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Piece of the Week: The Huntress, by Karl King

The Huntress

Back in the days when traveling circuses were a major form of popular entertainment, no composer was better known than Karl King. King ran off with the circus in 1910 (at the age of 19), and in the course of his career he worked for some of the most famous touring shows of the era, including Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the Barnum & Bailey Circus. King quickly worked his way up, proving himself to be a talented composer and bandleader as well as musician: for example, in 1913 he composed the piece that became the theme song for the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and by 1917 was directing that band.

“The Huntress” was published in 1916, around the time when King was working for the Buffalo Bill show and the Sells-Floto Circus (who toured together and shared a band for one season). SmartMusic has just released two concert-band arrangements of this piece, one from LudwigMasters and one from Barnhouse.

Audio Sample: Gene Milford arrangement, pub. LudwigMasters

Audio provided by LudwigMasters Publications, LLC.

Composition Notes:

One of Karl King’s most popular pieces, “The Huntress” has all the melodic interest and rhythmic vitality you would expect from this celebrated master of circus marches. What makes this particular song unique among Karl King’s marches is the “ragtime” woodwind obligato for the flutes and clarinets in the trio. Ragtime was a popular style at this time, and King had previously composed several pieces in this style, including “Ragged Rozey” (1913), “Georgia Girl” (1914), “Broadway One-Step,” “Kentucky Sunrise,” and “The Walking Frog” (all from 1919).

Audio Sample: Andrew Glover arrangement, pub. C.L. Barnhouse

Audio provided by C.L Barnhouse Co.

Composition Notes:

“The Huntress March” was first published on September 20, 1916. The piece was submitted for publication to King’s friend C.L. Barnhouse in May or June of that year. It would seem logical that King wrote this march in the 1915-1916 circus offseason. He was in-between his second and third (and ultimately, final) season as bandmaster for the Sells-Floto Circus, which toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. That next season, in 1917, was when King began conducting the band for the Barnum and Bailey “Greatest Show On Earth.”

In a move that was not typical for King’s published pieces, the original version of “The Huntress” does not have a dedication. As such, historians have been debating the meaning of the title of this piece for decades. Even if we assume that it was written for the Sells-Floto or Buffalo Bill shows from the previous year (as the timing would suggest), we still don’t know what type of act the march would have accompanied. The title seems to imply a wild animal act, but the march has a very different sound form other King marches often used for animal acts (such as “Royal Decree March” and “The Caravan Club,” which the circus used to accompany lion and tiger acts.) Of note and interest is the influence of the ragtime style in this march, which you can hear in the jaunty piccolo solo in the first trio. “The Huntress March” became one of Karl King’s most famous marches, and has never been out of print.

Composer Biography:

Karl Lawrence King was born in the Ohio village of Paintersville on February 21, 1891, and grew up in Zenia, Cleveland, and Canton. The local town band in Canton stirred his love and talent for music, so at the age of eleven he bought a cornet with money earned by selling newspapers and began taking lessons. He soon exchanged that instrument for a euphonium which he played in the Canton Marine Band (made up of boys his own age). Karl’s only formal music instruction consisted of four piano lessons and one harmony lesson from a musical show director, William Bradford. At age 19, Karl joined Robinson’s Famous Circus (1910) as a baritone player. Over the next several years he played baritone with the Yankee-Robinson (1911), Sells-Floto (1912), and Barnum & Bailey Circuses (1913). It was in that year that he wrote Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite, which became one of the most popular marches in the world. It was soon adopted as the theme song of that circus. Karl King’s gift for composing was apparent at an early age, and he had several compositions published while still in his teens. In all, King published over 200 marches. In addition to this impressive feat, which earned him the title America’s March King, he also composed waltzes, overtures, intermezzos, serenades, dirges, rags, and galops, totaling almost another 100 selections. Karl King moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1920 and established a successful music publishing business, composed music, and directed the municipal band. He and his band appeared at numerous state and regional fairs, rodeos and expositions, as well as local concerts. After his death, it was formally renamed the Karl L. King Municipal Band of Fort Dodge.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at gwoodworth at makemusic dot com. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

Teacher Tip: Student Learner Outcomes


The below post comes to you from Richard Tengowski, Director of Bands for the Kohler School District in Wisconsin. Richard shares how he uses SmartMusic to achieve Student Learner Outcomes (SLOs). He teaches elementary, middle and high school concert bands, jazz ensemble, pep band, drum-line and secondary general music.

