Disney Hall usher’s ‘side’ job becomes a way of life

Ismael Tenorio, 31, has seated thousands of concert-goers, taken hundreds of tickets and been asked innumerable questions in 10 years as an usher and later a head usher at the Music Center. That means working at all the Music Center venues, but he’s mostly on the job at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The Highland Park resident, who moved to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico, at age 6, sought the job to earn money for gas and Christmas presents.

At what point did you decide to become an usher?

In fall ’03, the Music Center called. It was supposed to be a side thing but I just never left.


Why did you decide to stay and what keeps you there?

The music, and working here becomes your social life. I’ve been exposed to some great things, things I never thought I would see or like. I never thought I’d attend an opera. And it definitely helps that the people are all great. There are about 300 of us in guest relations and we’ve all developed friendships here. We work weekends, so we don’t have weekends to see other friends. That along with the music makes it a really unique social experience.

FULL COVERAGE: Walt Disney Concert Hall at 10

Did you have much knowledge or appreciation for music before starting the job?

I was a music lover ever since I can remember. I took music appreciation classes growing up and I’ve always been open to a lot of different kinds of music. But I’d never been to a place that was quite a shrine to music as this place.

Most of us get exposed to classical music in some way or another whether we know it or not. But when I heard it here it really got me interested, I started reading programs and noticing different things about the music and performances and making connections about directors and composers that I would never have made.

What is your favorite performance you’ve seen so far?

Dave Brubeck performed a couple years ago and he was one of the reasons that I really got into jazz, so it was incredible to see him live. He was so happy to be performing on stage, his performance definitely stands out in my mind.

TIMELINE: Walt Disney Hall through the years

What do you do during the shows?

I’ve got my other head usher with me, he’s my partner in crime. So we make sure that the about 92 ushers who have to work every show are accounted for. The building is so complex and there are just so many doors and entrances, so we manage and track the staff, hand out programs, do ticket-taking, work the doors and the box office.

Do you have a favorite seat in the hall?

Yes, actually. There is a section right behind the orchestra. It’s phenomenal, you get to take in the whole hall and whoever is performing. Those are probably the best seats you can get. Second would be the orchestra section. Or the terrace view you get a great view of the conductor and can see his facial expressions.

INTERACTIVE: Disney Hall inside and out

What instrument would you most like to play?

I wish I had learned music as a kid. But recently I got a drum set and started playing by ear. I bought some books now I know some rhythms. So that has become a hobby. I’m not a great drummer or anything ... not at all compared to what I’ve seen.