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Program note writing

A musician communicates persuasively with concert audiences not only through the music s/he performs, but also in oral presentations and via the written word. An artist’s perspective can help an audience better appreciate the works and interpretation they are about to hear.

Program notes are one common written mode of audience communication. Their form is heavily influenced by the environment for which they are created. Most often the interested audience member reads them in the few moments between works in a concert before the lights dim and the musician(s) enter.

Consider the following guidelines when preparing program notes:

  • Program notes should be concise, clear, engaging, and informative.
  • Program notes should integrate the following information:
    • A discussion of the significance of the work in question
    • Basic facts about the composition, a short composer biography, and the work’s reception history
    • Historical and cultural information that places the work or its performance into a larger historical context
    • Important compositional features
  • Assume the target audience is educated but not necessarily musically knowledgeable.
  • Acknowledge the words and ideas of others in a journalistic fashion by incorporating source authors and/or titles in your text.

For more information and Schulich School of Music requirements, consult your program's description page (e.g. Collaborative Piano, Program Notes tab) and the Schulich School of Music Style Sheet.



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