Symphony Under the Stars

Symphony Under the Stars


Saturday, 15 July 2023

8:30 p.m. Carroll College Lawn Free


The Intrepid Credit Union Symphony Under the Stars is Back!
Carroll College and the Helena Symphony announce their continued collaboration for the nineteenth annual Intrepid Credit Union SYMPHONY UNDER THE STARSThey welcome back Intrepid Credit Union as its major sponsor, continuing a multi-year commitment to the event. The concert on Saturday, July 15 at 8:30 p.m. includes a fireworks finale, also sponsored by the Intrepid Credit Union. Considered the largest summer event in Montana, the much-anticipated SYMPHONY UNDER THE STARS attracts over 18,000 people from all over the state of Montana and beyond.
The Helena Symphony is excited to announce the theme of the 2023 Intrepid Credit Union SYMPHONY UNDER THE STARS: The Great Ladies of JazzThe Great Ladies of Jazz pays tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, among others. The evening will feature many of the greatest hits from the Great American Songbook, including How High the MoonI Got RhythmSummertimeA-Tisket, A-TasketSatin DollBlue SkiesBewitched, and many more. Several songs for this program will be performed with the original Nelson Riddle and Billy May orchestrations and will guarantee a swinging good time!


We appreciate your donations greatly as they allow us to make Symphony Under the Stars possible every year. Don’t want to bring cash to the concert? Donate online anytime!




–“This was the best ever FAQ page I have ever seen! THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!”
–“Such a well written FAQ! Love the humor!”

The 19th annual Intrepid Credit Union Symphony Under the Stars (SUTS), a gift to the community presented by Carroll College and the Helena (MT) Symphony, will be held on Saturday, July 15 at 8:30 PM. This free outdoor concert is held at what is known as Guad Hill on the Carroll College Campus at 1601 N. Benton. This year features The Great Ladies of Jazz.  The Helena Symphony Orchestra, along with two acclaimed jazz singers, showcases the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughan, and others. The finale of the concert will offer one of the best fireworks show in the state, also sponsored by the Intrepid Credit Union!  Typically, over 17,000 attend this wonderful tradition, so pack your blankets.  This is a FREE PERFORMANCE!

There will be a couple of changes, but you should still read the entire thing as a refresher course. It’s a great read! But since you asked…

  • Lining up for blanket placement on Friday will be changed. Everyone will have to enter the grounds from the Carroll football practice field, south of the PE Center and the Hunthausen Activity Center. THERE WILL NO LONGER BE ACCESS TO THE GROUNDS FROM THE TOP OF THE HILL AS IN THE PAST. The grounds officially open at 5:00 PM, but for a $5/blanket cash donation to the Boy Scouts on-site, they can enter at 3:00 PM. Access to the concert grounds will be controlled, and we ask that people be aware of those around them so that it is safe for all. Please, be civil! No running over people!
  • There will be a separate dance area blocked out to the side of the stage. We have found that the dancers directly in front of the stage cause a great distraction to the orchestra and musical guests. Please do not try to gather in front!
  • We will be bringing in more porta-potties. There will be trash cans nearby, so don’t toss beer cans or paper plates or such things in the potties!

Intrepid Credit Union stepped up a couple of years ago and entered into a multi-year partnership by purchasing the naming rights for the event. They are also continuing their longtime sole sponsorship of the fireworks finale! This is a major commitment on their part and ensures stability in the future for the continued success of the event. Does this mean they are paying for the full cost of the event? Not even close. But it does provide incentive for other major donors and shows a high level of support for the Helena community and its citizens. They also get their name plastered all over the place whenever we market SUTS.

Yes! We love that you want to share photos of your experience and connect with the 17,000 other music lovers in attendance! There are several hashtags you can use to make sure your photos are seen by us! Try using one or all of the following: #symphonyunderthestars #suts2023 #sutshelena Make sure to tag @helensymphony @intrepidcreditunion and @carrollcollege for extra connection!  ALSO–please do not post videos of the concert itself! Lots of reasons, including copyright laws and recording rights. But prior to the concert? Knock yourselves out!

