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Monthly Archives: October 2010

On November 2, I’m leading a band reading session at the Music Conservatory of Westchester for the Westchester County Arts Leadership Association.  I was asked to pick music from a range of grade levels that I liked.  I tried to go beyond that and pick music from relatively unknown or up-and-coming composers that not only spanned the grade level spectrum, but was also uniformly fun to play.  I also managed to find a handful of pieces that were unconventionally published.  I trust that you’ll find several pieces on this list worth a look.

Flight of the Banshee – Roland Barrett (grade 1/2 – Belwin Band)

Gentle Winds – Timothy Loest (grade 1/2 – FJH)

G-Force Five! – Ralph Ford (grade 1/2 – Belwin)

Chrysalis – Michael Story (grade 1 – Belwin)

The Gates of Destiny – Gary Fagan (grade 1 – Alfred)

Pride and Purpose – Patrick J. Burns (grade 1.5 – FJH)

Adrenaline Engines – Randall Standridge (grade 2.5 – Grand Mesa)

Groundhog’s Lament – Daniel Kallman (grade 3 – Boosey & Hawkes)

Flat Rock March – Roger Vogel (grade 3 – Jon Ross Music)

Maiden Voyage – Shirley Mier (grade 3.5 – Grand Mesa)

Pentium – Peter Graham (grade 4 – Gramercy Music)

King Cotton – John Philip Sousa (grade 4 – Band Music PDF Library)

Galop – Daniel Kallman (grade 4.5 – kallmancreates.com)

Metropolitan Overture – Alexandre Travassos (grade 4.5 – e-mail composer)

September – Michael Mogensen (grade 5 – Barnhouse)

Xerxes – John Mackey (grade 5.5 – Osti Music)

Beacon Fires – Rob Smith (grade 5.5 – e-mail composer)

Monument Fanfare and Tribute – Philip Rothman (grade 6 – philiprothman.com)

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CFW 2012 Band Directors: CLICK HERE for free, printable parts.

Washington, D.C. native and legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) wrote a dozen operettas, six full-length operas, and over 100 marches, earning the title “March King”.  He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at an early age and went on to become the conductor of the President’s Own Marine Band at age 26.  In 1892 he formed “Sousa and his Band”, which toured the United States and the world under his directorship for the next forty years to great acclaim.  Not only was Sousa’s band hugely popular, but it also exposed audiences all over the world to the latest, cutting-edge music, bringing excerpts of Wagner’s Parsifal to New York a decade before the Metropolitan Opera staged it, and introducing ragtime to Europe, helping to spark many a composer’s interest in American music.

Marcus L. Neiman at the Band Music PDF Library writes about King Cotton:

King Cotton (march) was published in 1895 by the John Church Company and assigned to the Theodore Presser Company in 1939. It is a curious fact of the music world that marches written for fairs and expositions almost always fade into oblivion. Two notable exceptions are Mr. Sousa’s King Cotton and The Fairest of the Fair. The former was written for the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895, and the latter for the Boston Food Fair of 1908.

Mr. Sousa and his band had great drawing power at fairs and expositions and were much sought after. But, officials of the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta attempted to cancel their three-week contract with the Sousa Band because of serious financial difficulties. At Mr. Sousa’s insistence, they honored the contract, and at the first concert they became aware of their shortsightedness. Atlanta newspapers carried rave reviews of the band’s performance. For example:

… The band is a mascot. It has pulled many expositions out of financial ruts. It actually saved the Midwinter Fair in San Francisco. Recently at the St. Louis and Dallas expositions Sousa’s Band proved an extraordinary musical attention, and played before enormous audiences. It is safe to predict that history will repeat itself in Atlanta, and that the band will do the Exposition immense good. A great many people in South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia have postponed their visit to the Exposition so as to be here during Sousa’s engagement, and these people will now begin to pour in.

Sousa’s latest march, “King Cotton,” has proved a winner. It has been heard from one end of Dixie to the other and has aroused great enthusiasm and proved a fine advertisement for the Exposition.

The Sousa Band did indeed bring the exposition “out of the red,” and the same officials who had tried to cancel Sousa’s engagement pleaded with him to extend it. King Cotton was named the official march of the exposition, and it has since become one of the perennial Sousa favorites.

Read more about the Sousa Band and its history at naxosdirect.com. Click the link that says “Read more about this recording.”

Sousa shrine – including biography, complete works, and much more – at the Dallas Wind Symphony website.

John Philip Sousa on Wikipedia

King Cotton is one of many Sousa marches (and other pieces by turn of the 19th-20th century composers) available at the Band Music PDF Library for free.  I encourage any enterprising band directors to take a look.

Watch (OK, really just listen to) a great performance of King Cotton:

“If there is any justice, the music world deserves to hear much more of the music of Rothman.” So said the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier after a performance of Philip Rothman’s Souvenir for orchestra.  Such is the draw of Rothman, a New York City-based composer, clinician, and music consultant. The technical challenges of his music appear in the service much greater musical goals evident in every composition. Educated at Rice University and the Juilliard School, Rothman has won numerous awards for his music and is in demand as a clinician and composer.

