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Terez Mertes

The Nomad Subscription Season

May 29, 2009 at 1:59 PM

Having decided last month that renewing my season subscription with the San Francisco Symphony was a must ( ) I set about the more earthbound task of financing it. There’d have to be a compromise from last year’s price. Money was not going to spring up in my wallet simply because I’d made a noble decision to choose art over a good restaurant meal or two. With this cut budget in mind I took a leap and went for the cheapest subscription I could get: second tier.

From my current seat, a front row corner spot on the first tier, I can easily observe the rest of Davies Hall, one of the reasons I like the seat. Below me, spread out like a rug, is the traditional auditorium seating. Higher up are the tiers and on the stage, framing the orchestra is the arena-like terrace seating. Center terrace, directly behind the orchestra, is the Holy Grail of cheapies: general admission. Sitting in center terrace, you are Right There, part of the action, whether you want to be or not. You pick your nose, everyone’s going to see it. You come huffing in, late, in some tacky-looking outfit, everyone’s going to see it. You doze off, shake your head in disgust, ditto. Meanwhile, a 180 degree shift and as far to the back as you can go, is second tier, looking so high, you can’t help but wonder if the tall people have to duck while sitting there, that if perhaps some people have been camping out there since the last concert but no one has discovered them there yet. “Superior acoustics for that full orchestral sound,” the brochure boasts. A subtle way of saying “better bring binoculars.”

But second tier is wonderfully cost-efficient. At $180 a season, for six performances, you can be tight on money and still afford a season subscription here. It seems like a small miracle to me. Maybe that’s because I haven’t sat through a performance there yet, although I’d gone up there once during intermission to check out the view. The stage looked so very tiny, the ceiling of Davies Hall so close. A flicker of uncertainty passed over me.

One might suggest that I simply choose three performances and pay the same price for a higher quality experience. But it’s being at the symphony I love just as much as the music. Dressing up, having Somewhere Special to go. Sharing in the other patrons’ experience as we all mill around in the lobby, still so pretty and airy following its 1992 renovation. And I’m comforted by the feeling, the security net, that comes with a season subscription. I can exchange tickets at any time. I can order single tickets before they go on sale to the public. (YoYo Ma in recital; center terrace, here I come.) If our finances magically change I can switch the remaining tickets back to first tier if I like. Further, each subscription comes with one upgrade certificate. My favorite upgrade is to premier orchestra, center, roughly twelve rows from the front. A peerless seat for recitals or small string orchestra performances.

Not holding a premium seat means I’m free to try other spots, shelling out a few bucks if I want to upgrade for the night. Another seat I’m now curious to try is the side terrace seat. True, once again, you are Right There, in plain view, but this time only your profile is exposed to the audience. Theoretically you could pick one side of your nose here, with the audience none the wiser.

So. I’ve dubbed the 2009-10 season my year of nomadic wanderings through Davies Hall. It’s an adventure I’ll try to make the most of, before I return, hopefully, to my trusted first tier front-row corner seat, the following year. Or who knows—maybe I’ll discover a new favorite spot.

They say there’s not a bad seat in Davies Hall.

I’ll let you know.


© 2009 Terez Rose

From Donna Clegg
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 5:42 PM

Reminds me of the year Georgia Tech "reseated" season ticket holders after completion of a new addition to  the football stadium.  Previous season ticket holders were assigned days/times to come sit and "try out" seats for the upcoming year.  Of course prices had changed, so we needed to determine how much we were willing to pay for new seats.  I was amazed at the turn out, but the reasoning was the same as you just described in many ways.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 11:01 PM

 >Previous season ticket holders were assigned days/times to come sit and "try out" seats for the upcoming year.

That's why the San Francisco Symphony gives out that "one free upgrade" certificate with each subscription. So you can upgrade your whole subscription once you've found that other perfect seat. (I'm guessing that my trajectory confounds them. Or maybe with this recession it's not an uncommon thing this year.)

From Anne Horvath
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 12:43 AM

"Holy Grail of cheapies".  That has to be your funniest line ever!

Nosebleed zone aside, I'm guessing the sound will be lovely, and you can bring along your binoculars, or opera glasses if you are feeling especially snooty.  (Insert smiley face here).

Also, I never have seen anyone pick their nose during a concert.  Please keep us all informed if this occurs.

And $180 for six concerts is a great deal.  I peeked at the SFS schedule, and Tetzlaff is playing Tchaikovsky in March.  That should be wonderful.  I will try not to be jealous now.  (Insert second smiley face here).

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 3:41 AM

Anne - your comments, as always, never fail to make me laugh. Glad you got a kick out of the Holy Grail line, although the rumor is that the true Holy Grail is to know the talent. : ) 

Yes, I'm happy to know I've got six very switchable tickets for the '09-'10 season. (Tetzlaff+Tchaikovsky = Terez+upgrade.) In truth, I rarely hold on to more than 2 of those original six tickets; I switch around like mad for the artists/concerts I want. Great fun. Again, the perks of a subscription.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 4:20 PM

My comment just wandered away into the ether, so I will try again:

Since the economic downturn has cut into my travel plans this year, I don't think I can jet-set over to the Left Coast to enjoy a SFS concert this year.  (Insert a sad smiley face here).  I am just grateful that the last trip was so wonderful, and the memory is so strong, that it will last a bit longer...

(If the Powerball Retirement Plan pays off this year, that changes everything, but I am not going to count those chickens before they hatch).

And I just want to say how great it is, despite all of your hardships this past year, that you still value live performance, and are willing to sacrifice many goodies to still be able to attend. 

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 5:48 PM

>despite all of your hardships this past year, you still value live performance.

Ha, it's because of the hardships that I value the SFS performances. They're my six guaranteed ahhhhh afternoons/evenings. And what else would I get to dress up for? : )

So sorry you can't jet over this way to join me for Christian or YoYo (although I'd make you sit in center terrace with me for the latter).

From Anne Horvath
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 7:31 PM

Not sure about Center Terrace...what with all the tacky outfits and nose picking...(insert yet another smiley face here).

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 8:39 PM

 >Not sure about Center Terrace...what with all the tacky outfits and nose picking.

Mom promised me she'd never do it again. ; )

From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 31, 2009 at 7:08 PM

Terez/Anne - you two are a hoot!  I think it is great that Terez has her priorities staight.  One thing I have found in DC's Kennedy Center and nearby Strathmore Hall is that the cheapie seats have the best accoustics.  Our tickets are $25 or $30 per person, but we don't suffer.  Have a great year at the SFS!

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 31, 2009 at 9:07 PM

 >One thing I have found in DC's Kennedy Center and nearby Strathmore Hall is that the cheapie seats have the best accoustics. 

I'll have plenty of opportunities next year to let you know if the same thing applies to Davies Hall! : )

From Anne Horvath
Posted on May 31, 2009 at 9:26 PM

I just realized that I can't spell "despite", but I fixed it, just to maintain the Aura Of Perfection...

What I've noticed over the years is that the lesser halls tend to have the better sounding seats up in the nosebleed zone.  That's a win-win:  Less Rubles, Better Sound Quality.  My experiences in Davies were on the ground, and the sound was beautiful.  The orchestra wasn't bad either...


From Terez Mertes
Posted on June 1, 2009 at 1:46 AM

>I just realized that I can't spell "despite", but I fixed it, just to maintain the Aura Of Perfection...

You'll note that I helped maintain your aura of perfection by editing the spelling when I quoted you. Except that I just destroyed that aura by mentioning the flaw here.


Your seats at Davies Hall have been entirely too good. I really think you need to check out second tier with me. BYOB (bring your own binoculars). Or center terrace. Your pick. (Speaking of editing, I liked your use of caps on the first letter when mentioning each section. Center Terrace looks so much more elegant than center terrace, non? As does a mot de français there, n'est-ce pas?) 

From Anne Horvath
Posted on June 1, 2009 at 2:11 AM

I think "Centre Terrace" would be even better.  I can't say "Centre Terrace" without giggling though.

(Yet another imperfection.  Dash it all.)

When I scrape together enough rubles, I'll be back.  And I might, just might be able to scrounge a couple of freebies in the La-Dee-Dah section, where all the outfits are distinctly un-tacky (except mine) and there is a tragic lack of nose picking (will try). Until then, you will have to somehow muddle through without me. 

And I hope you blog about all the concerts you attend.  Reading about them will be fun, and you do write about music so well!

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