Concert Report FAQ
I have noticed that certain questions and issues come up frequently in relation to the concert report assignment. My responses to the following "frequently asked questions" may address questions that you will have about the assignment. You should read this page before attending your concert and before/after you write the report.
The concert was very long. Do I have to report on the whole concert?
Yes. You must report on all movements of all pieced performed on the concert you attend. Reports that only cover part of the concert will receive a proportionally lower grade.
Note that many concerts include an intermission - a break midway through the event. (Although it is rare, there could be more than one intermission.) The concert is not over at this point, so you must return to your seat after intermission to hear and report on the rest of the performance.
Are there ever any exceptions to this rule?
Rarely, and only with advance permission from the instructor. If you feel that you cannot report on the whole concert, contact the instructor prior to the due date to discuss your situation. Never assume that it is OK to report on only part of the concert - your grade will be lowered.
Several groups performed on my concert. Can I just report on one of them?
You must report on the whole concert, even if there are several groups or performers. If you think that the number of performers caused your concert to be unusually long, you must discuss it with the instructor before leaving anything out of the report, and your grade will be lowered if you leave some performers out of your report without advance permission.
Do I have to use musical terminology in the report?
Not necessarily. I would rather you describe the music using words that you are comfortable with than have you misuse musical terms that you don't quite understand. There is no penalty for writing that "the music got faster" instead of that you heard an accelerando.
The pieces all sound the same to me. Do you really want me to keep writing the same kinds of descriptions?
Maybe there are differences you haven't thought about. Did they really sound exactly the same? Could you tell one from the other? Why? Try to focus on how the pieces are different. For example, it is very unlikely that they all had the same tempo. Go back to the text and your notes and review the musical elements that can create differences.
If the pieces are really very similar, your descriptions may in fact be similar, but you still must describe each piece. It is virtually always a mistake to write something along the lines of "this movement was exactly like" some previous movement. There could be rare exceptions, but you should always check with me first before turning in a paper in which you do this.
How long should my concert report be?
There is no specific length requirement. In general, reports tend to average between 3 and 6 typewritten pages in length. There is no advantage in padding your report to make it longer. In fact, including a lot of irrelevant information or writing in an unnecessarily wordy style may lower your grade. You can get an A on a three page paper if the descriptions are accurate, complete, and concise, and if all other requirements are met. If your report is much longer than 5 or 6 pages there is a good chance your paper needs more editing; you should carefully re-read it to see if there is any less-important information that can be left out or if you can appropriately streamline your writing.
Many short pieces were played on my concert. How long should my report be?
A report on a concert with many short pieces does not necessarily need to be much longer than one consisting of just a few pieces of greater length. The description of four five-minute pieces will probably take up about the same amount of paper as a description of one twenty-minute piece.
What are the features of good objective descriptions?
Effective objective description sections often have the following characteristics
What are some common problems with the concert reports?
May I report on an event that is not included in the Weekly Concert List?
You may report on any concert that meets the assignment guidelines only if it is in my online list. If the concert is not on the list and you think it might be OK, you must obtain permission from the instructor before attending. If you report on a concert that is not on the list without checking with the instructor beforehand, you will not get credit for your report. If you wait until after you attend the event to ask if it is OK, anticipate that the answer will be "no."
Keep in mind that any concert on the list is acceptable.
I can't come to school on the due date. May I hand my report in later?
The report must be turned in on time to avoid late penalties which will lower your grade. If you cannot come to De Anza on the due date, you have several options to avoid the late penalty.
Should I research the music before the concert?
Doing some advance reading about the music and composers may help you to understand what you will hear. At least check the text for information.
However, remember that this is not a research paper. The object of the assignment is to record your observations, not those of the program annotator or other experts. Papers in which students substitute ideas from outside sources for their own personal observations may receive a failing grade and make you subject to the greensheet Policy on Copying and Cheating.
There was information about the music in the program notes. Can I use this in my report?
No. As described above, the goal of this assignment is to write your own narrative of what you observed about the music as you listened. Replacing or enhancing your description with musical descriptions from any outside source including the program notes is not allowed and will have serious consequences as described in the green sheet Policy on Copying and Cheating. (If reading the program notes helped you to hear things in the music, you can and should describe what you heard.)
The object of the assignment is to record your observations, not those of the program annotator or other experts. Papers in which students substitute ideas from outside sources for their own personal observations may receive a failing grade and make you subject to the greensheet Policy on Copying and Cheating.
Can I work with another student?
You and other students may discuss in very general terms the music you heard on the concert. However, be careful that your report reflects your personal observations of the music, and not a group consensus. Your paper must consist entirely of your own unique and personal observations.
This is not a collaborative assignment--identical papers or papers exhibiting excessive similarities will receive failing grades, and students who submit them may also be subject to disciplinary action for cheating, including a failing grade for the course and being reported to college authorities. (See the green sheet Policy on Copying and Cheating for more information.)
How important is it to follow the format guidelines?
It is very important that you read, understand, and follow the format guidelines. Failure to follow them may result in a lower grade on your paper, and significant departures from the required format may result in your paper getting a failing grade, no credit, or being returned to you for a re-write.
How much of the paper should be objective description and how much should be subjective reaction?
The primary focus of the paper is on the narrative objective descriptions of pieces you heard on the concert. In general, the objective descriptions should comprise at least 75% or so of the paper and more is fine. The subjective reactions should generally be rather short - a few sentences per piece may suffice.
I don't think that I can follow the format guidelines in writing my report. What should I do?
You must follow the guidelines for the report unless you receive specific permission in advance to modify the format. Not following the format will lower your grade. If you don't think you can follow the format, you should contact me before writing the report. I'll help you find a way to use the standard format or else we'll agree to an alternative. (In the past there have been a few unusual situations in which we agreed to modify the format for specific events.)
