Before You’re Here

Symphony 101: Your Questions Answered

Welcome to the California Symphony!

If you’re reading this page, that means you’re hopefully joining us soon for a concert, and we love that.

We care a LOT about growing our audience and making sure people who are newer to classical music and/or orchestra concerts have a great experience so ultimately you come back again, and all of the questions here came from a group of new attendees that told us what they wanted to know before coming.

Have a question that’s not answered here? Send us a message on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or you can email us at

Where do you perform, exactly?

The California Symphony is based in Walnut Creek, performing throughout the year at the Lesher Center for the Arts, and in recent years, we’ve expanded our footprint to include performances in Oakland, Concord, Berkeley, and Napa. Our goal is to continue to reach new audiences and perform in new venues, better living up to our name to serve the state!

What's a good seat?

We get asked this a lot, and most people will tell you that because the Lesher Center is a fairly intimate venue (only about 800 seats compared to typical concert halls which are double or even triple that size), there really is no bad seat in the house. That said, the two best locations are in the center, not too close to the front as that helps the sound blend a little better by the time it hits your ears (plus you can see more of the players when you’re not right up by the stage), and at the front of the balcony (including box seats), so that you have better sight lines to see the entire orchestra from more of an aerial perspective. Lastly, if there is a piano soloist performing, people like to sit more towards the left side of the house so that you can see the pianist’s hands as they perform.

What are your COVID health protocols?

We don’t require vaccinations, and masking is optional.

For the most up-to-date COVID safety policies, please visit the Lesher Center’s safety page.

What can I expect for price?

Prices range from $45 to $90. There are a few other helpful tips you should know as well:

1. The best deal comes when you don’t wait until the very last minute to order tickets. We never offer last minute discounts because we don’t want to undercut patrons who already purchased their seats. In fact, prices actually increase based on demand as the concert date approaches. In other words, as the house gets more full, prices go up accordingly. Whenever you see a concert you’d like to attend, you save by not waiting (and of course you have better seats to choose from as well).

2. Another way to save is to buy in bulk. This can be either in the form of season tickets, where we often have deals such as “3 concerts for $99,” or in the form of group tickets, where you save 10-20% depending on the size of your group and can even come for free if your group is of a certain size.

3. If you’re a student on a budget, be sure to bring your student ID and get any seat for $20.

What do I wear?!

More than anything, we want you to be comfortable when you join us for a concert, so dress in a way that works for you. Some people love dressing up and going out—if that’s you, do it and you won’t be the only one, we promise. If you prefer to be more casual, then you probably won’t be the only one dressed casually, either. What you won’t see a lot of is black tie. For our Sunday afternoon concerts, even the orchestra wears suits and ties instead of all-out tails and cummerbunds. For our evening parties and special events though, bring on the ritz. In short, you do you, and we’re just glad you’re joining us.

What time does the concert begin?

Saturday’s performance starts at 7:30 pm and Sunday’s at 4:00 pm, and you are also welcome to attend the free, 30-minute pre-concert talk, starting one hour before each show. We recommend allowing plenty of time to park and get to your seat. If you’re late, you’ll be allowed in at a suitable break in the program.

When should I arrive?

We try to make concerts self-contained, meaning at the performance itself you will learn a little from your program book as well as from the Maestro as he sometimes briefly introduces the pieces from the stage. If you want to study up ahead of time, we have multiple ways to help you do that:

  1. The pre-concert talk with program notes annotator, Scott Foglesong starts one hour before the performance, is free to concert attendees, and lasts about 30 minutes, so you have a half hour between the talk and concert to get a drink, use the restroom, mingle, etc. During the talk, Scott covers topics such as why he programmed the particular pieces on that concert, things you should listen for during the performance, and information about the composer. Of ten, the soloist performing that date will join the talk for all or part, so you get to hear first-hand from the amazing artist you’re going to see later in the evening.
  2. Look for “Deep Dive” links on the concert page on this website, which may include program notes by Scott Foglesong, artist profiles, articles fleshing out the story behind the music, and clips to preview the music.
  3. On each of the concert overview pages on this website, we’ve included each piece’s respective Wikipedia entry. That idea came straight from a concert first-time attendee who said he looked up all the Wikipedia pages before he came and it would be really cool if we could help by including that info. So we did, and we hope it’s helpful.

Where do I park?

The most popular option is the Lesher Center parking garage, located adjacent to the Center on Locust Street. The garage is operated by the City of Walnut Creek and rates vary depending on the time of day and other events taking place in the area. The standard parking rate is $1.25 per hour, and event parking fees usually range from $3 to $5 per day. The Lesher Center is also within walking distance to the Walnut Creek BART station.

Will there be wine?

Is this the California Symphony..?

Wine, beer, sodas and snacks will be available to purchase at the bars on the 2nd floor lobby.