Welcome! If you're reading this page, you're probably new to symphony orchestras, and hopefully you're thinking of joining us soon for a concert. We'd love that! We care a LOT about growing our audience and making sure people who are newer to classical music and/or orchestra concerts have a great experience so ultimately you come back again. Have a question that's not answered here? Send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or email, and we might even add the question to this list.
An FAQ Guide for Newcomers
Where do you perform, exactly?
The Santa Cruz Symphony is based in Santa Cruz County and we perform throughout the year at both the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium (affectionately called the Civic) and the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts at the Watsonville High School (affectionately called the Mello). We also perform recitals at the Samper Recital Hall at Cabrillo College.
What's a good seat?
We get asked this a lot. Some people like to sit close to the orchestra to really get a sense of what the musicians are doing, whereas others like the balcony so they can see the whole orchestra. At the Civic, the front few rows are the best if you like to get an up-close personal view, but most people prefer the center sections F, G & H. The higher you are, the more you can see, and the sound blends well up there too. However, some people like to sit on the sides to watch the conductor's face as he's leading the orchestra. At the Mello, the best seats are probably halfway back on the floor, and the mid-section of the balcony. All the seats are comfortable at the Mello, and there are definitely fewer stairs at the Mello as compared to the Civic. The Mello is more intimate (about 800 seats) whereas the Civic often has a more energetic feeling with its close to 1300 seats. Lastly, if there is a piano soloist performing, people like to sit more towards the left side of the house so they can see the pianist's hands as they perform.
What can I expect for price?
Prices range from $29 to $85 each. There are a few other helpful tips you should know as well:
The best deal comes when you don't wait until the very last minute to order tickets. Most of our concerts are at or near capacity, so whenever you see a concert you'd like to attend, you save by not waiting (and of course you have better seats to choose from as well).
Another way to save is to buy in bulk. This can be either in the form of season tickets, where you can purchase tickets for up to 15% off the single ticket prices, or in the form of group tickets for 10+ tickets, where you save 25%. can even come for free if your group is of a certain size.
If you're a student under 30 on a budget, be sure to bring your student ID and get any seat starting at $15.
What do I wear?!
More than anything, we want you to be comfortable when you join us for a concert, so dress in a way that works for you. Some people love dressing up and going out—if that's you, do it and you won't be the only one, we promise. If you prefer to be more casual, then you probably won't be the only one dressed casually, either. What you won't see a lot of is black tie - except on the stage. We are Santa Cruz County, after all, so come in your favorite clothes and you'll fit right in. In short, you do you, and we're just glad you're joining us.
How do I get a drink at the concert?
Wine and other drinks are available for purchase at the Civic in the lobby. And before our first concert of the season and the Pops (our last concert of the season), we hold street parties with food and drinks, including wine & beer, so you have a chance to eat and drink before the concert while listening to some fabulous music outside. (Because the Mello is at a High School, we are only able to sell water there.)
How can I study up before I go?
We try to make concerts self-containing, meaning at the performance itself you will learn a lot by reading the program notes in the program book. We also offer pre-concert talks at both venues an hour ahead of the concert. Additionally, sometimes the Maestro briefly introduces the pieces from the stage.
If you want to study up ahead of time, we have multiple ways to help you do that:
The pre-concert talks start one hour before the performance, is free to concert attendees, and lasts about 30 minutes, so you have a half hour between the talk and concert to get a drink, use the restroom, mingle, etc. The Civic talks are given by Don Adkins, a music professor at Cabrillo College. He also happens to be the person who writes our program notes. The Mello talks are given by Chris Pratorius, a music professor at UCSC. During the talks, the presenters covers topics such as things you should listen for during the performance, the historical context when the piece was written and information about the composer.
Listen to the music using the links on the concert pages. We try to pick the best recordings of the pieces the orchestra will be performing this season.
On each of the concert overview pages on this website, we've linked to each piece's respective Wikipedia entry, along with musical terms that you may or may not be familiar with. We want you to have access to the information as quickly as possible, so we hope you find this helpful.
How long is a concert?
Concerts vary in length depending on how long each piece is in the program, but usually range from about 100-120 minutes. A traditional program starts with an Overture followed by a soloist playing a Concerto, then a Symphony of three to four movements. However, Maestro Stewart likes to mix it up a bit. Sometimes there is only one piece on the first half. Sometimes there are two on both halves. And sometimes one piece will fill up the whole concert without an intermission. (Don't worry, we'll let you know if there's no intermission so you can be sure to go to the bathroom first!) We find that keeping our audiences on their toes is a good way to keep people awake and interested in what's going on. We list the approximate length of each piece on the concert page of our website, so this gives you an idea of what to expect, at least in terms of overall length of the concert.
When do I applaud?
This can be a controversial question, and here's why: In the early days of classical music the audience was rather rowdy—clapping, talking and even shouting during the performance. Then, at some point during the 20th century, this changed, and the social norm became to applaud only at the end of the piece and never between movements (in other words, clap at the end of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and stay silent during the breaks between movements 1 & 2, 2 & 3 and 3 & 4).
The trouble with this is, for people who don't know this unwritten rule about when to applaud, at every concert someone inevitably claps after the first movement and then feels weird because they're the only one, or one of a few who somehow missed this secret memo. It's awkward for the audience and not true to the origins of classical music.
So our policy is, when you have an emotional reaction to the music that you want to express, do it. If you love a movement of fill-in-the-blank symphony and want to cheer for the performance you just heard, do it! Note: not every orchestra feels this way, so don't take this policy as the rule of thumb everywhere. At the Santa Cruz Symphony though, if you're enjoying what you're hearing, we'd love nothing more than for you to show it.
What about my phone?
We understand that phones are how people connect and share what they're experiencing. What we don't like are phones ringing or making other noises during the performance, or when your phone is blowing up so it practically looks like a strobe light—just like people don't like those things at the movie theater. What we do like is people having fun and sharing that experience with others, so take your selfies and check in on Facebook, just not during the performance itself. We ask you to make sure your phone is on silent out of consideration for the performers.
Because our musicians are union professionals, we are bound by certain rules with respect to recording performances. Unfortunately, recording and videotaping during a concert are not allowed. We ask that you respect our agreement and enjoy the live performance. After all, that's the best part of coming to a concert - the live experience!
What else should I expect?
People watching! And awe! But not necessarily at the same time, although that's not out of the question we suppose. As we talk with new attendees, we hear time and again that some really love seeing other people of different ages (younger and older) enjoy the concert in their own ways, and that they didn’t realize that element (i.e. people watching) was going to be such a part of the experience. The other thing we hear often is that seeing a live orchestra—whether producing a giant wall of sound or playing such difficult, technical passages all in synch—would be so awe-inspiring. There is something about the live experience that just can't be beat, people say, and that's music to our ears.
Have a question for us we didn't answer? Let us know! We're on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email and, yes, phones. We'd love to hear from you!