I'm unsure of my writing skills. What can I do about this?
I will be happy to review a draft copy of your report during the week prior to the due date. Bring it to one of my office hours. Appointments are not required, but I may be able to reserve more time for you if you let me know when you will be coming. We will go over the report together, and I will give you suggestions to improve the paper.
It is also worthwhile to peer edit - e.g. work with other students to critique and improve your writing. (Do be careful to limit your collaboration to improving the writing and not go so far as to incorporate each others observations about the music into your reports - doing that latter would put you at risk for violating the copying/cheating policy of this class.)
There are also various on-campus resource that may be useful to you when it comes to developing your writing skills. These change from time to time, but as I write this, there is a Writing Center on campus that may helpful.
I don't think I can fit a concert into my busy schedule. What should I do?
You must find a way to attend the concerts -- it is a requirement for this class. Somewhere in the Bay Area there are concerts almost every day. If you can't attend evening concerts, look for Sunday afternoon concerts. Check the weekly list of concerts as soon possible, and check for days and times that will work for you. The list often includes events for the next several weeks so you can make your plans early. If it is really impossible to attend a concert this term, you should consider taking this course at another time when your schedule is less busy.
Students who have complex and busy schedules, full-time jobs, family responsibilities, or who must attend local concerts only, daytime concerts only, or concerts accessible via public transit should understand that their options will be limited. It is critical to find an event that works as soon as you possibly can. If you wait too long and your special requirements make it impossible to find a last-minute event, you may be unable to complete a report and this will lower your grade. Attend your concert well ahead of the deadline for the report.
I have seen video tapes of concerts. May I report on one of these instead of a live concert?
No. You must attend and report on a live concert listed in the concert list.
I don't have a car. How can I get to a concert?
It is true that your concert options will be somewhat limited if you do not have your own vehicle. However, there are often some concerts right on the De Anza College campus at the Flint Center and elsewhere. Concerts at San Jose State University, the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, Stanford University, and some Palo Alto locations can be reached using bus lines which pass by the college. One option may be to use public transportation to go to San Francisco for Sunday afternoon concerts. It may be possible to arrange a carpool with other students.
Be sure to plan your concert attendance well ahead of time if lack of transportation, a busy schedule, or any other factor limits the concerts you can attend.
How can I possibly write down everything that happens during the concert?
You can't! :-)
Don't even try to write down everything. Focus on listening to the music, rather than on writing. When you hear something significant, write it down and begin focusing on listening to the music again. If you try to write down everything, you will probably be so busy writing that you will not be able to pay attention to what you are hearing. The goal is to record what is significant about the performance, not to simply list everything that happens.
I don't think that I captured enough detail in the notes I took at the concert. What should I do?
First of all, as mentioned above, you are not expected to capture everything that happens in the music at your live concert. That would actually be impossible, and even if it were possible it would be rather pointless. So consider the possibility that you may have enough detail. Ask me before turning in the paper if you have questions about this.
But it is possible that your really could end up with insufficient notes from the event. Some students make discreet use of a recorder during the concert; this way they can review what they heard later. (Be careful if you do this. Some performing groups do not allow recordings. Always be very careful that your use of a recorder does not disturb anyone else's enjoyment of the concert.) It is also OK to obtain recordings of the pieces performed at the concert and listen to the music again while working on your paper - in fact, I think that it is a good thing for you to hear the music more than once! (However, it is not acceptable to just report on a recording; you must attend and report on the live event.) In some cases you may find that you just have to attend a second concert, but this is rare. In any case, discuss this with the instructor right away.
Where can I get recordings of the pieces on the concert?
First check to see if any of them are included in the recordings that accompany our text. Then you might try a public library. Main branches often have the largest collections of recordings. You could also purchase audio recordings. CDs are available from some retail shops and just about anything is available from one or another source on the web. Lots of great recordings are available for purchase at very low cost through services like Apple's iTunes store. In some cases you may be able to find decent records on services such as youtube.com.
Will my grade be affected by poor grammar or spelling?
College-level writing is expected. I do not lower report grades for minor spelling and grammar errors, although I may mark them to bring them to your attention. Excessive errors and sloppiness which suggest insufficient or ineffective proofreading will affect your grade, and in serious cases the grade penalty may be significant. Remember that I can help you with this if you bring a draft copy of your report to me sufficiently in advance of the due date.
Always use the spell-checker in your word processor program. However, don't just automatically accept its suggestions. The spell-checker is sometimes wrong, especially with names and musical terms. Failing to make use of your spell-checker will lower your grade - I will know when I see excessive spelling errors that the spell-checker would easily catch.
Why can't I report on pop, rock, jazz, hip hop, country western, drum and bugle corps, reggae, Broadway musicals, lounge acts, street musicians, etc? Do you have a problem with this kind of music or something?
I think that virtually any kind of music can be great (or less-than-great). I have several reasons for limiting the types of concerts you can report on. I want you to experience different music than that which you probably experience in your day-to-day life. One way to do this is to "encourage" you to go to a performance of music that is different from what you usually listen to. I also want the report to be an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in this course. Some other kinds of music also may not readily adapt themselves to the concert report format that I use.
Finally, wouldn't you rather go enjoy these other kinds of music, instead of having to write a report on them!? (If you really feel strongly about attending and reporting on a concert that is not on my list, please talk to me about it. I have made exceptions in the past when a student offered a compelling reason.)
I still have more questions. What should I do?
Ask for help right away! My office phone number and office hours are listed in your greensheet. Often the answer to your question is quite straightforward, but you must ask.
As someone once said, "The only dumb question is the question you don't ask!" I promise that I'll treat all questions seriously and with respect.