Program Notes (Piano M.Mus.)

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 to appreciate better the works and interpretation they are about to hear.  They are, as such, a requirement for all performance projects with the exception of vocal quick study and repertoire exams. 

Things to Consider:

  • Their form is heavily influenced by the environment for which they have been created: written program notes, for example, are most often read in the few moments between works or before the concert and the lights dim.
  • Program notes should therefore be concise, clear, engaging, and informative.
  • They should integrate with grace the following information for each work that will be performed:
    • A discussion of the significance of the work
    • Basic facts of composition, composer’s 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
  • The target audience is educated, but not necessarily musically knowledgeable.
  • The audience will, consequently, be intrigued by the connections that link works in a program.
  • The words and ideas of others should be acknowledged in a journalistic fashion by incorporating source authors and/or titles elegantly in your text.

Deadline: Submit three weeks before the recital project date in PDF form to [at]

Required: For all recital projects (including Opera roles) and recording projects.


  • In a 60 minute program, where all the works are more or less of equal length/weight, approximately two paragraphs per piece with a maximum of four pages in length.
  • Notes should be typed, using 12-point font, and standard margins!
  • Title Information: See Style Guide.
  • For Recordings: Submit as Liner notes, with each track of the recording clearly labeled.

Grading: Evaluated on a Pass/Fail basis. If you receive more than 1 failing grade, you will be asked to redo the notes.

Keys to Success

  • Give information that will pique your readers’ interest, make them want to read on.
  • Consider using insightful or provocative quotations by the composer, other performers’ or a significant critical commentator, even adverse criticism as a starting point for discussion.
  • Compare the work to compositions by other composers or situate in relationship to other artistic movements and traditions.
  • Do not use trite statements or irrelevant commentaries.
  • Write in a consistent writing style and carefully proofread your work.
  • Refine your writing techniques with the assistance of GRAPHOS .