This past year, I used SmartMusic to complete our sight-reading SLO for 9th grade students. SmartMusic has a sight-reading library that contains 10 levels of difficulty and over 600 composed examples.

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When opened in SmartMusic, the music is covered so the students cannot see it. By clicking the triangle on the Sight Reading button, a menu appears so that you can select the amount of study time the students have before the example starts.

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After the music is performed, it is automatically assessed and recorded.

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We increased our average sight-reading score from 44 to 62. This increase exceeded our SLO goal by 18 points!

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Here is the nuts and bolts process I used. You are free to copy this and modify it for your own use.

Identify the Student/School Learning Objective

  • To increase the sight-reading accuracy of ninth grade students by 10%
  • Students will sight read and record music utilizing SmartMusic sight-reading modules.
  • Students will sight read music with a difficulty level of 2.5 music (using the standard 1-6 level of difficulty scale).

Reason for choosing this SLO objective: to improve the student’s reading skill of processing new information and applying it in a performance setting.

Content Addressed:

  • Music Standards: Content Standard E: Students in Kohler School District will read and notate music.
  • Wisconsin Standard E.7 – sight-read, accurately and expressively, music with a level of difficulty of 3, on a scale of 1 to 6.
  • Difficulty level 2 is an 8th grade outcome and difficulty level 3 is a 12th grade outcome.
  • For the purpose of this goal, we will use music at the difficulty level 2.5.

 SLO Process: 9th Grade instrumental students will be doing this SLO.

  • Students will be assessed and evaluated one time during the second and fourth quarters.
  • Student recordings captured using SmartMusic will assess and evaluate student accuracy.
  • Scores will be imported into a spreadsheet and calculated for student growth.

Strategies and Support:

  • Students will review STARS approach to sight-reading during individual instruction time:
    • (Sharps/flats, Time/tempo, Accidentals, Rhythms, Signs/symbols)
  • Students will have a limited amount of visual preparation before the actual performance.
  • Students will perform with SmartMusic and record and analyze each individual performance.
  • Student scores will be entered in a spreadsheet for future comparison.
  • Student and teacher will reflect and discuss the pros/cons of the sight reading exercise.


Picture 4Rich Tengowski is proud to begin his 28th year as Director of Bands at Kohler Public Schools. He is also the Past-President of the Wisconsin Music Educators Association and has taken leadership roles with the Wisconsin Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance Project and the Wisconsin Challenging Content Standards Task Force in developing standards for the state of Wisconsin. Tengowski’s work has been published in a recent book entitled Shaping Sound Musicians and MENC publications entitled Performance Standards for Music, Strategies for Teaching Beginning and Intermediate Band and Strategies for Teaching High School Band.  Mr. Tengowski is a 2002 Herb Kohl Educational Fellowship Award Recipient and was recently inducted into the Wisconsin Bandmaster Association.

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New Ensemble Titles Released in SmartMusic

32 new ensemble titles have been released in SmartMusic.

