Volunteer Handbook.


Usher Responsibilities

  • Program Book Stuffing/Recovery: UMS utilizes a two-part program book. Before every performance, ushers are required to assist in combining these two components. After the performance ushers are asked to stay and help recover program books left by patrons. All ushers are required to help with EITHER pre-performance program book stuffing OR post-performance program book recovery. Failure to comply with this policy will result in an unexcused absence.

  • Patron Seating: Door Ushers (at certain venues) and Ticket Ushers are responsible for greeting patrons, verifying that tickets are for the current performance, and directing patrons to the proper floor, door, and /or aisle. University Productions staff may also assist in this duty. Aisle Heads will greet patrons, manage the flow of traffic, and direct patrons to the Aisle Ushers, who will take the patrons to their seats as well as hand out programs. Always escort patrons to their seats unless you are told otherwise. Also, if a patron says they do not need to be escorted please allow them to go to their seat alone.

  • Reseating: Sometimes patrons will request to sit in a seat that is not the one printed on their ticket. Exp: “I would rather sit on the aisle, is that okay?” The answer to this request is always “I will have to get my supervisor.” Ushers should never allow a patron to sit in a seat that is not ticketed to them. If a patron insists that they sit somewhere else, please alert a supervisor immediately and take them directly to the patron.

  • Late Seating: It is distracting to have anyone (including ushers) walking down the aisle during a performance. Admission to the auditorium for both patrons and ushers will NOT be permitted during a program except during a designated late seating break that will be announced before each performance at the pre-performance usher meeting. Please leave the easily accessible seats (i.e. empty seats close to an aisle, or empty accessible seating) for ushers who have late seating responsibilities. Please make sure to vacate seats for patrons.

  • Double Seating: Very rarely there will be a situation where multiple patrons have the same seats. To ensure that this happens as little as possible, please pay close attention when seating patrons. When this happens please abide by the following procedure:

    1. Check each set of tickets for the correct performance, date, and time.
    2. Double-check the tickets for the patrons you are about to seat and make sure you have the correct section, row, and seat numbers.

    3. Check to see that the patrons already seated are in the correct section, row, and seat numbers.

    4. Apologize to both groups of people for the inconvenience. Let them know that you will resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Escort the non-seated patron to the back of the aisle and take the tickets to an Usher Supervisor or Head Usher for a solution.

    5. Please explain the situation in as much detail as possible to the supervisor and escort them directly to the issue. Please do not excuse yourself until you are dismissed by the supervisor.

      • *Note: Always keep both sets of tickets separate from each other. If you need to collect the tickets write the last name of the person who purchased each set on the back of the appropriate tickets.
  • Distractions: UMS house policies and contracts with the artists typically prohibit cameras and recording devices. Smoking, food, and beverages (other than bottled water) are also prohibited.  Ushers must take the initiative to approach patrons and explain that they are not allowed. Please be sensitive to the performance when approaching patrons and speak as little as possible. This can be just as distracting to other patrons as the problem itself. We also want to make sure that cell phones and other electronic devices are turned off or in silent mode. Always mention this when seating patrons.

  • Accessible Seating Assistance: At most venues, UMS Ushers will give patrons who have accessible needs priority and seat them in the venue first. This requires that all ushers be knowledgeable about accessible seating in all venues. Ushers will provide chairs for these patrons or direct them to their spot, if they prefer sitting in their wheelchairs, and ensure that additional equipment (i.e. walkers, canes, chairs) is placed nearby. Early seating for patrons with accessible needs is at the discretion of the FOH lead only. Please wait until you have received notice from a head usher, usher supervisor or the FOH lead to seat ushers in the house before it is open.



  • Volunteers are required to check in at the volunteer check-in table at or before the call time. 

