Thank you for joining us at Symphony Center this Saturday. Whether this is the first time that your family will visit Symphony Center, or if you have attended a Once Upon a Symphony concert before, we promise this will be a fun and memorable experience.


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 remove 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, Once Upon a Symphony creates 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 you see at Once Upon a Symphony?

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 story of “Stone Soup” through an original production featuring music performed by members of the “World’s Best, Chicago’s Own” Chicago Symphony Orchestra with actor Alex Mauney and sets, costumes and projections designed by the Chicago Children’s Theatre. This performance features musicians playing violin, flute, horn and bass.


  1. Introduce your child to the story of Stone Soup. We suggest some of these beautifully illustrated books, which can be found at your local library or bookseller or online at
  2. Please note that the Once Upon a Symphony adaptation of this story differs slightly from other versions. The focus of our story suggests that, just like a pot of soup that tastes better when everyone has contributed a different ingredient, music is better when created together. Please draw attention to the following characteristics of the story:
    • The townspeople are so selfish that they can’t even make music together.
    • Everyone has a unique contribution to make to his or her community.
  3. Introduce your child to the music they will hear on this program by purchasing recordings or downloading a playlist of the concert repertoire through Spotify. Listen to this music in the days before your visit to Symphony Center and explore how the music portrays the activities or images suggested, which are central parts of the Once Upon a Symphony performance:
    • Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
      • This music helps the traveler build the fire as he prepares to make the soup that will entice the villagers from their homes.
    • Daphnis et Chloe, Suite 2 opening, by Maurice Ravel
      • This music symbolizes the water being added to the pot of soup.
    • Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Finale) by Johannes Brahms
      • This music delights in the communal effort of preparing the pot of soup.
      • It also expresses the collective joy the villagers feel after ridding themselves of their selfish ways.
    • Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Chorale) by Johannes Brahms
      • This music expresses the daily life of a community when everyone is contributing to the over-all good of society.
      • The melody of this music also is the basis for our song that is sung every time a new ingredient is added to the pot of soup. Try listening to the melody and singing these lyrics with your child:

What will we experience at Symphony Center?

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 a.m., a series of interactive, educational pre-concert activities will occur at stations throughout the Rotunda. These activities, led by music educators from DePaul 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. 
  • “Stone Soup” will be performed in Buntrock Hall at 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. There are no assigned seats, so you may sit wherever you are comfortable.
    • The performance will include moments where you will be encouraged to sing, dance and move along with the artists. It is very important that you be a good model and participate alongside your child; children will respond most energetically if they see 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 a 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.

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, consider how this might affect your child’s lunch/nap routine.
  • … My child is upset, uncomfortable or even crying?
    • This is a 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 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 puppets and performers. Parts of the performance also will take place in the audience, and there will be many opportunities where children will be encouraged to dance, move or sing with the music, giving them the chance to be a part of what is happening on stage without having to leave their seats.


  • Where is Symphony Center? Where can I park?
    Entrances are at 220 S. Michigan Ave. and 67 E. Adams St. To find nearby parking locations, we suggest visiting or

    Buntrock Hall | Located on the second floor of Symphony Center

  • What do I do with my stroller?
    Stroller parking will be available on the first floor of the Rotunda.  Symphony Center staff will park your stroller in a safe, secure location.
  • Where is the performance?
    Buntrock Hall, located on the second floor of the Rotunda.
  • Do we need to dress up?
    No! We encourage you to dress comfortably.
  • Where are our seats?
    There are no assigned seats for these performances. Seating consists of cushions and benches of various heights. Please sit where you are most comfortable.
  • What if my child is in a wheelchair?
    Buntrock Hall is completely wheelchair accessible, and our ushering staff will be happy to assist in accommodating any patrons who may use wheelchairs. However, please contact Patron Services before the concert to inform us of any special needs you may have. Patron Services may be reached at (312) 294-3000.
  • Do we have to stay in our seats?
    No! You may move to different seats during the performance, sit on the floor or move closer to the stage, but we do ask that you be courteous to your neighbors and allow them to enjoy the performance, too. Please be aware that parts of the show will occur in the audience. For the safety and enjoyment of our audience and performers, we do ask that you keep your child close to you. If he or she begins to wander toward the stage or backstage, please gently guide him or her back to your seats. There will be opportunities to see the stage and meet the musicians after the performance.
  • What if my child cries, becomes upset during the performance, or needs to use the restroom?
    Unlike concerts in Orchestra Hall, you may exit and re-enter this performance at any time. You may exit Buntrock Hall to comfort your child or give them a break so that they do not distract other patrons from enjoying the performance. Our ushering staff and volunteers will help direct you to the nearest entrance and exit.
  • What if my child becomes noisy or talks during the performance?
    It’s OK! We expect that young children will behave like young children. However, we do ask that you please be courteous to your neighbors and allow them to enjoy the performance, too.
  • My child is uncomfortable around strangers. Will they be OK during this concert?
    Your child will not be forced to do anything that might make him or her uncomfortable. If a child does not want to participate in any part of the experience, it’s fine to just sit and watch.
  • Can we sing along or hum along or dance to the music?
    Absolutely! Please do! During some parts of the performance, we want everyone to sing, hum and dance.
  • Can I videotape or photograph the concert?
    Unfortunately, no. Symphony Center policies expressly prohibit still, audio and video recording, which includes cell phone recordings. Flash photography is very distracting to the performers, and the bright light emitted by camera and cell phone screens is very distracting to other audience members. There will be opportunities to take photos and meet performers after the performance.


Once Upon a Symphony is a program of:

Presented in collaboration with: