Whether it’s your first time at the Symphony, your first time in Asheville — or you’re just in need of some fresh ideas — the Asheville Symphony is here to help you enjoy your night out. Turn up the volume on your visit with some uniquely Asheville options, including one (or more) of our wonderful local business partners, and review some first-timer FAQs.

The first step in your orchestral excursion is knowing where you’re headed.

The Asheville Symphony’s home venue is the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville, 87 Haywood St. in downtown Asheville. Most of our performances take place at this location, but be sure to review individual concert pages for venue information. For information on parking near Harrah’s Cherokee Center, click here.


The Concert Experience

I’ve never been to an orchestra concert before. What should I expect?
A musical evening that will blow you away of course. Classical music ebbs and flows. Sometimes, it’s surging and powerful, booming with intensity — and, others, it’s delicate and ephemeral and everything in between.

What if I don’t know anything about classical music?
The beautiful thing about music, is that you need not be trained to appreciate and love it. ASO welcomes a wide variety of audiences ranging from the first-timers to the seasoned pros. If you’d like to learn more about the music you’re about to hear, we’ve got you covered. Our Music Director, Darko Butorac, hosts pre-concert talks beginning at 7 p.m. in the hall. We also have program notes, which give the backstory of the composers and tid-bits about the music itself.

What should I wear?
There’s no dress code! Most people attend the Asheville Symphony in business clothes or dressy-casual attire, but you’ll find people wearing everything from khakis to cocktail dresses. Some people enjoy dressing up and making a special night of it, and you can too. Our only request of our audience is to limit wearing too much cologne and perfume due to potential allergies of those around you.

Should I arrive early?
Plan to arrive 20 minutes before the concert begins so that you have time to find your seat and settle in. That way, you’ll have a few extra moments to absorb the atmosphere, listen to the orchestra warm up, and take a look at your program book. ASO concerts start on time, so, if you’re late, you may end up listening from the lobby. (If you are late, an usher will allow you inside during a suitable pause in the program as to avoid disturbing other concertgoers.)

Our partners at Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville do a great job of explaining all the options. Click here for more information about parking.

Is the hall accessible? How do I purchase accessible seats?
The U.S. Cellular Center offers limited Wheelchair Accessible and Companion, and Semi-Ambulatory seating in all of its venues. Accessible/ADA seating can be purchased from these designated locations online at  IMPORTANT NOTE: There is no elevator access for the balcony level of the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Patrons needing Wheelchair or Semi-Ambulatory seating, or those who are unable to take stairs, should purchase tickets for the lower level of the Auditorium.

A limited number of USCC wheelchairs are available at the Facilities on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you need an assisted listening device or a wheelchair please bring driver’s license or another form of identification to give to the medic in exchange for the assisted listening device/wheelchair to the hall. Assisted listening devices and/or interpreters should be requested well in advance of the event date.

How long will the concert be?
It varies depending on the repertoire, though most concerts are between 90 minutes to two hours long, with an intermission in the middle. Take a look at your program for more details on each specific concert, as it may give you an idea of what length to expect.

When should I clap?
The first clap comes at the beginning of the concert, welcoming the musicians and the concertmaster as they take the stage. After the orchestra tunes up, the conductor (and possibly a soloist) will come on stage too, and the audience will once again clap to welcome them. Once the music starts, just listen and enjoy.

Most pieces are comprised of several movements, so often there will be time when the entire piece seems to end, but it’s just one movement of the whole piece. Hold your excitement until the end for a round of applause…standing ovations are highly encouraged. Another pro-tip is to check the conductor’s motions for clues.

When a piece is over, the conductor will relax — but, between movements, the conductor will keep his/her hands raised, and the musicians will remain focused on the conductor’s movements. When in doubt, wait for the reactions of other audience members before joining in.

What should I do with my cell phone during the concert?
Turn it off! The same goes for pagers, watch alarms and other noise-making devices. It’s a good idea to double-check your belongings and wearables before the concert begins (and again after intermission) to make sure they are all off.

Doctors and emergency workers who are “on call” during a concert can give their pagers to an usher, who will summon them quietly if they are paged.

Can I bring my camera or recording device?
Cameras, video recorders and tape recorders are not permitted in concerts. If you do have a camera with you and want a photographic souvenir of your special evening, ask someone to take your picture outside the concert hall before you go in.

What should I do during intermission?
Most intermissions are about 15-20 minutes long, which gives you time to socialize with your companions, get a drink or snack in the lobby, visit the facilities or simply sit in your seat and read the program notes.

Can I bring my kids?
We love introducing kiddos to classical music at any age!

If they’re old enough to sit quietly for extended periods, take special care to tune into any impending noisiness. We suggest purchasing seats as close to the aisle as possible in case a quick exit is called for.

If your children aren’t yet old enough for the real-deal, build their interest by playing classical music at home through ASO Radio. You can find a link to ASO Radio at the top of the page.


About the Orchestra

What is a symphony orchestra, exactly?
A symphony orchestra is a collection of up to about 100 musicians who play instruments of four basic types:

  1. Strings: violins, violas, cellos and doublebasses. These players sit in a semicircle directly in front of the conductor and make up more than half of the orchestra.
  2. Woodwinds: flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons and other related instruments. These players sit a few rows back from the conductor, in the center of the orchestra.
  3. Brass: trumpets, horns, trombones, tubas and other similar instruments. These instruments are the loudest, so you’ll see them at the back of the orchestra.
  4. Percussion: drums, bells and other assorted instruments. This includes the kettledrums, harp and, on occasion, the piano. Some works use a lot of different percussion and others may have only a single musician playing the kettledrums — or no percussion at all. The percussion section is found at the back.

Why do the musicians wear formal black clothes?
This is part of a long tradition from centuries back. Sometimes, these days, musicians dress a little more casually — but they still try to look uniform, so that the audience can concentrate on the music. Soloists are the exception. They often dress differently, because they are the focus of attention.

Why are there more stringed instruments than anything else?
The sound of each individual stringed instrument is softer than a brass or woodwind instrument. But, in large numbers, these instruments make a magnificent and rich sonority.

What is a concertmaster and what does this person do?
The concertmaster sits in the first chair of the first violins. He or she acts as a leader of that section, but also plays a leadership role with the orchestra as a whole. This person is also the last orchestra musician to enter the stage before a concert, and cues the oboe to “tune” the orchestra.

Why does the entire orchestra tune to the oboe?
The penetrating tone of the oboe is easy for all players to hear, and it has a unique ability to easily sustain pitch. The oboe plays an A for all the players to make sure their A is exactly on pitch with the oboe’s A. This ensures they are all in agreement about the tuning before the concert starts.

Why do the string players share stands?
Fewer stands mean that the musicians have more room to play — and are less likely to bump into anything while performing. Strings play more continuously than the other parts, and page turns can often fall in inconvenient places where there should be no break in the music. Often, the player on the outside keeps playing, while the player on the inside briefly stops playing to turn the page.

Why does the conductor leave after every piece of music?
These breaks allow the conductor to relax between pieces and collect his or her thoughts before beginning the next piece. If applause is very enthusiastic, the conductor might come back on stage to bow or recognize some musicians who played important solos in the piece.

Why don’t the musicians smile while they play?
Some of them do! But, in general, orchestral music requires deep concentration — and these musicians are “in the zone” while performing. After the music is over, you’ll find that many of them smile broadly.


The Asheville Symphony is proud to partner with some of Asheville’s best restaurants and bars. They serve Symphony patrons all year long; now they are doing more by supporting the Symphony as advertisers and sponsors.

Burial’s mission is to innovate and elevate with intention in the craft beverage and hospitality industries. Embracing an intentional, revivalist approach, we aim to infuse our brands, products and experiences with intriguing storylines that celebrate artistry, history, and a reverence for quality. We will remain consistent in our efforts to connect people through immersive and introspective experiences that inspire the celebration of life and individuality. Click here to learn more. 

Burial Beer Co. is a proud sponsor of Masterworks 2: Roaring Rhapsody

At our core, we brew beer we want to drink on a regular basis, beer we can sit down and have multiple pints with friends. Our flagship and seasonal offerings are brewed to be balanced and approachable, how brewers have been striving to brew beers for thousands of years. Click here to learn more.

Since 2012 Chestnut has been making a gustatory impression on Downtown Asheville. Chestnut offers classics done right with a touch of cutting edge. From house cured meats to perfect mashed potatoes to local steak cooked to a turn to local vegetables fresh from the farmer. For carefully crafted cocktails, Elixirs, Shrubs, Syrups all made in house, combined with freshly squeezed juices, and top drawer liquors. Click here to learn more.

Located in the Historic Grove Arcade in Downtown Asheville, Modesto offers Rustic Italian cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients and fire from our Mugnaini oven. Modesto features a full bar and extensive wine list, all Italian. From appetizers to house made pastries, it’s where the bosses meet for lunch and bring their favorite guests when they are hungry for all things delicious. It’s where we eat, drink, network, and celebrate great ideas. If you haven’t been to Modesto… you must. And if you have, we’ll see you back, soon. Meet me at Modesto. Click here to learn more.

Celine and Company Catering was founded by Celine and Michael Lurey in 1993. They remained a leader in serving Asheville’s finest catering cuisine since. Starting as an expression of Celine’s love of entertaining and an outlet for her locally-known and sought out cuisine. The business has grown tremendously over the years. In January of 2015, Celine and Michael chose to embrace the freedom of retirement and sold Celine’s namesake business to long-time Chef, Kim Lloyd. Click here to learn more.


Asheville Charcuterie

Asheville Charcuterie Co. is a locally-owned gourmet charcuterie company offering specialty charcuterie boards, catering, workshops, and more. Click here to learn more.


Located in the heart of downtown Asheville at 25 Broadway, Asheville Chocolates specializes in handmade truffles, gelato, and other desserts made with farm-fresh ingredients. Click here to learn more.

