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 perhaps 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 we 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 The Ugly Duckling through an original production featuring music performed by members of the “World’s Best, Chicago’s Own” Chicago Symphony Orchestra with actor Lily Emerson and sets, costumes, and projections designed by the Chicago Children’s Theatre. This performance features musicians playing flute, oboe, horn and cello.

Visit The Symphony Store for an outstanding array of kid-friendly books, instruments, toys, and more. Present your Once Upon a Symphony ticket to receive a 10% discount on your purchase! The Symphony Store opens at 10:30am for all Once Upon a Symphony performances. Shop online at


There are several things that you can do to prepare for this experience, making your visit to Symphony Center more enjoyable and memorable.

What should we do before we visit Symphony Center?

  • Introduce your child to the story of The Ugly Duckling.
    • We suggest some of these beautifully illustrated books, which can be found at your local library or bookseller or online at
    • The focus of our story reflects the original story by Hans Christian Andersen — that we should not to jump to conclusions about people because they are much more complicated than they look and should be valued by others for their inner beauty since you cannot tell what people are truly like based on appearances alone.
  • 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 prior to 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:
    • Morning Mood from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 by Edvard Grieg
      • This piece sets the summer scene of Mother Duck waiting patiently on her nest for her ducklings to hatch.
    • The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
      • Autumn – This music expresses the daily life on a farm and the joy of the harvest.
      • Winter – This piece illustrates the cold winter weather and the cold, lonely Duckling.
      • Spring – The warm sun returns and the Ugly Duckling realizes that he is actually a beautiful swan.
    • The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II
      • With this piece, the ducklings discover the thrill of swimming in the pond.
    • The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns
      • During this iconic music, The Ugly Duckling watches his parents soar overhead as he rejoices in the discovery that he is a swan.
    • Holberg Suite, Op.40, Rigaudon by Edvard Grieg
      • This music celebrates the beauty that lives in each of us.

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. 
  • The Ugly Duckling 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.
    • 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; 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.

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: