Classical music can seem daunting to some first-time concertgoers, but there’s no reason to stress. We at the Delaware Symphony want you to be able to relax and enjoy the music, and make your visit exiting and memorable. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about our concerts: 


Have any other questions? Give us a call or send an email using the form on this page, and we'll be happy to answer them for you!

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“Orchestras are like people.  They’re the sonic embodiment of their community.”

Simon Rattle, English conductor.

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The definition of an “orchestra” seems to have morphed from the ancient Greek’s designation of the place in the theater where the musicians played to the modern day characterization of any substantial assemblage of musician, such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Electric Light Orchestra, or the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Some ensembles stick with the title “orchestra” only—like the above mentioned groups.  Others, like those in Delaware or Chicago, go with “symphony” and “orchestra,” but in casual conversation are almost always referred to only as “symphony.”

“Symphony” (from Greek for basically “sounding good together”) has come to mean a group of musicians who spend their time playing concert music, rather than, say, dance music, or background music.  That’s why opera companies and ballet companies generally don’t call their musical back-up bands “symphonies,” but orchestras: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra….

Then there are the “philharmonic” – which is essentially another name for symphony and another means to differentiate orchestras.

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“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

W.C. Fields

“Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.”

Malcolm Arnold, English composer

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Ah.  Musical taxonomy. This is complicated, although it really shouldn’t be.  First off, we have to make clear that there is “Classical” music, and ‘classical’ music.  “Classical” with the capital ‘C’, like Kleenex, Xerox and Band-Aid, is a specific period of music (mid- 18th Century to beginning of the 19th C —the period of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Ludwig van Beethoven.) that has confusingly leant its name to the whole notion of art music.  Other periods, beside “Classical” that are ‘classical’ are Baroque (a period or style music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750 – Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Henry Purcell), Romantic (1780 – 1910, Johann Strauss II, Johannes Brahms, Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky), and Impressionistic (1890 – 1925, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel)

Classical music comes in lots of forms—from solo works to small ensembles, to giant orchestral scores.  Music played in the pit as accompaniment to ballets or operas are also often ‘Classical.’  It is, at its core, a broad term we use to denote music written with an artistic intent, music with an awareness of art music tradition (though not necessarily following it), and meant to be used to communicate large-scale values about the human condition.  The result is that most ‘classical’ music is long-form unlike much popular music through the ages. That is what makes classical music so enduring, and the music we turn to at life events—from weddings to graduations to funerals.

One of the highest achievements of Western civilization is its serious, beautiful music, which requires developed skill on the part of each performer on stage.  Classical musicians and composers have often undergone years of extensive education and training.

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“Music has always been transnational; people pick up whatever interests them, and certainly a lot of classical music has absorbed influences from all over the world.”

Yo-Yo Ma, Chinese American cellist

The history of symphonic music is really just the same as the history of music.  From individuals singing and banging percussion instruments, to assemblages of singers and percussionist, to early wind and string instruments, to small, then large groups of strings and winds—music began as a way to express the inexpressible.  Our particular thread of music in the classical world began at the confluence of two functions of music: sacred and secular.  There was music to worship by, and music to play by.  Everything we play can, in some sense, be traced back to either, or both, of those threads.  Whether a minuet in a symphony, or a funeral march, symphonic music’s roots go back to rowdy dance halls, and hallowed spaces of worship.

Although the Greeks are thought to have been the first civilization to combine music and drama, the modern orchestra began to emerge in Europe in the early 17th century.  Today, a typical orchestra includes different kinds of instruments, from the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instrument families.  The symphony orchestra is able to not only perform classical music, including ballet and opera works, but also Broadway show music and scores for movies, television, and radio, along with arrangements of popular, folk, rock and roll, and other genres.  The Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is a symphony orchestra, the only fully-professional one in the State of Delaware.

Chamber music is the performance of musical works whose composer has called for only a few performers; often one to each part.  For example, a string quartet, developed in 18th century Europe, involves four string players, and usually two violins, one viola, and one violincello (or cello).

In general, the person who creates a musical composition, the composer, designates how many, and which, instruments are to perform the composer’s work.  In a typical work, an audience member may expect to see from 50 to as many as 100 musicians on stage.  While the composer of a work may designate precisely how many people should be involved in the performance of their work, often the numbers are dictated by the era in which the work was written. 

Baroque and Classical works were generally written for more intimate venues than Romantic, 20th, and 21st Century works, and were therefore more often played with fewer musicians.  That is not to say that Bach and Mozart can’t be played with monster orchestras—they can—but more often, in an effort to achieve some semblance of the composer’s intent, they are played with small forces.  By the mid-19th Century, composers were writing works that included many more players—more varied woodwind and brass instruments, lots of percussion, keyboard, harps. By the turn of the 20th Century, it is not unusual to need 100 plus players to cover all of the symphonic bases.  (Contrast that with the 30-40 needed for a Mozart symphony!)

The age of the instruments in an orchestra can also vary significantly in age.  The oldest instruments can be more than years old—and are always found in the string sections.  String instruments, like some wine, and I am hoping people, get better with time.  Unfortunately, woodwinds and brass don’t last nearly as long.  In recent years, instruments made in the 17th and 18th centuries have been part of DSO concerts.

This varies, of course, because it depends upon what each composer has written.  Some works take only 5 minutes to perform, while others, such as a major symphony, may take an hour or slightly more.  Symphony concerts usually last between two and two and one half hours.

An orchestra may include other instruments for certain performances.  The DSO has featured the William Kerrigan Symphony Bells of Remembrance, a set of seven pitched bells that were originally part of the Bells of Remembrance collected by The Franciscans to honor the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City. The Franciscans donated the bells to various organizations, and the DSO received seven, which are most frequently needed for classical works (i.e., Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique, and Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky). William Kerrigan is the Principal Percussionist for the DSO and has worked closely with Brother David Schlatter to secure and maintain the seven bells; this is why he is recognized in the name.

Two Bells of Remembrance, used in Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique

The DSO is the only professional symphony orchestra in the State of Delaware.  Alfred I. du Pont formed the Tankopanicum Orchestra in the 1880s with employees, family members and others in the community, and was more of a band.  The group disbanded because of Mr. du Pont’s progressing deafness. It was replaced by the Wilmington Orchestra in 1906, an ensemble that performed symphonic repertoire. That group changed names on several occasions, becoming the Delaware Symphony Orchestra in 1971. The DSO considers its “founding” to have been in 1906.

The DSO is comprised of professional 82 musicians.  Some of the DSO’s musicians live in and around Wilmington; others live elsewhere in Delaware; but many are from cities in the Mid-Atlantic region ranging from New York City to central Virginia.  Some musicians have been performing with the DSO for more than 40 years.

Find the Musicians’ Roster in our People section

David Amado became the fifth Music Director of the DSO in 2003. A Marion, PA, native and graduate of Indiana University and The Juilliard School, he has held posts with the Oregon and St. Louis symphonies, and also serves as Music Director of the Atlantic Classical Orchestra in Florida.

Find out more about Music Director David Amado

Every orchestra needs a staff if it is to achieve professional excellence.  At the DSO, there are five full-time and two part-time administrative staff members who oversee planning, development (fund raising), marketing, box office, finances, orchestra personnel, and coordination of all the above.

Find the staff directory in our People section

David Amado, Music Director, with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra

An orchestra is not just composed of musicians and their instruments, but also includes a conductor.  The conductor of a symphony performs many of the duties that the director of a movie performs—communicating to the performers how their parts fit with one another, and how to best express the meaning and character at every moment. This is done through a combination of gesture and words in rehearsal, and, of course, only gesture in performance.  The end goal is to be at the right speed, in the right character, at the right volume, and with the right quality of sound at every single moment.  When those things work, the traffic-cop quality of conducting (keeping things happening simultaneously) falls into the background as the more important responsibility of shaping the music guides us all into place (audience included!).

Although the conductor plays no instrument, he or she is critical if the group is to perform with excellence.  The conductor unifies the performance, setting tempo or pace; the conductor listens critically to achieve the appropriate sound of the group, controls the interpretation of the music, and thus interprets the composer’s intent.

The DSO performs classical music concerts – the Classics Series – in Downtown Wilmington in The Grand Opera House’s Copeland Hall.

See our 2019-2020 Season Classics Series schedule

In Kent County, the DSO performs the Classics Series concerts in the Theatre at Dover High School.

The DSO performs the Classics Series concerts in Sussex County in the Theatre at Cape Henlopen High School.

The DSO performs it chamber music concerts – the Chamber Series — in the Gold Ballroom at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, and are sometimes also performed in other parts of Delaware.

See our 2019-2020 Season Chamber Series schedule

The DSO also uses Copeland Hall and Dover High School’s Theatre for Explorer Experience student matinees. We perform a Fourth of July concert at Wilmington’s Tubman-Garret Riverfront Park, and occasionally appear at the Open Air Theatre at Longwood Gardens.

Classics concerts in Wilmington usually occur on Friday evenings, beginning at 7:30 pm.  Kent and Sussex county Classics concerts usually occur on Sunday afternoons, beginning at 3:00 pm.  The Classics Series concert experience DSO includes a pre-show discussion by Music Director David Amado one hour before the performance.  Chamber concerts in Wilmington usually occur on Tuesday evenings, beginning at 7:30 pm.

In recent years, for each season the DSO has been able to offer a five-concert Classics Series—featuring the full orchestra—and a four-concert Chamber Series, with presentations of chamber orchestra and chamber music; all in New Castle County. We also perform Explorer Experience matinees for students in New Castle and Kent counties, as well as some Classics and Chamber series concerts in both Kent and Sussex Counties.  Finally, we have recently added outdoor summer performances in both Delaware and Pennsylvania.  In total, the DSO performs between 15 and 20 times each season.

The regular DSO season begins in September and ends in May, but recently it has been able to perform during the summers as well.

The DSO has two commercially released CDs, including a 2010 recording on the Telarc label, Interchange, with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet featuring concertos by Joaquín Rodrigo.  The latest release, on the Naxos label, came out in April, 2018: The Book of Signs, features double guitar concertos by Leo Brouwer and Paulo Bellinati with the Brasil Guitar Duo.  Both CDs were nominated for Best Classical Album by the Latin Grammy Awards.

Tickets may be ordered at any time through the DSO’s website at

Click here to go to our ticket order page.

or by telephone Monday through Friday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm: (302) 656-7442.


Although the musicians wear formal attire for most of the concerts, that doesn’t mean you have to dust off your tuxedo or favorite evening gown. Most audience members do dress somewhat formally, but ultimately, we want you to be comfortable. Depending on the time of year, the auditorium might be a little cool, so short sleeves might leave you wishing you did bring that jacket. Temperatures are moderated, and we try to ensure everyone is comfortable.

There are several parking garages available near each of our venues. Check the specific event listing for parking information, where you will find details on garages, lots, or street parking.

Concerts that begin at 7:30 typically last until 9:30 or 10:00. Each concert depends on the length of the pieces on the program, but unless otherwise noted, it shouldn’t go much past 10:00.

Whether it’s due to traffic, having to run back in the house because you forgot your tickets, finding a parking place, or forgetting what time the concert starts, running late happens to all of us from time to time. You’ll still be able to find your seats, but you may have to either wait in the lobby or in the back of the auditorium. Ushers will direct you where to go and seat you during the applause. If there are no breaks in the first half of the concert, you will have to wait until intermission to find your seats.

Yes. All of our Classics and Chamber concerts do have one twenty (20) minute intermission. Some of the pieces will also require stage changes, so there will be short breaks in between them that won’t last more than a few minutes.

All you have to do is notify our staff and they will be able to direct you to the ticket counter, where your tickets can be reprinted. There may be a line as we will be handling walk-up sales, but don’t worry, we’ll make sure you are in your seats for when the concert starts.

Absolutely! Not all venues offer the same selections of restaurants, but there are many options for performances at the Grand Opera House or the Gold Ballroom.

“Art and life are not two separate things.”

Felix Mendelssohn, German composer and conductor.

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The Delaware Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to enriching lives through inspiring musical experiences.  It will be valued and praised for performances that inspire, enrich, and enlighten the lives of audiences everywhere. The DSO’s core values are: Building and Sustaining Trust; Commitment to Quality; Access for All; Curiosity, Openmindedness, and Exploration; and Fiscal Responsibility.

Classical music helps bring communities together.  It is not static and is ever evolving.  It embraces the world around it and serves as a reflection of the times.  Once perceived as entertainment only for the wealthy, classical music now serves an inclusive and diverse audience. 

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“Unfortunately the work of a woman composer is preconceived by many to be light, froth, lacking in depth, logic and virility. Add to that the incident of race—I have Colored blood in my veins—and you will understand some of the difficulties that confront one in such a position.”

Florence Price, 1943, female African American composer

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Increasing the accessibility of classical music and opportunities for musicians, composers, and conductors, as noted by Florence Price over 75 years ago, has not been easy and mirrors our own societal progress.  The Delaware Symphony Orchestra is committed to this endeavor, recognizing the importance of its place within the community.

The impact of professional arts groups on a community is great—important in attracting a high-level workforce, maintaining a vital downtown or arts district, and contributing economically to the community.

Yes – The DSO offers a multifaceted educational program:

  • Explorer Concerts: Concerts held each May in Copeland Hall and downstate, designed for students in grades 3-5 grade levels—often their very first live concert experiences—currently in conjunction with the educational arm of Carnegie Hall. The concerts involve the students not only in listening, but performing.
  • Other educational programs are the innovative “Math and Music” program for fourth graders, combining music with Math learning (fractions);
  • Build the Orchestra for middle school strings students, master classes by visiting soloists, and open dress rehearsals.

Unfortunately, DSO ticket sales do not cover the cost of DSO operations.  No American orchestra is able to cover all its expenses through ticket sales. There are many variable factors, including performance frequency, concert venue capacity, cost to use or operate the venue, community pricing standards and values; but the average American orchestra covers between 20% and 40% of its costs through ticket sales. For the DSO, with a larger orchestra than most in its budget size, and relatively small performance venues, ticket sales currently cover approximately 20% of expenses. Indeed, the current average Classics Series concert’s direct costs amount to around $110,000.  The Grand Opera House’s seating capacity is 1,066, with the stage extension (required for the DSO to fit) in place.  That means each seat costs over $103, while the average ticket price is currently $45.

Therefore, in order to continue serving the community, the DSO depends on individual donors and corporate contributions.

The DSO accepts gifts of cash and appreciated stock; planned gifts and other contributions can be discussed with DSO Development Director, Kristin Peterson:

Telephone at (302) 656-7442, ext. 1008.

Donations, which are tax-deductible as provided by the I.R.S., can be made at any time through the DSO’s website, at, or by calling Kristin.

Click here to make a donation online.

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