2/20/16 12:10:02 PM 
Once Upon a Symphony
The King Elephant and the Mice. 

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

Thank you for joining us for Once Upon a Symphony! On this page, you will learn more about the experience you will have at Symphony Center. You can use the links below to navigate, or simply scroll to read more.


What is Once Upon a Symphony?
What will we see at the concert?
What will we experience?
Help! What do I do when…
5 Simple Do’s and Don’ts

What is Once Upon a Symphony?

While many parents of young children tend to avoid orchestral concerts because of behavioral expectations at such events, Once Upon a Symphony is designed to take down these barriers and invite young children into the performance through developmentally appropriate content and techniques.

Imagine a traditional orchestra concert: a dark concert hall full of people, where everyone is expected to sit still and quiet for a long time, listening to music that is beautiful but is unfamiliar at times.  It may seem that there are many unwritten rules for audience behavior and that applauding at the “wrong” time is frowned upon.  Even at “family-friendly” programming, trying to take a crying or upset child out of the concert hall can be nearly impossible, but staying in the hall can be disruptive and stressful too.

Once Upon a Symphony is very different from a traditional orchestra concert.  Designed especially for 3- to 5-year-old children, we have created an experience that will welcome your child into a safe, interactive environment.  Research shows that children learn by seeing, hearing, and doing, and their experience at Once Upon a Symphony will engage them in each of these ways.


What will we see at the concert?

Once Upon a Symphony combines music and storytelling to introduce young children to the amazing world of classical music.  This Once Upon a Symphony performance will explore the classic story of The Three Little Pigs through an original production featuring music performed by members of the “World’s Best, Chicago’s Own” Chicago Symphony Orchestra with storyteller Rachel Olson, and the Chicago Children’s Theatre.  This performance features musicians playing flute, viola, cello, and tuba.


What will we experience at the concert?

Once Upon a Symphony will take place in Buntrock Hall and in the Rotunda of Symphony Center.

  • Starting at 9:15 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., a series of interactive, educational pre-concert activities will take place at stations throughout the Rotunda. These activities, led by music educators from DePaul University and Roosevelt University, are an important part of the Once Upon a Symphony experience, as they will prepare you and your child for the performance.  These activities will include opportunities to listen to, respond to, and create music, and we encourage you to participate along with your child. 
  • The Three Little Pigs will be performed in Buntrock Hall at 10:00 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. There are no assigned seats, so you may sit wherever you are comfortable. Buntrock Hall will open for seating 15 minutes before the concert start time.
    • The performance will include moments where you will be encouraged to sing, dance, and move along with the music. It is very important that you be a good model and participate alongside your child; your child will respond most energetically if he or she sees you having fun too.  Please note that no child will be forced to participate in any way that would make him or her feel uncomfortable.
  • If your child becomes upset or uncomfortable during the performance, you are free to leave Buntrock Hall and re-enter later. Remember, if your child starts to cry, it is their way of saying, “I need a break.”  It’s OK—stay calm.
  • CSO ushers and volunteers will be on hand to help ensure that you and your child have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Help! What do I do when…

  • … my child is ready to go home but the concert has barely started?
    • Take a moment to step out of Buntrock Hall and get a drink of water. Remember, you can exit and re-enter at any time.  It may be helpful to bring an “emergency supply” of snacks with you for moments like this too. If you will be attending the 11:45 a.m. concert, please thoughtfully consider how this might affect your child’s lunch/nap routine.
  • … my child is upset, uncomfortable, or even crying?
    • This is their way of saying, “There is too much going on right now, and I need a break.” It’s OK—take a break outside Buntrock Hall and come back when your child is feeling better.
  • … my child starts wandering toward the stage?
    • It’s OK for your child to be up and moving during the performance. This is a sign of their interest in exploring more.  However, children on stage can distract the performers and other audience members.  Please help us ensure that everyone attending this performance has a safe, memorable experience.  After the performance ends, there will be opportunities to visit the stage and meet the performers.  Parts of the performance will also take place in the audience, and there will be many opportunities where your child will be encouraged to dance, move, or sing with the music, so there will be many chances to be a part of what is happening on stage without having to leave your seats.

5 Simple Do’s and Don’ts

To have the best experience at Once Upon a Symphony, DO… To have the best experience at Once Upon a Symphony, DON’T…
1. Participate in the activities that take place before the performance along with your child—they will be fun, and they will improve your child’s experience.

2. Sing and move along with your child during the performance—it’s part of the experience!

3. Sit wherever your child wants to sit—there are no assigned seats.

4. Explore the story and some of the music before and after you visit Symphony Center.

5. Feel free to exit and re-enter the concert whenever you need to if your child begins to feel upset or uncomfortable. It’s OK to take a break and give them time to calm down!

1. Force your child to sit still and quiet during the performance—let them sing along, be comfortable, or ask questions.

2. Overdress—wear comfortable clothes so that you and your child may participate in the activities before the concert and during the concert itself.

3. Force your child to participate if they don’t want to—allow them to experience the story and the music in their own way.

4. Be embarrassed or upset if your child needs to take a break from the performance. It’s OK if you need to step out and calm down so that your neighbors aren’t distracted.

5. Be afraid to experience new things!


Have other questions? Visit our FAQs page to see answers to commonly asked questions.