The Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra is trying to make classical music more accessible with a "pay what you can" ticketing program. Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography

CHICAGO — You can attend a Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra concert by donating as little as $1 through a new “pay as you can” ticket program.

The Philharmonic, which stages shows at venues Downtown and in the suburbs, introduced the ticket program earlier this year for a concert in March, marketing manager Lydia Penningroth said. The suggested donation is $5 per ticket, but patrons can donate as little as $1 up to whatever they can afford to help offset venue fees.

The goal is to make classical music more accessible for people who might not be able to afford it, Penningroth said.

“This program is to bring more people in with a low price tag — to experience classical music even if they wouldn’t normally attend,” Penningroth said.

Tickets are normally $35-$75, and student tickets are also available for $10. But selling some tickets for $1 hasn’t majorly affected profits, Penningroth said.

“If someone really wants to pay $50 to support our organization, they still will,” she said. “I just think in general people are excited to see this. Long-time Philharmonic patrons are still interested in supporting the organization … and people have been really generous in that way.”

Some people donate more than the standard $5, and some have even donated despite not wanting tickets — they just want to support the program, Penningroth said.

Penningroth, of Logan Square, has posted about the “pay as you can” program in neighborhood Facebook pages to spread the word.

“We’re not sure if we want to continue doing it with community groups or just switch [all ticket sales] to the ‘pay as you can’ program,” she said. “We’re just trying to get this music to as many people as possible.”

Fans can attend the Philharmonic’s upcoming Afro-American Symphony concert — which features music by William Grant Still and Florence Price — by donating online.

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