How to present a concert program

When we study in Conservatory, University or Music Schools we learn a lot about classical music. About phrasing, articulation, embellishments and the author and his time. We practice and practice and write a thesis for the ears of academics. What we don’t learn is how to present a concert program to an everyday audience.

how to present a concert programHow to choose a concert program

As long as we are not playing in period specific festivals, we can choose our program freely. It will have to be a compromise between rewarding and satisfying repertoire in line with our studies and years of practice, but also with the audience’s world.
There is a huge gap between everyday life’s music and so called classical music. This is actually not bad, it can bring us closer to the audience if we handle it well. This situation offers us the possibility to talk to the public and engage.

So we should chose a program with a story. A story we can tell. I usually prefer to have a first part with flute repertoire that is relevant to me and my life and a second part with music that the audience has most likely heard somewhere and can relate to.


How to present a concert program

At the very beginning of a concert, the audience expects professional distant behaviour and high level performance. So you How to choose a concert programdeliver. Play your first piece without much talking and make sure you are at your best.

Now that you have presented what they paid for, you can surprise them and allow them to also have a good time. I usually tell them about this first piece and why I chose it. Something very personal is best. You can then present the audience with some kind of struggle you had to overcome and introduce your second piece.

It will become like theater, in a good way. Your concert will have different acts and heroes, anti-heroes and a cathartic moment that will make the audience feel better with themselves. And at this point you can indulge with music that matters to them.

So the second piece can be dramatic, involving and a struggle. Then you can tell the audience how you managed to go on, why you chose the third composer and offer some insight into the music periods and how it relates to you. End with something soothing and light.

Now it is time to engage with music they know, like soundtracks from famous movies or transcriptions of famous songs. They already love it so you can feed them with some information they didn’t know about it. This makes it all the more interesting.


A recent example
of how to choose and present a concert program

We were asked to give a concert of film music, soundtracks and the like. So we did the opposite. We, that is my woodwind quintet, introduced the concert with something from our repertoire to satisfy our own taste and practice and also gave repertoire music as encores.

But in the end we had the same scheme. We presented us and our professional whereabouts and where we met. So people got a good idea of who they were listening to. The first piece in three movements was introduced after we had played it. So we got a good pause to catch breath and also the audience had time to wish for more. Then the fun part started, introducing all the different movies and their soundtracks and composers.

Quintet wrong instruments
There are 5 mistakes in this picture!

As we split the presentation spontaneously we also introduced one another as persons with flaws and all. We could see smiles and happy comments. Making fun of yourself in a professional way is totally engaging to the audience. When they here everyone talk, they listen with deeper intent to our musical voices and you can feel the participation rise immediately.

We also asked questions, whether they knew the movie, actor or composer. I outed myself as not much of an action movie fan. It was OK, because when you play you are professional and deliver high level performance. If you can be human and flawed at the same time, it brings you closer.

Try to speak to the audience as if they were friends. They are not the enemy, neither an exam jury. They are there to experience live music on a deeper level.


How we chose to present it

So we chose to set the level first, giving a high level performance of a repertoire piece and explain it very seriously afterwards. Then we smiled. ” But you came to listen to film music!” and let someone else explain.

And after that we started to make fun of us musicians, letting everyone speak, make mistakes and correct. Often the audience knows even better and when they can get involved they are more satisfied with the performance.

We also chose to add some more pieces not written in the program and let the audience guess. They paid more attention and talked to one another as well.

We can try that out immediately. Are you still with me? Which movie is the following soundtrack from?


It was recorded by a smartphone, front row, close to the clarinet. I mention this just to excuse us for the sound quality.

Here is another one, just to try you out!


Too close to us, so the timbres didn’t mix well and the acoustics did the rest.

If you are interested in sound editing, you can read more about it in my other article ——————-> here.

If you are ready I will present two other famous soundtracks here. Let’s see if you know which movies they were written for!





You will need a good friendly and functioning music group. The audience can feel and appreciate it.