  • Call Time (Time ushers are expected to arrive)

    1. Hill Auditorium- 90 minutes before the start of the performance.
    2. All other venues- 60 minutes before the start of the performance.
  •  Absences

  1. Excused- An absence will only be excused at the discretion of the Front of House Assistant Manager. Illness & family/personal emergencies are examples of reasons why an absence might be excused. Every effort should be made to contact the Front of House Assistant Manager BEFORE the performance if an illness or emergency does arise.
    • Ushers are allotted a maximum of 4 excused absences for the 2023-24 UMS Season.
  2. Unexcused- An absence in which a volunteer usher does not show up to the shift that they are assigned to in the schedule. 


*Please see below the revised instructions on how to get excused for a shift that you will not be able to make it to. 

  • Canceling a shift in Better Impact. 

Volunteers now have the capability of canceling a shift that they are scheduled for and can no longer make the commitment up to 24 hours before the shift start time. At that time, if you cannot make it to a shift you will be responsible for sending a message to the "All Volunteers Committee" to ask for a substitute. If a volunteer neglects to send the email to the committee the absence will be considered unexcused. 

Two unexcused absences= Suspension from the UMS usher corps. ( This suspension lasts for a semester and then the Usher is free to apply to usher for the following season in which they will have to attend an in-person usher orientation before rejoining. 

  • If you return from a semester suspension and proceed to incur two more unexcused absences, it will result in a year suspension in which you will have to wait two full semesters before being able to re-apply for the usher corps.       

 Keeping an open line of communication with the Front of House Assistant Manager regarding absences is the best way to avoid an unexcused absence.

  • Tardies

Always try to contact the Front of House Assistant Manager if you know that you are going to be tardy. Parking in downtown Ann Arbor is difficult; however, parking issues will not be counted as a legitimate excuse for tardiness. It is your responsibility to leave ample time for parking considerations at all venues.

            1 Tardy=Warning

            2 Tardies= 1 unexcused absence

            4 Tardies= semester suspension.

    • Note: No one will be allowed to usher those who arrive after the pre-performance meeting has begun. Parking in downtown Ann Arbor can be very challenging. Please plan ahead.  

Each individual person must check in themselves only. If you show up to a performance without a full-time or substitute position, you will be asked to leave. NO EXCEPTIONS


Dress Code

All ushers/All Crews-


  • solid white/cream top
  • solid blacktop 
  • black cardigans, blazers, or vests over white tops are acceptable.


  • solid black slacks/skirt


  • black close-toed, sensible shoes

(Solids do not have stripes, designs, or other décor such as sequins or beading.) 

Usher badge:

  • each season a personalized usher badge will be made for each usher.


Note: Jazz & World/Michigan Theater Crew Exception- Ushers may wear a light-colored solid top with a dark-colored solid bottom along with their usher badge and closed-toed shoes.  


  • All ushers are required to bring their own flashlights to performances. UMS keychain flashlights can be checked out at the check-in table but must be returned by the end of the night. If not returned the usher will be required to pay $2 for that flashlight before their next performance or they will be sent home. You may bring your own flashlight but it must have a small, concentrated beam that will not disrupt patrons if used after the performance has started. There will not be flashlights to borrow at performances. 

Usher Badges:

  • Usher badges are issued at the beginning of the season (get them at your first scheduled performance)  and all ushers are required to wear them when ushering. It is to be worn as long as you are in the auditorium. Ushers with first-name badges are required to care for them and bring them to each show. General usher badges will also be available at performances for those who misplace their badges but they must be returned at the end of the show. Please do not alter your badge in any way. 

UMS reserves the right to refuse ushering privileges to anyone whose personal appearance or demeanor is deemed inappropriate.



UMS Front of House Assistant Manager:

  • Responsible for all UMS activities in front of the stage. This includes scheduling and managing the UMS usher corps, working with the UMS Development staff on special events/receptions, liasoning between UMS Production/Programming staff and UMS patrons, working with University Productions on all relevant information for UMS performances & events, maintaining UMS branding standards at all mainstage & school day performances. This position lives in the UMS Patron Services office therefore the UMS FOH Assistant Manager is a knowledgeable resource about ticketing for UMS events.   