He has his own website with information about himself and an online store where his music can be purchased for performance.  It also features his full biography.

Information about Rothman’s band music can be found here on his website.  Click the tabs to look at each piece – Monument Fanfare and Tribute is second from the right. There you will find a recording of the piece.

Says Rothman of the Fanfare:

Every year thousands gather at the General Grant National Memorial in Manhattan, popularly known as Grant’s Tomb, to commemorate the birthday of Civil War hero and former President Ulysses S. Grant. The monument, internationally famous, is the largest building of its kind in the Western hemisphere and unprecedented in American history. To celebrate the millennial anniversary of this observance, Monument Fanfare and Tribute was premiered at the monument on April 27, 2000.

Monument Fanfare and Tribute is a brilliant, stirring composition inspired by the grandeur of the Grant monument as well as the promise of the new millennium. Its opening brass flourishes are designed to evoke the festive nature of this outdoor communal gathering. After this initial fanfare recedes, an elegant, expansive theme emerges which conveys the “tribute” in the title. This dignified yet spirited tune is introduced quietly to distinguish a contrast with the initial bombast. The composer used the letters of Grant’s name in a musical fashion to spell out the first notes of this melody. The theme steadily builds in scope and volume until it is time for the brass fanfare to excitedly reappear. The main theme is then jubilantly presented as the composition reaches a sweeping, joyous conclusion.

Monument Fanfare and Tribute has been featured at The Midwest Clinic, the international conference Wind Music Across the Century at the New England Conservatory, and at the Virginia Intercollegiate Band Directors Symposium for New Music.

There is further information about the premiere at the Grant Memorial Association website.

General Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president of the United States after leading the Union forces to victory over the Confederacy during the Civil War. He is indeed entombed in Grant’s Tomb, along with his wife, Julia Dent Grant.  For decades after the monument’s completion, Grant’s Tomb was the most visited tourist destination in the US, largely due to the number of Civil War veterans who payed their respects. It suffered a period of disrepair in the mid-20th century, but was restored to health by the time of the premiere of Monument Fanfare and Tribute in 2000.

Grant’s Tomb on Wikipedia

Grant Memorial Association website.  The flash intro plays the Fanfare!

Here is the Columbia Summer Winds playing the piece on the steps of Grant’s Tomb itself:

Rob Smith (not to be confused with the Jerry Bruckheimer/George W. Bush/most famous mustache of the band world, Robert W. Smith) blends modernism and American pop and jazz idioms in his energetic music. His work is widely recorded and frequently performed throughout the United States and abroad, and his music has won several awards. He is currently an Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music.

Rob Smith has his very own web domain, robsmithcomposer.com, with much information about himself and his music.

Beacon Fires was a prize-winning runner-up in the 2010 Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest. Smith says the following of his piece:

Beacon Fires was commissioned by Mark Hartman and the Crane Youth Music Wind Ensemble, directed by Brian K. Doyle, for a premiere performance during their 37th season. The work was written in honor of the program’s first three directors, Roy Schaberg, Scott LaVine and Mark Hartman. The title refers to fires that can be seen from a great distance because of their high vantage point – usually a hill or tower. This seems a fitting metaphor for these directors who have served as important role models for our youth. The first movement, Ignite, is dedicated to Roy Schaberg and features Schaberg’s instrument, the horn. Glow, the second movement, is dedicated to Scott LaVine and features the woodwinds and the harp. The third movement, Blaze is dedicated to Mark Hartman and features the trombone, Hartman’s instrument, and the low brass.

Listen to Beacon Fires here.  Or listen to the Columbia Wind Ensemble doing it on October 23, 2011:

Beacon Fires was commissioned by Mark Hartman and the Crane Youth Music Wind Ensemble, directed by Brian K. Doyle, for a premiere performance during their 37th season. The work was written in honor of the program’s first three directors, Roy Schaberg, Scott LaVine and Mark Hartman. The title refers to fires that can be seen from a great distance because of their high vantage point – usually a hill or tower. This seems a fitting metaphor for these directors who have served as important role models for our youth. The first movement, Ignite, is dedicated to Roy Schaberg and features Schaberg’s instrument, the horn. Glow, the second movement, is dedicated to Scott LaVine and features the woodwinds and harp. The third movement, Blaze, is dedicated to Mark Hartman and features the trombone, Hartman’s instrument, and the low brass.

Michael Mogensen (b. 1973) is a composer from Hagerstown, Maryland. His compositions have been played all over the US and the world, and have won him several awards. He is one of the featured composers in volume four of Composers on Composing for Band.

September was written in memory of the events of September 11, 2001. It was a finalist in the Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest.

More info on September is available at C. L. Barnhouse publications. Listen to a partial recording of September here.

