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
Elizabeth Schwartz, a free-lance writer and musician based in the Portland area, has been writing program notes for classical music ensembles since 1994. She currently provides notes for the Oregon Symphony, Chamber Music Northwest, Portland Piano International, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (MA), and The Sunriver Music Festival. In addition, Ms. Schwartz has also written for the Oregon Bach Festival, Britt Festival, Cascade Festival of Music, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Sao Paulo (Brazil) the Canterbury Festival (England), and Ashmont-Hill Chamber Music (MA). From 1996-2000, Ms. Schwartz wrote articles, artist profiles and interviews with artists and composers such as George Crumb and John Adams, conductor Helmuth Rilling and violinist Pamela Frank to Sforzando magazine, a monthly guide to the Pacific Northwest’s performing arts scene.
Ms. Schwartz also writes articles for the Oregon Symphony's concert books, which have featured profiles of André Watts, Elina Vähälä, Kirill Gerstein, Natasha Paremski, Carlos Kalmar, Norman Huynh, and Jeff Tyzik. She also writes about arts and culture for Oregon Jewish Life, including interviews with Emmanuel Ax, Itzhak Perlman, and David Shifrin. She has also appeared on NPR’s “Performance Today” (now heard on American Public Media), where she was featured as an occasional commentator. Since 2008, Ms. Schwartz has 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 90.7 fm KBOO.
Ms. Schwartz holds a B.A. in music from the University of California and an M.M. from Boston University. She has 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 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 composers featured on a concert, in addition to notes on specific works. Samples available upon request.
Customization: Whenever possible, Ms. Schwartz includes discussions of unifying concepts or themes among the works on a given program. She welcomes 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