Be sure to apply the general rules of making music together ———————-> click here to read more.

If you don’t have one already you can read another short article of mine about two ideas to create one—————–> here.

Whatever you choose, engage!

Whenever you deliver high quality but can close the gap to the public by becoming more human and friend like, you will earn great success. No need to distance yourself. Your music says it all, you are worth listening to. But if you can also add a story a brand in evolution to it all, you will be loved! Make your audience live through some real life experience with you and explain the choice of your program in a personal and informative way at the same time.

People wish to be taught without realizing it.

The more they feel you as a friend the more they will

Woodwind Quintet
The mistakes have been corrected

assimilate the information, because they can identify with your story and feel with you. We can only learn when we can relate. We will also listen in a much more profound and participating way, which makes it easier for the performer to communicate.

Have you ever experienced when you played and the audience was there with you? Every breath, every ritardando and rubato? When heartbeats align and brain frequencies add up and the whole room becomes one living creature? This is the experience we all long for.

Nowadays classical music has become too much of a niche and elite, it is not self explaining anymore. Help your audience come to you and meet them half-way.

If you know the matching movies to the soundtracks, please let me know in the comment section below!

You will be delivered a bonus question. Answering that one right as well, you will win the sheet music to our latest medley from Duo Fantasie, which I have personally written.

So don’t hesitate, try your fortune and knowledge!

Best wishes and luck,



Spread the love

8 thoughts on “How to present a concert program”

  1. Great article! As a people person I like to relate to others, so this is my style. I especially like how you play right off then speak about why you chose that piece then explain the next piece and so on. That makes it more interesting. I’m even that way with sports. My husband to watch without listening, but I like to hear the announcers because they talk about the players and coaches as people.

    I recognize the first two soundtracks, but I’m so bad at remembering names of movies that I can’t recall what they are. I like that you included audio in your article. It was a nice addition to a well written piece.

    • Thank you, Karen! We are so lucky to have you come visit us regularly. You are so true, this applies to any event and helps you understand and enjoy even more. As to the movies, don’t worry, we will send you an email with the info. We know it is hard to remember but not put a name on it!!
      Best wishes

  2. Hi Jana, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and in a few moments I will be picking up my guitar. No recordings though, enough said. I’ve shared it with a Norwegian friend and singer / songwriter who is on the road in Norway at the moment so I know he will find this interesting. He often talks about reaching the audience. I know too that he uses humor and stories about himself to help him engage. I can see your words beyond music too. I’ve spent many years talking to audiences and adding the personal touch always gets great responses. About those tracks, somewhere in my mind I know them all but can only put a name to Harry Potter….the others are in there somewhere, hiding out inside all the (too many) movies we watched over Christmas. Thank you, looking forward to more and although you said the recordings quality wasn’t great, it painted a beautiful picture, it would have been wonderful to be in the audience.

    • Thank you so much Steve, for your wonderful comment. I am so happy you enjoyed the article and the music as well. Your experience is very important and in 30 years in front of audiences you will have mastered the skill perfectly. Thank you for sharing and letting us know.
      As to the movies, I will send you an email with the solutions, wouldn’t want to tell them here and ruin the suspense 😉
      Thank you also for forwarding the article. I wish to help as many people as I can,

  3. I don’t know if I’m so bad at movies but I didn’t recognize any of the soundtracks. But it was a beautiful listening to your quintet playing!
    Is the third soundtrack from some fairytale? I know the song but can’t recall any concrete movie. But it really reminds me of some fairytale, a popular one.
    I totally agree with you that making people laugh and engage them is the best way for anyone being on stage but it’s not very usual to see it in concerts. That makes you stand out!

    • Thank you so much for your positive comment! I am happy you like the engaging way and experience of concerts. I hope I can convince other strictly classical musicians to open up, too. At this moment I cannot reveal the soundtracks’ movies, as there is a competition going on. But I will send you an email if you wish to know.
      Best wishes and many beautiful concerts,


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.