Writing high quality program notes can be difficult because information about pieces (especially more modern ones) tends to be hard to find in one place. There are many sources that you can use to find accurate information about the works you choose to perform, you just have to know where to look! Sample sources could include:
High quality program notes give your audience information about any combination of the following:
Many people find it helpful to organize program notes into three sections*:
*Nigel Scaife, Writing Programme Notes: A Guide for Diploma Candidates (London: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, 2001), 7.
Some basic questions that you might want to answer include:
A further level of detail might need to be added, such as:
As the performer, you (should) have your own interpretation of the pieces you will be performing. You might want to comment on this interpretation, especially if it is unconventional, and how you reached your decision.
It is also acceptable to comment on any meaning that a piece might hold for you.
Yes, you have to cite your sources. Turabian style is preferred.
...the fair use of a copyrighted work...for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.*
*US Copyright Office. Circular 92, "Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code," Chapter 1, Section 107, Washington, DC: US Copyright Office, 2008. 6 March 2009. http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107