Yep. Our friends at Blackfoot River Brewing Company have come up with a beer specifically brewed for SUTS again this year! It’s going to be on the lighter side, and easy to drink on a hot summer evening. It’s currently going through the brewing process and will be available for the first time at Blackfoot on Tuesday, July 11 at 4:30 PM. You can fill a growler or two to take home (or the concert!), or you can get it by the glass from the beer vendor at the concert. The best part of all this–SUTS will receive $1 per glass sold! SUTS thanks Blackfoot River Brewing for this wonderful gift, and for all they do for the Helena community!

The concert is free, given as a gift to the community from Carroll College and the Helena Symphony. However, a very limited number of seats in front of the stage went on sale June 1st for $35 each plus a small fee for the transaction. Currently, there are no tickets available, but we anticipate some seats opening up if major donors decide not to use theirs. A waiting list has been started. Call the office at 406.442.1860 to check on availability.

Yes and No. Thursday and Friday are the days that the production teams are busy setting up the stage, sound and lighting equipment, and painting the pedestrian lanes on the lawn. None of which can be done prior to the placement of the stage on Thursday morning. For safety reasons,  the concert grounds will be closed to the public from Thursday morning until 5:00 PM on Friday…  HOWEVER…! We will have the Boy Scouts on hand Friday afternoon to help secure the area. Advanced blanket placement is allowed from 3:00-5:00 pm on Friday with a $5/blanket cash donation to the Boy Scouts. If past years are any indication (and we suspect that they are), there will be hundreds of audience members taking advantage of this opportunity. The Scouts will assist in avoiding areas that will be still be needed by production crews. 

  • Please do not attempt to park in the Guad Hall parking lot or on Hunthausen Avenue!
  • Please do not try to drive around temporary or permanent barricades on campus.
  • Any blankets that are placed early will be removed. 
  • Do not freak out when you see some blanket spaces taped off before the 3:00 hour.  Some of our major sponsors have opted for reserved blanket space instead of their reserved seats.
  • When you do find your blanket space, please do not claim more room than you actually need. There’s a limited amount of space for such a large audience! 
  • Also, please don’t use spray paint to mark your area. It kills the grass. 

No, we can’t. But you can get friends/family to place a blanket for you on Friday. Subject to the $5/blanket donation between 3:00-5:00, or for free after 5:00.

No, that’s probably not a good idea. We’d estimate that about 90% of the lawn is covered by blankets by 7:30 on Friday night. Seriously. It’s incredible. IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME COMING TO THE CONCERT, OR YOU’RE COMING IN FROM OUT OF TOWN, WE HIGHLY URGE YOU TO MAKE SOME SORT OF ARRANGEMENTS TO GET YOUR BLANKETS/CHAIRS PLACED BY FRIDAY NIGHT!!!

Amazingly, we have yet to hear of anyone getting their blankets stolen overnight, and very little occurrence of claim-jumping (but I wouldn’t leave coolers or chairs overnight). We advise you to use lots of canned goods to hold down your blankets.  After the violent pre-concert storm from a couple of years ago, the blankets that didn’t get blown away were the ones that had as many as a dozen cans or more holding them down. While that storm was extraordinary, it did show that more is better! 

NO stakes, of any kind, length, or material are allowed. They will be removed if found. That also includes rocks or bricks of any kind. In fact, anything that will puncture the lawn in any way is not permitted. 

Our strong recommendation is to bring canned or non-perishable goods to hold down your blankets. Helena Food Share will be on hand to collect them before/during/after the concert so that you don’t have to carry them home. Over the years, they have collected over 60 tons of food from this concert! Drop-off points will be found at numerous locations on the concert grounds.

That would be a big fat NO.  They will kill the grass, even after just a few hours in the summer sun and heat. They will be removed if found. Please use only towels, blankets or quilts!

Also, a great big NOPE. No tents or canopies without prior approval by SUTS. Call the Symphony Office at (406) 442-1860 to discuss it with us. Umbrellas (like golf umbrellas–not something from your patio furniture) are OK, as long as you are considerate of your neighbors.

