First of all, thanks to friends and colleagues who sent me messages regarding my post about Elementary Band Literature. Though I have not written a wealth of pieces at that grade level, I will say in most cases they are challenging to write in a different way than some of the pieces I have completed at higher grade levels. It is always an honor to learn a piece has been selected for use with younger musicians, so thank you in advance should one of the pieces in that article work for your group this year.
I wanted to provide a similar kind of post for both pieces designed for Middle School/Junior High and Senior High groups as they school year begins. Below are a series of short links with suggestions on level of ensemble, and a few technical notes. In all cases, you can view a score image and listen to the recording as well.
There is criticism of music at the MS/JH grade level (and I certainly haven’t been immune to it). That being said, sometimes our ensemble music provides the vehicle to arrive at our musical goals for our students. In a nutshell (“Sparknote” version), balance, contrast, melody, expressive impact, and pedagogical use are things I exam closely.
Repertoire has been a long-standing research area for me, and I do constantly think about it. I’ve enjoyed contributing thoughts like these on great young band repertoire in Teaching Music and The Instrumentalist this past year, and I stand by the music I recommended in both articles. A good friend said to me “That’s great. But where are YOUR pieces listed?” Part of my success as a guest conductor and clinician is knowing:
1) Great music doesn’t have to be hard. It needs to be great.
2) The best repertoire choice for an ensemble doesn’t mean my name is always in the equation.
With that in mind, I humbly present several of my own in this post. I hope these selections listed below might be of service to friends and colleagues in Middle School/Junior High Band settings throughout the school year! Best wishes, play well, and love music!
Irish Jig For Young Feet (Grade 2) – Original Irish Jig music in 6/8. Basic 6/8 rhythms w/ call and response between percussion and the instrumentalists (using their feet!). Ideal for light/novelty work in your concert. Available from FJH.
Journey to the Prairie (Grade 2) – Programmatic work about the westward expansion. Continuous music with 4 distinct sections. 3rd place recipient in the 2009 Ticheli Composition Contest. Available from Manhattan Beach Music.
Tales of a Medieval Warrior (Grade 2-2.5) – Programmatic work about the rise of a young Knight, his courtship of a fair maiden, and his victory in jousting. 3 movements with basic rhythms in cut-time (Mvts. I & II) and 6/8 (Mvt. III). A great addition for contest or adjudication. Available from FJH.
Yankee Fanfare (Grade 2.5) – A new setting of Yankee Doodle abounding in Patriotic Pride! Some mixed meter (5/4 & 2/4), it works great to open or close a concert. Available from Grand Mesa Music. It has really been popular over the past year with JH & MS Ensembles.
Siege of the Dark Castle (Grade 2) – This piece plays closer to a 1.5 than a 2, but the dark tonality, contrasting articulations, and a three part fugue make it a great work at the MS/JH level. Available from Barnhouse.
The Last Stagecoach Heist (Grade 2-2.5) – Originally the third movement of a “Cowboy Symphony” for young band, this work chronicles the last infamous act of “Black Bart”. It is energetic and has great lines across the ensemble to engage students. Available from FJH.
Eyes of the Dragon (Grade 2) – New for 2014 Young Band, a great dragon is met in a battle by a solitary warrior with his kingdom’s fate hanging in the balance. Expanded percussion writing and presence of dissonant chords make this an exciting choice for young bands at the ms/jh level. Available from FJH Music.
Dancing Under The Stars (Grade 2.5) – A delightful little gem with a little bit of quirkiness, lots of joy, and opportunities to challenge your better players with optional solos across the ensemble. It works wonderfully as a change of pace piece on any concert. Available from Bandworks Publications.
New for 2015:
Hammer and Rail (Grade 2) – There is wonderful social commentary in the legend of John Henry and his race against the Steam Powered Drill. My setting of This Old Hammer begins as an expressive elegy that gives way to the whistles of the steam drill and the pounding of hammers. It is available from FJH Music.