, you may want to arrive even earlier.
All CSMA Community Concerts are general admission with first-come, first-served seating. Doors open 30 minutes prior to the start of the concert.

2) Turn off your cell phone. This one is a no-brainer. No one wants to be the person whose cell phone goes off during a particularly moving moment. It takes a lot of concentration to perform and the smallest noises (even the slight vibrating of a cell phone!) can be incredibly distracting to the musicians. Also, most halls do not allow pictures or recordings, so go ahead and silence your device completely.


3) To clap or not to clap? Concertgoers should only clap at the end of pieces or, in some cases, where indicated in the program. Refrain from clapping between movements of a piece. If you’re unsure, take cues from those around you and you’ll quickly get the hang of it.

4) Don’t talk or sing/hum along with the music. See Tip #2: any source of noise is very distracting and can distract the performers or ruin the experience for other attendees. This goes for gum chewers as well!

5) Dress appropriately. Most concerts won’t require a certain dress code, but it’s always a good idea to dress the part! This also shows the performers that you respect their efforts, appreciate their art, and take the performance seriously.


6) Attend age-appropriate programming. CSMA firmly believes in Arts4All and encourages attendance by families and young concertgoers. Parents are encouraged to seek out family-friendly concerts (we offer many every year!) for their little ones. If your child has trouble enjoying the performance quietly, be courteous to your fellow attendees and calm him/her down outside of the concert hall or venue. At CSMA, children should be able to sit quietly through the entire performance, usually an hour in length. Most CSMA concerts are appropriate for ages seven and up.

7) Stay until the end of the concert. Yes, we know the Bay Area traffic is TERRIBLE. And yup, concert hall parking lots are often a mess after a show. But remember that each performer on stage has worked hard to prepare their music FOR YOU. Staying until the end means you appreciate their effort and hard work!


While all concertgoers should try to follow these common etiquette rules, it’s ok to mess up every once in a while. In fact, for musicians, a few hands clapping between movements is sometimes a gratifying experience, as it lets them know that they are reaching a new audience. Someone new has come to hear classical music and, at the end of the day, that’s what really matters!

Tags: music-school

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