As a matter of fact, YES! Eventually. This website will be switched to the actual program a couple of days before the concert. It is optimized to be viewed on mobile devices, so you can call up the website on your smartphone at the concert to check out the pieces being played, orchestra personnel, donors/sponsors, and other concert-related information. You can even access it on your desktop and print out whatever pages you might want. Be sure to check back often!

Anyplace that is in front of the stage will provide great views and sound. Be aware that this is a live outdoor concert, subject to the weather and 17,000+ of your closest friends and family. People around you will be talking in varying degrees. Do not expect the atmosphere to be that of a concert hall! (to be brutally honest, the further away you get from the stage, the better the sound!) That being said–there are definitely places where you will see nothing and hear even less. We will be adding an extra speaker stack that will be pointed to the side of the stage, as we expect a bigger than usual crowd.  A general rule of thumb–if you can’t see the face side of a sound speaker, you will most likely not hear a thing. We have explored numerous options to improve the situation, but they have been infeasible, acoustically problematic, or negatively affect the entire production. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. And it’s why everyone scrambles to get their blankets set on Friday as soon as they can!

There is free parking at nearby city parking garages, or in the lots/streets on the south half of Carroll’s campus. There is also free parking at Centennial Park, including the paved road around the ball fields. Many people will park on the north side of the railroad tracks. There is free parking at nearby city parking garages, or in the lots/streets on the south half of Carroll’s campus. There is also free parking at Centennial Park, including the paved road around the ball fields. Use caution when crossing the tracks.

Do not drive/park on the walking trails in the park; do not drive/park on the grass.

Be neighborly—please do not park in the residential areas west of campus. North Benton Avenue is reserved for busses between the entrances to Guad Hall and the PE Center.

No parking in lots on the north or east sides of campus (reserved for musicians, volunteers, and sponsors) without a SUTS parking pass.

Free handicapped parking is available in the P.E. Center lot (must have a proper state-issued tag or license plates). Golf carts driven by volunteers will be available to shuttle people to the concert area.

Sponsor/donor parking is also available in the P.E. Center, as well as the stadium tailgate lots (must have SUTS parking pass). Passes will be mailed to sponsors/donors in early July.

Drop-off areas will be on Benton Ave, near the entrance to the Guad Hall lot and P.E. Center lot. The Benton Ave. drop-off will be closed at 4 PM on Saturday to allow for large bus parking.

YES!  Vendors will be on hand selling frozen desserts, kettle corn, and dinner fare. There will also be a beer/wine vendor. Vendors are located at the top of the hill near Corette Library, and at the side of the hill along the south wall of Guad Hall. If you prefer, you can bring your own picnic/dinner. Personal coolers, picnics, backpacks, chairs, and alcohol are all allowed. However, no grills of any size/type are allowed.

NO PETS AT ANY TIME ON THURSDAY, FRIDAY OR SATURDAY!! While we’re sure that your dog is the most well-behaved dog in town, we just can’t allow it. Even before concert day. There are huge liability issues that we are exposed to if we allow them. Dogs are unpredictable in the best of circumstances, let alone in the presence of crowds, other dogs, loud fireworks, and small children. And of course, there’s the doggie doo problem. If you somehow sneak a dog (or any other animal) into the concert, and one of the police officers sees you, you will be asked to leave with your animal. Exceptions, of course, for service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Only if you’re sitting in your car, which won’t be anywhere near the concert grounds. In other words, NO SMOKING!! Carroll College is a tobacco-free campus, and Intrepid Credit Union Symphony Under the Stars is a tobacco-free event in association with the Lewis & Clark County Health Department. Please respect those around you by not smoking.

NO! There are barricades on the east and north sides of campus to prevent both vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the fireworks safety zone. That zone is required by state law. If that area is breached, the Fire Marshal can, and will, cancel the fireworks permit that we have. Please stay out of the restricted area!!!

As you can imagine, the audience size is larger than most towns in Montana.

We will have officers from the Helena Police Dept. on hand to keep an eye on things. They will also work traffic control on the streets after the concert.

We will have an ambulance crew from St. Peter’s Health on-site to take care of any medical emergencies that might happen. They will be located in the parking lot behind the stage.