Title Comp/Arr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Angelic Celebrations  Standridge, Randall D. Grand Mesa Concert Band ME
Athena  Vertoske, Michael Grand Mesa Concert Band E
Christmas at the Circus  Standridge, Randall D. FJH Music Company Concert Band ME
Escape in Time  Grice, Rob Composers’ Planet Concert Band VE
Festival Fanfare and March  Bernotas, Chris M. Daehn Publications Concert Band E
Ghosts of the Lost Ship  Grant, Tyler S. FJH Music Company Concert Band VE
Greensleeves  Calhoun, Bill Carl Fischer Concert Band ME
Haunted Clocks  Balmages, Brian FJH Music Company Concert Band VE
Marche Diabolique  Balmages, Brian FJH Music Company Concert Band ME
Merrie Olde Christmas, A  Wagner, Douglas E.; Traditional British Carols, Belwin Concert Band E
Redline Tango  Mackey, John Osti Music, Inc. Concert Band MA
Shockwave  Nitsch, Jason FJH Music Company Concert Band E
Summer in Central Park  Bencriscutto, Frank Kjos Concert Band M
702 Shuffle  Zvacek, Bret Doug Beach Music Jazz Ensemble M
Arroz Con Pollo  Yasinitsky, Gregory Kendor Jazz Ensemble E
First Noel, The  Blair, Peter; Traditional Belwin Jazz Ensemble E
Hope Swings Eternal  Niehaus, Lennie Kendor Jazz Ensemble ME
Boomwhacker Christmas, A  Meyer, Richard Highland/Etling Publishing String Orchestra E
Dance of the Tumblers (from “The Snow Maiden”)  Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai; Lipton, Bob FJH Music Company String Orchestra ME
Deck the Halls  Traditional English Carol; Krug, Jason W. LudwigMasters String Orchestra M
Gesu Bambino  Yon, Pietro; Krug, Jason W. LudwigMasters String Orchestra M
Greensleeves Fantasy  Traditional; Bobrowitz, David; Law, J. Cameron Grand Mesa String Orchestra M
Hopak!  Owens, William FJH Music Company String Orchestra ME
I Have a Little Dreydl  Traditional; Bullock, Jack Alfred String Orchestra VE
Sweet Petite Winter Suite (Four Candy Character Pieces)  Balmages, Brian FJH Music Company String Orchestra ME
Tum Balalaika  Traditional Russian Jewish Folk Song, ; Brook, Steven H. Alfred String Orchestra E
Wexford Carol  Dabczynski, Andrew H.; Traditional Irish Carol Highland/Etling Publishing String Orchestra E
Winter Holiday Medley  Traditional and Dutch Hymn, ; Farrar-Royce, Jan Belwin String Orchestra E
Wizard of Oz, The (A Whirlwind Journey)  Arlen, Harold; Brook, Steven H.; Harburg, E.Y. Alfred String Orchestra MA
Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24  O’Neill, Paul; Kinkel, Robert; Phillips, Bob Alfred Full Orchestra M
Gymnopédie No. 3  Satie, Erik; Phillips, Bob Alfred Full Orchestra VE
Overture to “Royal Fireworks Music”  Meyer, Richard; Handel, George Frideric Highland/Etling Publishing Full Orchestra E


You can request a piece for a future SmartMusic release here.

Piece of the Week: A Boomwhacker Christmas

A Boomwhacker Christmas

If you’re the parent or teacher of a musical child, you are almost certainly familiar with “Boomwhackers,” those color-coded plastic tubes that kids love to smack. Since their introduction in 1995, Boomwhackers have been a go-to musical instrument for elementary music educators, and their bright colors and fun playing technique have brightened up many a classroom. This new holiday piece from Alfred Publishing Co. brings the fun of Boomwhackers into the concert hall with a medley of winter holiday songs for young orchestra.

Composition Notes:

Imagine four soloists playing eight Boomwhackers on the heads of eight brave audience members while being accompanied by string orchestra. That’s the scenario of this hilarious show-stopper. Your audience will love hearing “Jingle Bells,” “Good King Wenceslas,” and “Deck the Halls” like never before. Used by the composer with his own orchestra and guest teachers, this simple yet highly effective novelty number never fails!

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Composer Biography:

Richard Meyer has been involved in music education for over 25 years. He received his BA from California State University, Los Angeles and taught instrumental music at both the middle and high school levels in the Pasadena (CA) Unified School District for 12 years. Currently, he directs the orchestras at Oak Avenue Intermediate School in Temple City, California, and is in charge of the city’s elementary school string program. For 16 years, Mr. Meyer was the conductor of the Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra, a 90-piece 7th through 9th grade honor orchestra that he led in concerts in Vienna, Austria, Carnegie Hall, New York, Sydney, Australia, Washington D.C., and Victoria, Canada. Mr. Meyer has served as a guest conductor and clinician on many occasions throughout the United States, and has been a member of the Bellis Music Camp staff for 26 years. In addition to his teaching assignments, Mr. Meyer is a nationally recognized composer of works for young ensembles, with over 100 orchestra and band pieces in print. His composition Millennium won the 1998 National School Orchestra Association composition contest, and his Geometric Dances were awarded first prize in the 1995 Texas Orchestra Directors Association composition contest. He is also a co-author of the popular String Explorer string method series, and is the string editor for Alfred Publishing Company.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at gwoodworth at makemusic dot com. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

Teacher Tip: Using Technology in Rehearsals

Chris Grifa, band director at Creekside Middle School (Carmel, IN), shares how he uses technology in rehearsals.

Technology is integrated into the classroom everyday and is an integral part of the students’ daily classroom experience. When planning a rehearsal, I think about what objectives I want to accomplish and how technology can be used to enhance those objectives.

There are available technological options to support all areas of music performance such as intonation, tone quality, rhythm or recording. Once you identify what area you would like to work on with your students, it can be as easy as doing a quick Google search or just using your imagination to figure out a way that technology can help! With the new teacher evaluation rubrics now being implemented in Indiana and across the country, there is a stronger emphasis to include technology in the classroom. Integrating technology into a music rehearsal can become seamless with a little planning and a little creativity.

Below is the podium with our technology set up which contains a computer, Yamaha Harmony Director, sound mixer and document camera.

Tech Set Up

We use SmartMusic daily in our classes and having a computer allows us to easily use SmartMusic and all of its features. SmartMusic has various practice tools including a digital recorder, as well as quick access to both a tuner and a metronome. Did you know that if you hit Command-M (Mac) or Control-M (PC), that a stand-alone metronome pops up no matter where you are in the program? Being able to project our repertoire and the method books we are using during class onto a screen helps to focus the students’ attention and engage the class. Playing along with and hearing the included accompaniments, especially with our beginners, adds another level of listening for our students as well as a unique way to start to train the students to listen. We also use the Sight Reading library in SmartMusic almost daily with our beginners as a way to reinforce note reading. We also recommend students use SmartMusic at home for their daily practice. Using the SmartMusic Gradebook feature also allows me to document student growth, which is also becoming prevalent in our teacher evaluations.

The computer also gives me access to websites such as YouTube and J.W. Pepper, which have some very good recordings and performances. However, make sure you listen to the examples first to make sure they meet your standards. One activity I do is to play a couple of different recordings of a piece that we are working on and have a student led discussion about what differences are being heard between the two performances. This is great for developing critical thinking skills.

The Harmony Director features a sustain option that allows any note or chord to be held indefinitely. Having the students play along with a drone that is perfectly in tune is a great way to help students work on intonation and the ability to adjust. We use a drone daily during our fundamentals time. The Harmony Director can also sustain chords in either just or equal temperament. TonalEnergy tuner is an iOS app that also has these same features. In addition, the app has a rewarding visual feature that displays a smiley face  awhen a student plays in tune!


  • Start simple. Ease your way into using technology.
  • Do you have technology already available that you could start using with your students?
  • Develop a setup that works for you.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask other teachers how they are incorporating technology in their programs.

