First Timer’s Guide

First Timer’s Guide

Answers to all the questions about the orchestra you were too afraid to ask!

If you’re reading this page, it means you will hopefully be joining us soon for one of your first BPO concerts, and we love that! We care a lot about growing our audience and making sure people who are newer to classical music and/or live symphonic concerts have a great experience.

Still have a question? Give our Box Office a call at 716-885-5000, or e-mail us at

Photo courtesy of Enid Bloch
What’s the difference between a “symphony” and a “philharmonic”?

“Philharmonic” and “symphony” are synonymous words used to describe an orchestra, which is a large group of musicians who play together on various instruments, typically strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. “Philharmonic” comes from Greek words meaning “love of harmony.”

I’ve never been to a symphony performance before. Which concert should I attend as a first-timer?

Why not start off slowly? Try one of our familiar films with live orchestra, or check out our Rock series. You’ll appreciate the world-class showmanship the orchestra brings to tunes you already know and love. Then, add some spice and everything nice to your holiday season with Western New York’s #1 holiday tradition, Holiday Pops. Soon you’ll be ready to graduate to familiar Classics favorites, like Mozart and Beethoven, before hitting the deep cuts like Mahler and Scriabin. When in doubt, give our Box Office a call or shoot us a note. We are happy to recommend the right concert to wet your feet.

Isn’t the symphony super stuffy and boring?

NO! The BPO has great variety of programming to appeal to every taste: the music of the Classics masters, of course (the “rockstars” of their day — the composers so great, so powerful, so mesmerizing, so beautiful, that their works have stood the test of time for hundreds of years); Pops concerts that feature music from films, Broadway, the American Songbook, and more; our Rock series with classic rockers and tribute bands fronting your BPO; fun and educational BPO Kids concerts; Friday morning coffee concerts, and so much more.

But it’s super expensive, right?

NO! For most Classics and Pops performances, tickets start as low as $20! Check out our Group Tickets page to learn how groups of 10 or more can receive additional ticket savings. Would you like to bring your child along, or are you a student on a limited budget? We offer the Young Listeners Pass, Symphony Hall Pass, and College Pass at just $29 for the entire season, allowing you to attend most Classics, Pops and Rock performances! And of course, subscribers always receive the best savings. Keep reading to learn more.

Where does the BPO perform, exactly?

The BPO’s home venue is Kleinhans Music Hall, which is located at 3 Symphony Circle, at the convergence of Buffalo’s Downtown, Allentown, Elmwood Village and West Side neighborhoods. We like to say that Kleinhans is the heart of Buffalo’s arts district.

Where’s the best place to sit?

We get asked this a lot, and because Kleinhans is famous for its near-perfect acoustics, most longtime patrons will tell you that there really is no bad seat in the house. That said, many patrons enjoy the main floor center, not too close to the front, as it helps the sound blend a little better by the time it hits your ears (plus you can see more of the players when you’re not right up by the stage). Other patrons enjoy the balcony, which provides better sight lines to see the entire orchestra from more of an aerial perspective, especially the winds. If there is a piano soloist performing, many patrons like to sit more toward the left side of the house so that they can see the pianist’s hands as they perform.

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, go for it! 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 (outside of our annual gala performance) is black tie. Even the orchestra wears suits and ties instead of all-out tails and cummerbunds for Friday morning and Sunday afternoon performances. We recommend “smart dress” or “business casual” for most performances. For our evening parties and special events though, bring on the bling!

Can I grab a drink or a bite at the concert?

Grab a pre-concert drink at our main floor or balcony bar. Insider tip: the Kleinhans Music Hall bar staff allow you to pre-order your drink(s) for intermission. Before the concert begins, visit the lobby bars to place your order, and when you come out for intermission you’ll see your drink ready, literally with your name on it. We also offer reusable cups with lids in cocktail/wine and soda/beer sizes, to bring your drink right into the hall! Please note that no food is allowed in the main hall.

Prior to all Saturday night BPO Pops and Classics concerts, you can enjoy a great meal at Marcato by Oliver’s at Kleinhans Music Hall. Dinner is by reservation only. To make your reservation, call (716) 877-9662.

The BPO has also partnered with Salvatore’s Italian Gardens, which offers parking and shuttle options. Visit our Dining page for more info.

How can I study up before I go for a better listening experience?

We try to make concerts self-containing, meaning at the performance itself you will learn a little from your program book. If you want to study up ahead of time, we have multiple ways to help you do that:

  1. For Classics performances, just prior to the performance date, we will e-mail pre-concert notes to all ticket holders for whom we have an e-mail address on file (make sure we don’t wind up in your spam folder!). We will also post these notes to the event’s listing on our website.
  2. Musically Speaking, our pre-concert lecture series, takes place one hour prior to each weekend Classics concert on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Join a guest speaker in the main hall for a discussion of the performance. Hear in-depth information that will help frame the concert and enrich your listening experience.
  3. Listen to Maestro JoAnn Falletta every weekday at 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM in “JoAnn’s Classical Corner” on WNED Classical 94.5 FM. JoAnn will spend a couple of minutes with morning host Mark Swarts talking about everything from this season’s highlights to her insights on all things musical.

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. Generally, most concerts will open with an overture or other shorter work about 10 minutes or so in length. That’s usually followed by a concerto (a piece with a featured soloist) for another 20-30 minutes, and then comes intermission for another 20 minutes. The second half of the performance is often a full symphony of multiple movements, totaling 40-60 minutes depending on how long the composer wrote (and how fast the conductor conducts!). This isn’t always the format, and you’ll see that some of our concerts have multiple shorter pieces and no long symphony at all, but it 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, 3 and 4). If you’re unsure what to do, watch the conductor. Their body language is a great help.

What’s a subscriber?

Subscribers, or season ticket holders for the sports fans out there, are the BPO’s most loyal and valuable patrons who commit to purchasing a series of concerts. Our subscription packages are designed with every type of consumer in mind. Some prefer to keep the same seats year after year, others prefer more flexible compose-your-own series options. Subscribers are savvy to know that purchasing a subscription package affords an array of benefits including:

  • Savings – Subscribing automatically saves you money over the general single ticket prices. We’re thrilled to offer subscribers exclusive discounts: 15% off Curated Packages of 5 performances and 20% off Curated Packages comprising 7 or more concerts. Plus, all subscribers enjoy a 10% discount on additional tickets throughout the season.
  • Flexibility – Always on the go? Afraid of that next big ice storm? We offer subscribers the most flexible exchange policy in town. Subscribers can exchange tickets prior to the concert date, in most cases with no additional fees, so you never have to miss a concert.
  • Even more flexibility! – Prefer the keep the same seats all season? Or looking for a more flexible option that allows you to create your own season? We have options for everyone, including Masters packages that include all the concerts in a given series, smaller packages that allow for less time commitment, compose-your-own series that allow you to pick dates, times, and concert offerings that fit your schedule and tastes best, and much, much more!
  • Advance Access – Only subscribers can purchase single tickets in advance, months before the Box Office opens to the general public.

After your first concert experience, visit our subscriptions page, or give us a call at 716-885-5000. We’ll ask a few questions to get to know you better, and discuss a few subscription packages that will work best for you.