The Helena Fire Department will be on call with a truck and crew to prevent any potential problems with the fireworks. Additionally, employees of the Helena Solid Waste Transfer Station will be keeping an eye on their area in case of stray or errant fireworks.

Intrepid Credit Union Symphony Under the Stars is jointly produced and presented by Carroll College and the Helena Symphony. It is possible only because of the support from numerous businesses, foundations, and individuals. Any donation or sponsorship of SUTS is considered separate from any donation to, or sponsorship of, other Carroll College or Helena Symphony events. All funds raised for SUTS are used solely for this event. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact the Symphony office!

Why, of course! We will have volunteers roaming the crowd with big red buckets (the Bucket Brigade). If you toss some money in the bucket, the volunteers will give you an official Symphony Under the Stars sticker to indicate to other volunteers that you’ve already donated. Please consider tossing a dollar (or lots of dollars) into the bucket. And don’t be shy, if you’re in a hard-to-reach area, feel free to approach the volunteers yourself!

There will be a merchandise tent near the vendors’ area. Among the items for sale (checks or cash only):

A limited number of numbered/signed art prints by Connie Bergum will be available for purchase at the concert. Prints from prior years may also be available. $25 each.

The official SUTS t-shirt will also be available. $10 each.

There may be other stuff…we’re working on some things!

There are no recordings nor videos available of previous SUTS concerts. This is due to the high cost of broadcast rights, as well as high quality recording costs. Again, we respectfully request that any recordings or videos that you might take yourself not be uploaded to YouTube or other social media. Copyright laws and acceptable audio/video quality are just two of the concerns regarding that.

Sorry…there are no animals. We welcome the return of the Instrument Petting Zoo this year!  They will be located just north of the stage and will welcome kids (and adults!) of all ages starting in the late afternoon until about 45 minutes prior to the concert.  We thank the Helena Music Teachers Association and Piccolo’s Music for their presentation of this educational bit of fun for everyone!

Large items (blankets/coolers/chairs) can usually be found in a pile near the north side of Guad Hall on Sunday. If it’s your cell phone or keys or other smaller items, you can call the Symphony Box Office on Monday afternoon following the concert to inquire about lost & found items at (406) 442-1860.

As we learned in 2017, the show must go on! Unless it’s been raining cats & dogs for days on end, and it’s raining all day Saturday, we’ll be performing. There is no plan for postponing or rescheduling the concert. If you find that you need to use an umbrella, please be considerate of those seated behind you.

The stage is a wonderful piece of equipment rented from StagePro Production Services out of Kansas. It’s basically a semi-trailer that folds out and up due to the magic of hydraulics. Sort of like a Transformer! In an average year, we can start moving orchestra equipment onto the stage within four hours of the truck’s arrival. The design of this stage is much safer than scaffolding, or erecting poles and towers and having to secure guy lines. None of the various stage disasters you might have heard about over recent years have involved a stage such as ours.

As you can imagine, this production takes a great deal of money to present. About 70% of that comes from the generosity of the concert sponsors and donors. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor or donor, contact the Helena Symphony office at (406) 442-1860 to get more information.

Also, as mentioned above, there will be a Bucket Brigade that will be soliciting donations through the crowd before and after the concert, as well as during intermission.

We are always looking for volunteers to help out, mostly prior to the concert itself. Shifts are available from Friday early evening through clean-up on Saturday night, generally in two- or four-hour blocks. And it’s fairly easy “work”. The heavy lifting/truly sweaty work is already taken care of. If you’re interested in being a volunteer, please call the Symphony office (406-442-1860) and leave a message. Or email us at [email protected] Someone will contact you.

Non-monetary actions include bringing your canned or non-perishable goods to hold down your blanket, then donating them to Helena Food Share. They will have drop-off points in various places on the concert grounds. We will also have drop-off points for your plastic recyclables.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the Symphony office at 406.442.1860. Our office hours are M-F, 10:00 – 4:00. You can leave a message, if necessary. Or you can send an email to [email protected]. We’ll try to get an answer to you as quickly as possible!