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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Take Notes: An Introduction to Music Theory

8-Session Evening Course + Performance

Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: BPS6
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Conductor Ernest Johnson (Photo: Safiya Gallaghan)


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

If you’ve always wanted to learn the language and elements of musical notation and composition, or are a singer or instrumentalist who has never mastered reading music, this interactive course led by conductor Ernest Johnson offers the perfect opportunity.

Geared to participants 55 and older, Johnson guides exercises and assignments designed to develop the foundation every musician needs: the aural and visual understanding of pitch and rhythm. Students use the concepts learned and their developing skills to create an original song, and the course culminates in a performance of selected works.

Topic areas include finding your musical voice; ear training; solfege, rhythm, and improvisation; reading notation; and composition. Community-building around their shared musical experience also plays an important role for participants.

The course includes a variety of online and print resources to support and enhance musical learning, including a subscription to the Sight Reading Factory website.

Johnson is a choral conductor and music educator who has worked with singers and musicians of all ages for more than 40 years. He taught advanced-placement music theory for 30 years in high schools in New York and Virginia. He is the director of adult choirs at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, an adjunct professor at George Mason University, and active as a guest conductor, teacher, and clinician throughout the Washington area. Since 2019, he has been the director of the Associates’ Smithsonian Chorus.

This program is made possible through generous funding from Aroha Philanthropies.

8 sessions plus performance

Limited to 15 participants


  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for streaming programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.