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A Note from the Author

As a freelance musician in Los Angeles, I drive all over town to play many different kinds of live music and recorded music in all sorts of places. Much of the music I play is classical (Iím the principal bassoonist for L.A. Opera), but I have also played movie soundtracks, jazz tunes, folk songs, various kinds of rock and pop, joke music, and even traditional West African drumming. I also compose music, teach music, and write about it. Whenever I can, I talk to audiences about the music they will hear.

If asked about my favorite music, Iíd have to say ďlive music.Ē No matter what the style, I love seeing listeners and performers get together.

Over the years I have noticed that many otherwise stout-hearted music lovers are frightened of classical concerts. I donít blame them! Concerts, like other activities, can be baffling if you donít know whatís going on. (Sports can be just as baffling. Iím still trying to figure out how, in the middle of a baseball game, when everybody is talking and eating hot dogs, and nobody is watching the game, all of a sudden everybodyóexcept meó knows to leap to their feet and pay attention.)

This little book is meant to make concert-going less baffling. Let me know if it helps! You can contact me through my web site,

About the Illustrator

John Minnion has been a concertgoer since, as a student in the late Seventies, he discovered the symphonies of Gustav Mahler at London’s Royal Festival Hall. From that moment he has believed music to be the most beautiful thing in life, even more beautiful than cricket, and spends many hours listening to it. He even produces concerts himself, for the all-female early music group Fifth Element. Having teenage sons to support, he is also a freelance illustrator who has worked for many magazines and newspapers. He has caricatured over 400 composers, many of them on commission from Naxos.


Many thanks to Klaus Heymann, who had the original idea to provide a pamphlet for new concertgoers. Thanks to John Minnion for drawings with attitude. Thanks to Naxos of America for running with Klaus’s idea, to Matthew Whittier and Collin Rae for producing this new edition, and to all the organizations who have made use of the booklet. I am grateful to the many musicians and listeners who have shared their questions and answers about concerts over the years.

And thanks to you for reading this far (even if you opened to this part first).



Introduction to Classical Music
  Music Categories
  Musical Instruments
  History of Classical Music
  Discover the Classics
     Vol. 1 | Vol. 2 | Vol. 3 | Vol. 4

Glossary of Musical Terms

A-Z of Opera
  Synopses of Opera
  Index of Operas by Composer
  Opera Libretti

How To Enjoy A Live Concert
  A Note from the Author
  The Listener's Job Description
  Part 1: Before the Concert
  Choosing a Concert 
Kinds of Concerts 
Styles of Presentation: Formal, Informal, and Beyond 
Buying a Ticket
Sections of the Theater 
Getting Ready 
Getting There 
  Part 2: At the Concert
  "Concert Manners" 
The Concert Ritual 
Reading the Program 
Instruments of the Orchestra 
Ways to Listen 
Meeting the Performers 
Essential Life Support 
  A Brief Glossary

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