Band Music Reviews

The task of selecting music for your ensemble is a daunting one indeed. As we remind ourselves that what we choose as the literature for our programs become the curriculum that we use as a vehicle to teach multiple concepts to our students. I believe that this tenet should be the primary guiding light as we select music…. what can we TEACH our students if we program this piece? Of course, we want to teach or reinforce those musical qualities that allow our students to experience success as student musicians. We want our students to play with characteristic tone, to be aware of intonation issues and be able to correct them, to play with rhythmic integrity, to work with their colleagues to produce a characteristic ensemble sonority. Moving beyond the “nitty gritty” …does a piece of music allow our students to grow in other ways? If so, I think the piece is a worthwhile part of our curriculum. The compositions that I have included for your review below all offer the students the opportunity to become better musicians and have unlimited potential to reach our students on multiple levels.

David Biedenbender is currently on the faculty at Michigan State University, and earned his DMA in Composition from the University of Michigan. David has written several pieces for wind band that have received much success. Among those are Melodius Thunk, Stomp and Luminescence. One of his most recent works is Unquiet Hours, which was commissioned by the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and premiered at the 2017 Midwest Clinic by the Riverwatch Middle School Band. Although listed as a Grade 4, this piece provides numerous technical challenges and could easily be considered a Grade 5. Unquiet Hours provides a strong challenge for your percussion section and requires a total of 7 players at minimum to cover the parts. Modern percussion writing including a prominent part for crystal glasses adds to the various tone colors produced by the piece.

Robert W. Smith has once again provided us with incredible music for those specific teaching moments. Robert’s setting of the traditional English ballad Scarborough Fair, is, quite simply, breathtaking. In this arrangement, published as a Grade 3, the conductor should be careful to balance the melody and counter melody appropriately throughout the piece. The shaping of the conversation between these two lines is crucial to the clarity and intent of the arrangement. Scarborough Fair also provides young students the opportunity to explore and work from a theoretical standpoint in minor tonalities. From the opening statement in soli flute to the subdued ending, this setting is a wonderful taste of lyrical playing in a minor mode for your students. This is yet another of Robert W. Smith’s incredible contributions to our repertoire. We are indeed fortunate to have him as one of our “Alabama colleagues” and proud to share him with music educators around the globe.

Randall Coleman

If you are searching for a challenging piece that is incredibly fun for your students to play, then look at Shine On! by Nathan Daughtrey. Written to celebrate the 100th

anniversary of the band Biedenbender writes that the piece is

“about the unquiet hours-the times when sadness, doubt, anxiety, loneliness and frustration overwhelm and become a deluge of unceasing noise.” So many of our students are dealing with these personal social issues and our students will be able to relate easily to the composition. The piece, at its conclusion, is about finding peace “inside the noise”, which will speak volumes to many of our students. The wind parts are written for a typical wind band and includes optional parts for Eb Contralto Clarinet, Bb Contrabass Clarinet and Double Bass. There is a printed Bass Trombone part, but it is also listed as optional and the part may be taken up an octave to accommodate younger players. The composer also includes alternate pitches for the timpanist for young players and where pedal changes are difficult. This is a highly-recommended piece for those upper Grade 4 and Grade 5 ensembles. You and your students will enjoy preparing and performing Unquiet Hours.

If your younger ensemble needs to strengthen their ability to play lyrical, flowing and expressive lines, our good friend and colleague

ala breve

program at East Aurora High School, Shine On! is published at the Grade 4.5 level and provides you an opportunity to showcase your talented musicians. Aurora, Illinois is officially known as the “City of Lights” because it was one of the first cities in the United States to implement an all-electric street lighting system in 1881. The city also shares its name with Aurora, the Goddess of the Dawn. She was the bringer of light and was often described as bringing hope and rejuvenation to all living beings as they woke up each morning. Her two horses that pulled her chariot across the sky are named in the Odyssey as Firebright and Daybright. Much of these characters provides inspiration for the piece. Technically demanding for percussion, woodwinds and brass, the piece requires an outstanding control of internalized pulse and technical clarity. The full ensemble will be required to have a firm grasp of jazz style and the members of your percussion section will enjoy providing the “groove” for this piece.

Engaging and catchy

melodies are spread throughout the ensemble, including a xylophone solo, and a driving “tour de force” ending make this selection a delight for the performer and audience alike. I know your students will thoroughly enjoy Shine On!.

Randall Coleman Associate Director of Bands The University of Alabama Conductor and Music Director The Alabama Winds


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