About the Concert 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 Maybe Something Beautiful through an original production featuring music performed by members of the “World’s Best, Chicago’s Own” Chicago Symphony Orchestra with actor Jasmin Cardenas and sets, costumes and projections designed by the Chicago Children’s Theatre.
Todd Rosenberg Photography
How to Prepare for the Concert
- Introduce your child to the story of Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, an award-winning book written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, and illustrated by Rafael López. You can learn more about the book at this website.
- Have your children listen to the music featured in this concert.
- Ask your children how they think the music will help tell the story.
- Listen to Libertango by Astor Piazzolla in this video. Using scarves, streamers, handkerchiefs, etc., move the way the music makes you feel, following these prompts:
- Have children listen to each piece of music and express how the music moves them as they dance with a scarf, streamer or handkerchief.
- Sit or stand face to face with your child and make eye contact.
- Choose who is the leader and who is the follower.
- Ask the leader to move in a way that expresses how the piece makes him/her feel. Is it slow or fast? Do you feel it in your arms, legs, hips or neck? The point is not to throw off or trick your partner, but to move as one.
- Ask the follower to mirror exactly what the leader is doing.
- Switch roles and repeat the activity.
- Listen to Son de la Bruja by Jose Luis Hurtado. Guide your children to engage their imagination using the following prompts:
- Ask your children to pretend to be Mira, the girl from the story.
- Tell your children to get out a pretend piece of paper and think about what they want to draw on it. Think like Mira!
- Have your children pretend to hold their piece of paper in one hand, and in the other hand a crayon.
- Now ask them to draw, draw, draw, just like Mira!
- Have them hold their pretend picture close to their heart, and then extend their hands and their picture up in the air for all to see.
- Have your children continue to pretend to draw their joyful ideas along with the music.
Watch the CSO for Kids Video of Maybe Something Beautiful created in collaboration between the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Children’s Theatre.
Explore the Woodwind Family With Your Children
The musicians in this video are playing woodwind instruments; however, the horn is a member of the brass family, but its sound blends so well with woodwinds that it often plays with them. Ever since the heyday of classical music when wind ensembles were most popular, horns have always performed together with woodwinds.
Watch the video again and listen closely to the music, then ask your children to identify the instruments they hear in the ensemble.
Watch this video of the CSO musicians as they explain their instruments.
Ask your children what their favorite woodwind instrument is and why.
Create Your Own Public Art Piece
Public art is art in public spaces: Any art of any size, in any style, in any place. The Association for Public Art also declares that "Public art is a reflection of how we see the world — the artist's response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are."
In Maybe Something Beautiful, we experience the making of public art when we meet a girl named Mira whose heart is full of joy and who lives in a gray city. Mira decides to do something to change her grey city, so she draws a glowing sun. She wants to make her city less grey.
Explore these questions with your children:
- Is there something you want to change in the world?
- Is there something that makes you happy, that you want to celebrate?
- Can you draw a picture of what makes you happy and want to celebrate?
Create your own public art piece to say something to the world.
- You can draw it and /or paint it like Mira and hang it in your window.
- You can create a sculpture out of clay or found objects at home and put it outside on the grass.
You can use chalk and color your sidewalk with a message to the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 chicagoparkingmap.com or chicago.bestparking.com.
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 Buntrock Hall
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; however, to keep everyone safe, please sit where the usher directs your group. Seating consists of cushions and benches of various heights.
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?
Yes. Please remain in your seats to keep everyone safe and sound.
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.
The Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Children’s Theatre acknowledges with gratitude the contribution to these materials by Jasmin Cardenas, Colombian American award-winning bilingual Storyteller, Actress, Educator and Social Activist.
This program is co-produced with Chicago Children’s Theatre.
English and Spanish editions of Maybe Something Beautiful are published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.