Bosu’s Wine Shop is an eccentric, relaxed venue that delivers outstanding quality and out-of-this-world taste on wines from across the entire world. Our massive inventory is hand-chosen according to what our staff has tried, customers have requested, and new trends. It also extends beyond wines to include bitters, sake, true champagne, and specialty craft beers. Click here to learn more.

White Labs Kitchen & Tap melds the science of fermentation with the culinary arts. Pairing our delicious beers with fermented foods! Enjoy wood-fired pizzas made with 72-hour slow-risen beer yeast dough, house-made fermented sauces, farm-fresh salads and other beer-infused dishes and desserts. Click here to learn more.

Asheville has some fantastic local craft beers; we showcase something different. Our goal is to provide unique offerings that aren’t the same beers served at other bars around town. We handpick each selection of world-class craft beer from around the globe while paying special attention to quality and history. Plus, catch exclusive collaborations with local breweries only at The Whale. Click here to learn more.

Culinary inspired, locally and globally infused, and experimental at its heart – we at Bhramari Brewing Co. want to always create what inspires us so that you might be inspired as well. Find balance, find whimsy, and discover something completely new in every sip of a Bhramari brew! Click here to learn more.

Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse is inspired by the comfort of Japanese street food and a passion for American BBQ. Click here to learn more.

Highland Brewing Company is the largest independent, family-owned brewery native to the Southeast. With a portfolio of beers that honor tradition and blaze new trails, we are proud to be Asheville’s pioneer in craft and a leader in southern beer. Click here to learn more.

A restaurant can be a place of exploration, a discovery of something different. It can also offer restoration, a feeling of genuine nourishment, and even homecoming – a place of connection within a community. At Gan Shan West, we seek to nourish you, our guests. We focus on a diverse array of Asian comfort dishes in a relaxed neighborhood environment. From Ramen to Rice Bowls, we invite you to dine in, eat at our outdoor courtyard, or take your food to go. Click here to learn more.
Gan Shan West is proud to sponsor New Year’s Eve: Queens of Soul

Tucked into a quiet corner of Biltmore Village is one of Richard Sharp Smith’s original Tudor Style cottages, and one of Asheville’s most surprising restaurants. Chef Joe Scully brings years of culinary experience to bear in his special North Carolina take on Pan-American cuisine (he calls it “Caromerican”), while host Kevin Westmoreland makes you feel as welcome as an old friend at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Click here to learn more.

The Blackbird’s goal is to delight guests with cooking grounded in the traditions and ingredients of the Carolinas creating an affordable and vibrant menu – Modern Southern with a “nod” to tradition. Click here to learn more.

“Strada” means street or boulevard in Italian. The restaurant calls to mind a traditional neighborhood trattoria. Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, the ambiance is welcoming, casual and romantic. With friendly and knowledgeable staff, Strada is the perfect place to enjoy an evening with friends or dinner for two. The menu includes dishes representing all regions of Italy, including Chef Anthony Cerrato’s traditional family recipes. Additionally, gluten-free and vegetarian options are all made to order and feature locally sourced ingredients local producers. Click here to learn more.

High Five Coffee Asheville: serving delicious coffee, tea and pastries with intentional and kind service in downtown Asheville, Montford and Woodfin. Click here to learn more.

Located in the historic Grove Arcade, Huli Sue’s BBQ & Grill is serving up a fresh Big Island spin on Texas Barbecue and Smoked Brisket. Dine on island time enjoying Hawaiian flavors, fresh fish, signature island cocktails, big country cakes and the best BBQ in Asheville. We look forward to seeing you. Mahalo! Click here to learn more.

With our west-facing location, The Montford Rooftop Bar is Downtown Asheville’s only rooftop bar with unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We offer seasonal craft cocktails, local beer, unique wine and light fare using local, Western North Carolina ingredients. Come check out our contemporary, rustic speakeasy and enjoy the spectacular views! Click here to learn more.

Baked Pie Company is a place where everyone is welcome to sit and visit, read a good book and make a new friend! Our daily goal is to make you smile and feel at home! Come by for a visit and say hello. Click here to learn more.

Established in 2008, the Wedge is a neighborhood brewery with two locations in the heart of Asheville’s River Arts District. The Wedge serves as a gathering place for people of all ages and walks of life to laugh, exchange ideas and drink Wedge beer. Click here to learn more.

Founded by two friends with roots in the Carolinas, Crave Dessert Bar draws inspiration from our region’s incredible depth of culture, food, drink, people and history to offer our guests an unforgettable experience. Click here to learn more.

The Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar offers the marriage of two of earth’s finest pleasures, books and wine, side by side. Peruse thousands of books in dozens of categories while sipping a fine wine, sparkling wine or Champagne. Click here to learn more.


Coming in from out of town? We highly recommend you stay the night with our official hotel partner (just a few blocks away from Thomas Wolfe Auditorium) and experience all that Asheville has to offer — before and after your trip to the Symphony.

Kimpton Hotel Arras
7 Patton Ave
Asheville, NC 28801

Click here for more Asheville-area hotels.