Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

If you can't find the answer to your question below, or need further details on a performer or event, please email us or call 415.398.6449.

What if I want to order a subscription?
To order a subscription, please call 415.398.6449.

What is a subscriber?
A subscriber has purchased a fixed series such as Guitar or Piano, or has purchased a Make Your Own Subscription of 6 or more performances. Subscriber benefits include priority seating, ticket exchange privileges, ticket transactions free of service charges, free gift concerts, and personalized service from the Subscriber Services Department.

How do I get to the theater?
Directions are available to the following theaters: Herbst Theatre, Lam Research Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (formerly Novellus Theater), St. John's Presbyterian Church, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Hotel Rex.

How long are the performances?
While performance times vary, most events last for about two hours, including a twenty minute intermission. Dance performances may be shorter. Family Matinees and Salons at the Rex are approximately one hour long without an intermission.

What should I wear?
You should wear whatever you are comfortable wearing. People wear everything from business attire to casual clothing to our performances.

How may I purchase tickets if I don't wish to order online?
Call 415.392.2545
Fax 415.398.6439
Mail: San Francisco Performances, 500 Sutter Street, Suite 710 San Francisco, CA 94102
In person (single tickets only): City Box Office 180 Redwood Alley, Suite 100 San Francisco, CA 94102 (9:30–5:00, Monday–Saturday)

What if I've purchased tickets and find I can't attend a performance?

TICKET DONATION: If you are unable to attend a performance, you can donate your tickets back to San Francisco Performances for a tax-deduction by calling 415.398.6449 or submitting your donation online. An acknowledgement of your donation will be sent to you in the mail within 14 days.

TICKET EXCHANGE: Subscribers can exchange their tickets for free. Single ticket purchasers pay a $10 fee to exchange tickets. Exchanges must be made at least 24 hours prior to the performance (48 hours for weekend performances). To exchange your tickets, mail them to:

San Francisco Performances
500 Sutter St. Ste. 710
San Francisco, CA 94102

with a note indicating which performance you would like to exchange into. If there is a difference in price between your original ticket and your new ticket, please include a check or credit card number in your note so that we may charge the difference. You may also rip your tickets in two, make a copy of the torn tickets, and then fax them to 415.398.6439 with a note indicating which performance you would like to exchange into.

Concert Etiquette

There’s nothing mysterious about how to act during a live performance. You don’t have to sit like a statue. You can breathe, respond to the music, even move your body in your chair. However, it is important not to make noises that distract other listeners AND the musicians.

Sounds that generally get in the way of music are:

Coughing—If you have a cough/cold, bring cough drops to the performance or pick some up in the lobby. San Francisco Performances offers complimentary cough drops, provided by Ricola. Unwrap them BEFORE the music starts. If you must cough, wait until the end of a movement or during a loud section of the music. Putting a handkerchief over your mouth can also help muffle the cough. Finally, if you continue coughing, discreetly excuse yourself for a few moments while you get a drink of water or another cough drop.

Unwrapping anything, especially candies and cough drops—It’s okay to suck on candy or chew gum during a concert, especially if it prevents you from coughing. However, the sound of unwrapping such items can be just as distracting as coughing itself, so make sure to do all of your unwrapping before the music begins.

Whispering/Talking—Even the quietest whisper can be heard in a resonant concert hall. Try to refrain from commenting on the music until the end of the piece. It will give you more to talk about at intermission!

“Shushing”—Although it is annoying when other audience members are talking or whispering during a performance, it is equally as distracting to hear someone “shush” them. Sit tight and hope they finish what they have to say quickly.

Cell phones/Beepers/pagers/iPods, etc.—Please turn off cell phones, beepers, pagers, and iPods before entering the concert hall. Noises such as a pager going off or a cell phone ringing are very distracting to your fellow audience members and the artists. Also distracting is the light emanating from cell phones and iPods used for texting/listening/watching during performances.


Clapping—Wait to clap until the whole piece is over. Most musicians prefer that you not clap in between movements as it can interrupt the mood and flow of the piece of music as a whole.

Glossary of Terms

A Cappella—In choral singing, unaccompanied singing.

Accelerando—Getting gradually quicker.

Accent—An emphasis on a particular note.

Adagio—Slow in tempo.

Allegro—Lively in style and tempo.

Allemande—A dance movement of a piece of music. It is usually serious in character, but sounds light and is played at a moderate speed.

Andante—Walking speed or medium tempo.

Baritone—Male voice between a tenor and a bass, sometimes combining elements of both.

Chamber Music—Instrumental music for a small group of musicians. Each musician’s part is unique and equally important to the ensemble. Chamber music is meant to be performed in an intimate setting.

Col legno—Using the wooden stick part of the bow to strike the strings rather than playing with the hair.

Coloratura—Elaborate ornamentation of a melody, particularly in vocal music.

Crescendo—A dynamic marking that instructs the musician to get gradually louder.

Diminuendo/Decrescendo—A dynamic marking that instructs the musician to get gradually softer.

Dynamics—Degrees of loudness and softness. The musician is instructed to play softly when (s)he sees the Italian word piano. Forte signals the musician to play loudly. Medium loud or medium soft is marked by adding mezzo to the dynamic, such as mezzo forte.

Fugue—Successive playing of the same theme by different instruments or voices.

Gavotte—A dance movement of a piece of music. A gavotte is an old French dance in common time, beginning on the third beat of the bar.

Largamente—Broad and dignified in a slowish manner, similar to Largo but refers to style more than tempo.

Largo—Broad and slow in tempo, dignified in style.

Lento—Slow in tempo.

Maestoso—Majestic, dignified, i.e. allegro maestoso.

Meter—Grouping of the beats of a piece of music. For example, duple meter groups beats into two with the emphasis on the first beat—1 2, 1 2, 1 2.

Motif—A motif is a recurring subject, theme, idea that is developed throughout an artistic work.

Movement—The primary, self-contained sections of a large composition, such as a string quartet. Each movement usually has a separate tempo indication. Usually there is a silent pause between each movement.

Mute—A device used to reduce the volume of an instrument by stopping the vibrations of each note.

Presto—Quick in tempo, very fast.

Resolution—The satisfactory following of a discordant chord or note, with a concord.

Rondo—The form of a piece of music in which a theme or motif intermittently recurs. The rondo is a light-hearted movement.

Scherzo—The name of a movement in a piece of music, literally meaning “joke.” A scherzo is generally very lively, but not necessarily light-hearted, suggesting a dark sort of humor.

Sonata—An instrumental composition for piano or piano and another instrument, usually in several movements or sections.

Song Cycle—A set of individual songs grouped together by the composer in a particular order and referring to a particular theme.

Soprano—The highest register of female (or artificial male) voice.

Suite—A piece of instrumental music made up of several movements, usually in dance-style.

Tempo—The speed at which a piece of music is performed.

Tenor—The highest normal male voice.

Theme—The main succession of notes, or the subject of a piece of music.