John Mackey once famously compared the band and the orchestra to the kind of girl a composer might meet at a party. The orchestra seems like she ought to be your ideal woman, but she clearly feels superior to you and talks a lot about her exes (like Dvorak and Beethoven). The band, meanwhile, is loud and brash, but loves everything you do and can’t wait to play your stuff, the newer, the better! (I’ve rather poorly paraphrased Mackey – it’s best understood in his original blog post on the subject).

With this attitude and his prodigious talent, John Mackey has become a superstar composer among band directors. He has even eclipsed his former teacher, John Corigliano, by putting out a dozen new band works, including a handful of commissions, in the last 5 years. All are challenging, and all are innovative. Mackey’s works for wind ensemble and orchestra have been performed around the world, and have won numerous composition prizes. His Redline Tango, originally for orchestra and then transcribed by the composer for band, won him the American Bandmasters Assocation/Ostwald Award in 2005, making him, then 32, the youngest composer ever to recieve that prize.  His compositional style is fresh and original. I once heard him state that he counted the band Tool among his musical influences.

John Mackey publishes his own music through Osti Music.  The website for this company doubles as his personal website and his blog, which is very informative for anyone looking for a composer’s perspective on new band music. He is featured on wikipedia and the Wind Repertory Project.

Xerxes is his first concert march.  He gives a detailed account of its genesis on his blog. Essentially, he tasked himself with writing a march with an unconventional sound, and out came Xerxes.  The name of the piece came later. Xerxes the man was the king of the Persians from 485-465BC.  He is famous for being a brutal tyrant, and for having fought (and beaten) a force of 300 Spartans at Thermopylae in Greece. This scenario was most recently fictionalized in the film 300.

Mackey himself provides the best program notes on this piece, both on his website and in more colorful detail on his blog. You can also look at the score and hear a recording of the piece there.

Those too lazy to click a link can hear Xerxes via YouTube here:

You also MUST check out this metal version of Xerxes created by a fan:

And now a bonus image: Xerxes as depicted in 300 (and with the attitude of the march):

Alexandre Travassos is a Brazilian composer.  His compositions have won numerous awards, including the 2002 Penfield/Wegmans Composition Contest for Wind Ensemble Music and the 2010 Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest for Metropolitan Overture (first prize).  His works have been performed all over the world, including at the 2007 Conference of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) in Killarney, Ireland.

Below is a performance of Metropolitan Overture by a Brazilian band from 2008:

Peter Graham (b. 1958) is a British composer who is widely revered for his contributions to the British Brass Band.  His compositions for wind band have also won him recognition.  Harrison’s Dream, a piece written for the US Air Force Band, won him the American Bandmaster’s Association Ostwald Award in 2002.

Graham wrote Pentium in 1999 for a British high school band.  He provides the details:

Commissioned by the West Lothian Schools Wind Band, Pentium was premiered by the group at the 1999 BASBWE Conference held in Manchester, England. Described by conductor Brian Duguid as “a short ride on a PC”, Pentium displays some common traits with the minimalist techniques of John Adams. A five-note figure, first heard in the clarinets and saxophones after the opening swirl and flourish, provides the essential building block for the rondo-like movement. Pentium takes its name from the “silicon glen” where computer chips are manufactured, near the West Lothian Schools Wind Band base.

Peter Graham on Wikipedia.

Graham on MySpace – look for the media player that will let you hear several of his compositions (unfortunately not Pentium).

Gramercy Music, Graham’s music publishing company.

2 interviews with Graham: 2002, after winning the Ostwald, and 2006 about another large work of his, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

List of Graham’s works for wind band available at Gramercy Music

A partial professional recording of Pentium.

The Columbia University Wind Ensemble plays Pentium under my direction at the Columbia Festival of Winds on 3/7/10:

Shirley Mier is a composer and band director from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Her compositions have won numerous awards, and her theatre piece Madeline’s Christmas has been produced around the country. Maiden Voyage is her first published work for band. The score features the following program note:

Maiden Voyage is an idealized depiction of a sea voyage aboard a sailing vessel. The piece begins with a moment of calm before the initial launch. The clarinets and other woodwinds play a rollicking sea chantey as the journey begins; then the brass and percussion join in, depicting the splash of waves as the wind and the water become rougher. The wind subsides until the boat is completely becalmed, then it gradually picks up again. The piece culminates in the vessel’s triumphant, majestic return home and the successful completion of its maiden voyage. … Maiden Voyage was a finalist in the Frank Ticheli Composition Contest, Category 2 (Young Band), in 2006.

Shirley Mier has her own website.  She also has a bio page at the Society of Composers and a bio and works list at the American Composers Forum.

Listen to Maiden Voyage at JWPepper.com.

Dr. Roger Vogel is a Cleveland native who now teaches at the University of Georgia.  He has over 100 compositions and several journal articles to his name.

Flat Rock March was written in 2001 for Flat Rock Middle School in Fayette County, Georgia.  It is one of many pieces available for download at Jon Ross music, also known as pdfband.com.

Description of Flat Rock March and Dr. Vogel’s bio.

Recording of Flat Rock March: Flat Rock March – Roger Vogel

Roger Vogel’s faculty page at the University of Georgia.