UMS Front of House Assistant:

  • Responsible for maintaining UMS FOH standards when the FOH Assistant Manager is not present. This position lives in the UMS Patron Services office therefore the UMS FOH Assistant Manager is a knowledgeable resource about ticketing for UMS events.   

 UMS Head Ushers:

  • Head Ushers are responsible for assisting the FOH Assistant Manager and FOH Assistant in usher supervision. Their duties include: program book preparation, distribution, and recovery, addressing traffic control and double seating issues, assisting patrons with accessibility needs, and communicating any issues to the FOH lead immediately. Head Ushers are the only members of the UMS FOH TEAM who are compensated. Therefore, expectations for UMS Head Ushers are higher and more specific than those of volunteers. 

UMS Student Staff:

  • Student staff are responsible for assisting the FOH Assistant Manager and FOH Assistant with duties as necessary. Their responsibilities include program book preparation, distribution, and recovery, addressing traffic control and double seating issues, assisting patrons with accessibility needs, troubleshooting scanner issues, liaising with the UMS ticket office about ticketing issues & communicating any outstanding issues to the UMS FOH lead immediately.

UMS Usher Supervisors:

  • Usher Supervisors are volunteer ushers who assist with double seating issues, assist patrons with accessibility needs, and communicate any issues to the UMS FOH lead.


Concert Etiquette

UMS takes pride in YOU, our incredible volunteer usher corps! We seek to help each patron have a great experience at each performance. Please set an example for patrons of appropriate concert etiquette.

Please do not eat, chew gum, or use your cell phone while ushering. Please do not talk during a performance.

As an usher, you get the privilege to view world-class performances at no charge. Because of this priority for seats is given to the concert ticket holders. When permissible, ushers are allowed to take seats in the last 2-3 rows of the auditorium or in unsold seats on the side sections. Otherwise, ushers may be asked to stand in the aisles at the back of the auditorium where they will not obstruct the view of others. 

Interactions with patrons are one of the most rewarding parts of being a UMS usher. Please note that any disagreements or grievances with patrons should be directed to the Front of House Assistant Manager immediately. Please do not attempt to contact patrons on behalf of UMS outside of your usher shift about things that may have happened during a performance. 

One of the benefits of an usher is that you may occasionally be allowed into the house while the performer is warming up. Please respect the artist by keeping the noise level to an absolute minimum. Sound carries extremely far in our venues. Even a whisper in the Balcony at Hill can be heard on stage. Remember that every time an Usher enters and exits the auditorium during the performance it causes a distraction so please make sure to use the restroom ahead of time and if you need to leave the auditorium for any reason during the performance, please remain in the lobby until the next appropriate seating break. 


 Acceptance of Placement

After all orientation sessions and Better Impact enrollment are completed, schedules for each usher will be posted on Better Impact. Substitute ushers will be informed that their status is now active and they can actively search for substitute positions on Better Impact.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Terminology 

  • At UMS we use the terms “accessible seating” and “patrons with accessible needs.” We do not refer to the seating as “handicapped” or “handicap-accessible” or “wheelchair seating.”

  • Remember to put people first rather than their disability. For example:

    • "People who are blind or have low vision" instead of “a blind person” 

    • “People who are deaf or hard of hearing” instead of “deaf people”

    •  “People who have mobility disabilities” instead of “handicapped people” or   “people in wheelchairs”

People-first communication is highly valued and is seen as a measure of respect. When we use people-first language, we are showing our patrons that we are focusing on the person and not the disability.

  • Guidelines for Conversing With People Who Have Mobility Impairments:

    • Remember that a wheelchair is a tool, not something to which a person is necessarily bound.

    • When conversing with a person who uses a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the user's eye level.

    • Make sure to ask people who use wheelchairs if they want to be pushed before doing so.


Please let us know any questions you have about accessibility.


Photo Release

  • Any photos taken during an usher shift at a Ums usher event can be used for marketing purposes or shared amongst others in the Ums usher group. If you would not like your photo used for these purposes please contact the Front of House Assistant Manager Immediately

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