When I arrive at the Symphony, the first thing I do is to look for Elizabeth Schwartz’s program notes. With her guidance I am a more educated, more appreciative listener. She adds to my ability to respect and explore all forms of classical music, even those I have a hard time enjoying. Her teaching on the music and its context has become an irreplaceable part of my Symphony experience. - A. Stone, Oregon Symphony patron
I am a free-lance writer, music historian, and musician based in Portland, and I've been writing program notes for classical music ensembles since 1994. I currently provide notes for the Oregon Symphony, Chamber Music Northwest (OR), Minnesota Orchestra, Arizona Musicfest, Oregon Bach Festival, Spokane Symphony, Denver Philharmonic, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Bozeman Symphony (MT), Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (VA), New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (MA), and the Salina Symhony (KS). I have also written for the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Kansas City Symphony (MO), Britt Festival (OR), Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, Sunriver Music Festival (OR), Lima Symphony Orchestra (OH), Young Artists Debut Orchestra (PA), Cascade Festival of Music (OR), the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Sao Paulo (Brazil), the Canterbury Festival (England), and Ashmont-Hill Chamber Music (MA).
From 1996-2000, I wrote articles, artist profiles, and interviews with artists, composers, and conductors, including George Crumb, John Adams, Helmuth Rilling, and violinist Pamela Frank for Sforzando magazine, a monthly guide to the Pacific Northwest’s performing arts scene. You can find more information about my features and profiles here.
More recently, I have profiled Gabriela Lena Frank, Damien Geter, Gabriel Kahane, Jeffrey Kahane, Aniello Desiderio, Stephen Hough, Storm Large, Emanuel Ax, Pablo Villegas, Johannes Moser, André Watts, Elina Vähälä, Kirill Gerstein, Karen Gomyo, Natasha Paremski, Simone Lamsma, Carlos Kalmar, and Jeff Tyzik, among others. For a complete list of my music writing, click here. Some of my profiles, including interviews with Emanuel Ax, Itzhak Perlman, David Shifrin, and Teddy Abrams, have appeared in Oregon Jewish Life. I also appeared on NPR’s “Performance Today” (now heard on American Public Media), where I was featured as an occasional commentator. Since 2008, I have co-hosted the oldest continuously-running Jewish music and culture radio program west of the Mississippi River, The Portland Jewish Hour (formerly the Portland Yiddish Hour), on KBOO 90.7 fm.
My liner notes are included in three recent Oregon Symphony recordings for Pentatone: Aspects of America (2018), Haydn Symphonies (2017), and Spirit of the American Range (2015).
I hold a B.A. in music from the University of California and an M.M. from Boston University. I have also pursued extensive graduate studies in musicology, focusing on women in music history.
Standard Program Length: Notes are tailored to fit the requirements of each ensemble or concert. Typical orchestra concert notes (e.g., an overture, a concerto and a symphony) are approximately 1200-1400 words (not including texts and translations). Concerts with more than three compositions require commensurately longer notes.
Concert Sound Bites: A brief paragraph summarizing each piece (usually 60-75 words per work). Concert sound bites provide a glimpse into what makes the work interesting and unique. They are used by several orchestras, in addition to full-length notes, as a quick entry point for engaging people with the music. Samples available upon request.
Composer biographies: Short 250-word biography of featured composers, in addition to notes on specific works. Samples available upon request.
Customization: Whenever possible, I include discussions of unifying concepts or themes among the works on a given program. I welcome the opportunity to interview guest soloists and artistic directors, in order to share their insights about the music with your audience.
I thought the notes you sent me were excellent - clear, substantive, and not frightening to people who are inclined to be frightened by such things - and I enjoyed reading them.
- 2008 email from Michael Steinberg
music critic, author, and former annotator for the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony