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Concert Reviews and Research Papers

This page has been updated for Fall 2012.

Please read carefully!

(And note the Preliminary Assignment.)

Go to:

Preliminary Assignment
Format Requirements
Review Requirements
Evaluation & Grading
Concert Requirements
Common Problems
Due Dates
The Univesity Writing Center

Preliminary Extra Credit Assignment:

During the first two weeks of class, access professional concert reviews in the Sunday edition of a major newspaper like the New York Times, Washington Post, or Los Angeles Times on the Internet to get an idea of what can be done in a good review. A 2-paragraph report summarizing such a review and giving your ideas on what a review should be like is due on the third Friday of classes, and must be submitted as an e-mail attachment. This report will not be graded, but will earn automatic extra credit of up to 2% on your final grade when it is turned in on time. Note what is expected:

Review Requirements (Options 1, 2, 3):

You are required to attend one concert performance that includes classical music ("art" music) or jazz during the semester and turn in a written review of it. (You are encouraged to attend and enjoy more than just the one required!) You may be very impressed with the skills of our advanced music students, and student recitals are free. I have links with a couple of performance calendars on the Concert Schedule page.

Your reviews are to be written as if for publication. Your "audience" is the general reading public. Your "voice" is a person who attends concerts for pleasure. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation count! Choice of words is important. There should be logic and comfortable flow to your writing. Do not format your review as if it were in a newspaper. Turn it in according to the format described below. If English is obviously not your native language, you will NOT be penalized for that.

A "review" combines reporting with personal opinion. First describe what took place: who, what, where, when, why. Next give an interesting rundown of what was performed. Share your own reactions and opinions: what did you like, what did you not like, and why? Finally, give the performers a pat on the back or suggestions for improvement, and give your readers good reasons for going (or not going) to the next such concert. Remember that amateurs, students, and professionals should not be judged by the same standards. Often our students are accompanied by professional pianists.

Submit your Review and all written work directly to your Instructor as an email attachment to so it can be checked in. The entire process is done electronically, so as long as you can provide a standard file (Word is preferred) no paper copy need be turned in.


Additional Written Work Requirements (Option 3 only):

If you have contracted for Option 3, you are required to turn in two additional written assignments during the semester. You may choose to write additional Concert Reviews, or to write Research Papers, or a combination of the two, according to the requirements below. Each additional Review or Paper is worth up to 5% of your final grade, more if they are turned in early for extra credit. Please note that the additional assignments may be EITHER concert reviews or reseach papers, or even one of each, and the choice is completely up to you.

Written Work Requirements:

The required Review must be of a full-length concert (or opera) that includes classical ("art") music, or a full-length concert featuring jazz music. You are expected to comment on both halves of the concert, not just the first half. The concert does not need to be in Blacksburg, but it does need to be one that you attend during this semester. The concert may be a large ensemble, a small ensemble, or a solo recital, such as:

The Additional Review(s) for Option 3 may be of a classical concert as above, or any other kind of concert you care to attend and report on, as long as it is a concert event and not background music or a fraternity dance. An organized evening of jazz at a club is fine. An open mic night or Karaoke is not!

The Research Paper(s) for Option 3 should be on a subject that relates to the time period and geographical areas we are studying, but may view that time period and place from the point of view of a non-musical art, the development of science or engineering, history or sociology, religion, military studies, architecture, exploration, or other subjects that provide a different perspective. Approach these papers in this way:

Due Dates:

This system is designed to give you more choice in shaping your semester's work, and to give me and my student reader time throughout the semester to score your papers and return them to you.

During the first week of class there will be signup sheets available next to my office (157 Squires) where you can choose the due date for your Concert Review. Only 18 names will be accepted for each due date. This gives first choice to students who are attending class from the first day. Any "extra" names beyond 18 on each sheet will be randomly assigned to other dates.

• The last opportunity to sign up will be the second Monday of class at 5 p.m. After that, I will assign due dates randomly.

•Papers will always be due on a Tuesday, emailed as an attachment and received before 11:59:59 p.m. on the due date. A Word file is preferred, in .doc or .docx format.

•The first due date is Tuesday, September 25, approximately a month after school starts. The final due date is Tuesday, December 4.

•Please read the Evaluation section on the Course Syllabus page. You will need to choose one of the three Grading Options and let me know by email by 11:59:59 on Monday, September 3. If you choose Grading Option 3, sign up for three due dates for three separate papers, or else you will need to turn in all three on the same Due Date.

Extra Credit is available for turning in papers early: an automatic 10% bonus for one week early, a 15% bonus for two weeks early. This extra credit will be added to your Concert Review score.

A 10% penalty will be assessed for turning in papers from one minute to one week late. After one week a paper will not be accepted and you will lose 10% of your Final Grade (most of a full letter grade), not 10% of your Paper score.


Review Requirements:

You must turn in your Reviews as an attachment to e-mail, so I can save an electronic copy. Always keep a copy of the file in case something gets misplaced! Your papers will be handled entirely electronically, scored electronically, and returned to you electronically. I DO NOT NEED or want a paper copy unless your word processor is weird and I cannot open your file. Never reformat your hard drive until the semester is completely over and all grades have been submitted!

  1. Must be a standard word processor file, double-spaced (not 1-1/2 spaced), with a 1-inch margin on the sides, top and bottom to allow for editing. Either .docx or .doc files are acceptable. Any other format will have to be openable in Microsoft Word.
  2. Use conventional fonts and sizes (12-point Times, for example).
  3. Do not format your review as if it actually were in a newspaper. Treat it as the copy you would turn in for editing and publication.
  4. If you must turn in a paper copy, staple the pages together in the upper-left corner. (Do not use binders.)
  5. Invent a newspaper-type headline as a title.
  6. Place a 4-line heading with your name, student number, MUS 2115, and the date you turn it in at the top right-hand corner of the first page. An incorrect date or no date will affect your grade.
  7. Place a simple header on the following pages with your last name and the page number (Howell/4).
  8. Title pages and bibliographies are not appropriate for reviews; a bibliography is required for a research paper, but not a title page.
  9. Turn in a copy of the program for the event in class with your name on it after you submit your review by e-mail. Scanned copies of programs will NOT be accepted. If there was no program, include a note of explanation.

These should not be long papers! A newspaper or magazine has a limited amount of space, and successful writers say quite a lot in a short review. If your review is actually complete in one page (250 words), that's enough. About 2 pages (500 words) should be average, and 3 pages (750 words) the maximum.

Evaluation and Grading:

The required paper is worth up to 10% of your final grade; each additional paper for Option 3 is worth up to 5% of your Final Grade (plus bonuses for early papers or less penalties for late papers, which will be assessed for all written work):














Please note that while my Teaching Assistant is a Tech student, he or she scores your papers according to my evaluation criteria. If you want to improve your writing, pay attention to the comments and learn from them. In case of any disagreement, my decision is final.

Common Problems:

There are specific terms used for classical concerts that are different from those used for popular music, and you should try to use them properly. This will be discussed in class. And believe it or not, every piece of music is not called a "song"!!

Be careful in your use of punctuation marks--especially commas. Remember that commas and periods go inside quotation marks, while exclamations, question marks, colons and semicolons go outside: ("Wonderful," … "Wonderful"; … "Wonderful"!).

Use italics (or a continuous underline if you cannot produce italics) for the titles of large musical works, and use "quotation marks" for the titles of individual movements in a larger work or individual songs in a song cycle. (This is exactly the same as using italics for the title of a book or magazine and "quotation marks" for chapters, sections, or articles within it.) Boldface is not appropriate for either. For a single song or piece of music use normal type, without either italics or "quotation marks."

Make sure subjects and verbs agree, and make sure that an opening clause actually refers to the subject of the sentence.

A run-on sentence or comma splice is 2 sentences crammed into one; either separate them with a semicolon (like this sentence) or make them into 2 separate sentences.

Use an "em-dash" without spaces or 2 hyphens--like these--or parentheses (like these) to separate side comments in a sentence. Most word processors should provide an em-dash, but you might have to search the documentation for it. (In Word for Mac it is produced by holding down Option and typing the hyphen key.)

I or my grader will edit for style and grammar. Some of our editing will reflect our own styles and personal opinions. If you can show me that your usage is correct (in any style manual used at Tech), you will get back the points deducted.

University Writing Center

The University Writing Center is set up to help students who have problems with their writing. Any reviews that do not meet minimum standards will be referred to the Writing Center and a tentative grade will be entered. You are strongly encouraged to take your paper to the Writing Center for their help, and if you do so you may turn in a rewrite for a possible higher score without regard to the due date you signed up for. This may be especially helpful for students whose first language is not English.


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