Ushering Rewards & Requirements


[This version posted November 14, 2011, clarifying parts of the earlier page and outlining in more detail assignments for House and regular ushers.]

The Opera House offers a unique opportunity to help the world-class San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera by assisting audience members during performances and special events. This page contains information about the rewards and categories of ushering at the War Memorial Opera House.

Those who are interested in general information about the volunteer program and orientations may find the Interested in Ushering? page helpful. Another page goes into facets of scheduling.

Rewards of Ushering

Volunteer ushers have the opportunity to see outstanding performances, meet interesting people, and share their love of the performing arts. Volunteering is a great way to get involved behind-the-scenes and provide important support to the San Francisco Opera and Ballet.

A volunteer usher can help create the special experience that attendance at the Opera house ought be, and is often the representative of the resident companies with whom patrons interact.

Types of Ushering

Since some jobs require more effort and commitment than others, there are two categories for ushering: House and regular. All volunteers begin as regular ushers.

House ushers are experienced volunteers assigned to key positions to assure a basic level of service throughout the auditorium. They are supplemented with regular ushers. Some experienced volunteers choose not to make the commitment required of House ushering; others prefer to work in the lobbies or Boxes, where only regular ushers are assigned.

The list of those eligible to schedule as House will be revised before each Nutcracker season. Volunteers who want to be added to this list should register their interest by sending a message to <> between September 15 and October 15.

Ushering Requirements

The Opera House needs flexible, aware, low-maintenance volunteers who can be counted on to do their share of the work and follow instructions. All ushers are on duty at minimum a) from the start of the House Manager's briefing until curtain and b) during intermissions. They may also be required to staff an aisle during the performance (up to the last intermission for regular ushers).

Volunteers are expected to fulfill the Nutcracker requirement. Those who meet the requirement will be able to schedule earlier than other ushers. Ushers without the Nutcracker qualification for two years in a row will have even more limited access, if any, to Opera House offerings. A few repertory performances a year in addition to Nutcracker is enough for an usher to remain on the active list.

Ushers should be prepared for assignment on any level and may also be stationed at doors to the outside. Dressing in layers enables volunteers to be comfortable in the varying temperatures both inside and outside the building.

Many positions require going up and down stairs or standing on a hard surface for ninety minutes.

House Ushering Responsibilities

House ushers are expected to be willing and able to carry out any assignment. They should expect to serve at least once each year in the Orchestra, Grand Tier/Dress Circle and Balcony/Balcony Circle. They need to know supervisors and special circumstances throughout the Opera House.

For the safety and comfort of the audience, House ushers must be available throughout the performance and while patrons exit from the auditorium. During performance, they monitor access to an aisle, usually alternating duty with another usher. Volunteers should arrange this (and intermission breaks) with their ushering partner or their staff supervisor.

Frequency of House ushering will be considered each year when the eligibility list is revised.

When a House usher wishes to volunteer in the Boxes or other lobbies (not including Will Call), he or she should schedule as a regular usher for that performance.

Benefits of House Ushering

Because more is expected of them, House ushers receive scheduling preference and other advantages.

Many popular events may be open only to House ushers. For most performances, House ushers will be given first opportunity to schedule. Some performances will be by invitation or request.

House usher floor preferences, as recorded in PRESTO Group & Event Manager by the volunteer, will be considered in assignment of level.

House ushers are invited to propose (by emailing <>) someone as a guest usher for a performance that has lots of space. A guest usher may serve only once per year; anyone who wants to volunteer more should be encouraged to attend a new-usher orientation.

When a benefit cannot be extended to all House ushers, a volunteer's frequency of House ushering will be considered.