Remember, by starting easy and with a little planning, using technology in your rehearsal can be both a positive and seamless addition to your classroom!

grifacolorChris Grifa is currently the Co-Director of Bands at Creekside Middle School in Carmel, IN and is in his 11th year of teaching. The Creekside Wind Symphony was honored to perform at the 2013 Midwest Clinic in December and the 2013 Indiana Music Education Association Conference. His groups have consistently earned Gold and Superior ratings at the state level as well as Best in Class/Overall Grand Champion awards at various music festivals. Chris was a member of the Cadets Drum Corps and was a staff member for the Blue Coats and the Cadets. He is currently on the staff of the Carmel H.S. Marching Band and has served as a clinician/adjudicator for both concert and marching bands around the country.

Piece of the Week: Five English Folk Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Five English Folksongs

Ralph Vaughan Williams is part of a great tradition of British composers who transcribed melodies from the vast oral tradition of folk music and then incorporated these tunes into their own orchestral and choral pieces. This late-19th and early-20th century movement, which also included the composers Hubert Parry and Gustav Holst, came to be called the English Musical Renaissance, and produced pieces that remain beloved staples of the choral, band and orchestral repertoires to this day (not to mention a particularly romantic view of Britishness that includes tweed jackets, rambles around the English countryside, and 5 o’clock tea service). Vaughan Williams originally wrote Five English Folk Songs in 1913 as a choral piece, and it has been a staple of choirs ever since. This new transcription by Evan Feldman makes this bouncy and fun piece available for concert band. It includes all five movements of the original piece: “The Dark Eyed Sailor,” “The Spring Time of the Year,” “Just as the Tide was Flowing,” “The Lover’s Ghost” and “Wassail Song.” As the arranger’s notes point out, “colorful scoring allows the band to shine in tutti and chamber textures, and generous cross-cueing provides options for soloists.”

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Tierolff-Muziekcentrale.

Composer Biography:

Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Down Ampney, England on October 12, 1872 and died in London on August 26, 1958. He was the most important English composer of his generation and largely responsible for the revival of English music in the 20th century. Interested in the piano, violin and composition at an early age, Vaughan Williams attended the Royal College of Music at age eighteen. Although he made very slow progress in his studies as a composer, he persevered; studying with Bruch in Germany and Ravel in Paris. His early works contain elements of style that were to carry through most of his compositional life; a folksong-like melody from his love of the English folksong and a modal character derived from his admiration for Elizabethan and Jacobean composers. He never abandoned tonality, but he did use polytonality, bitonality and agglomerations of parallel chords in ways which were independent of the harmonic implications of the melody. Most of his works are for voices and orchestra, with an almost equal number of choral and solo works and hymns. He also composed large symphonic works, stage works and film scores but practically nothing for piano or small orchestra. English composers had been largely unnoticed on the international scene until the compositions of Vaughan Williams and his friend, Gustav Holst. Both were visionary men, who brought a new, yet still characteristically English flavor to the music of the 20th century.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

Teacher Tip: Creating a Holiday CD for Parents

Teacher Jim Schulz shares how he creates a CD using SmartMusic.

Creating a Holiday CD for parents using SmartMusic is a project I have used in some variation over many years. I am currently doing this project with my 6th grade string players.  If you don’t wish to create a holiday CD, you could use this template for other projects such as a portfolio of your students’ progress.

Since the students choose the songs, they work really hard on them and we make it a goal to record at least one song per week in their lesson, depending on the number of students you see at one time and the length of the lesson. I keep the MP3 files in folders and let the students redo songs as time permits.

Recording the greeting track

  • At the beginning of the CD, students record a greeting to their parents.
  • Write out a short script in advance for students to read for the recording
  • It’s a good idea to include student’s name, grade, school and current date in the greeting
  • I choose a song with a cool accompaniment part. (Some songs give you 2 or 3 styles of accompaniments from which to choose.)
  • Add the melody line along with the accompaniment track
  • I start the song and let it play for a couple of measures
  • Use a SmartMusic vocal mic to record the greeting
  • Then cue the student to begin reading the script over the music – it makes the recording sound professional

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Setting the reverb

Next, set your reverb level (in the SmartMusic Settings menu). I use the “Large Hall” setting.

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Setting up the recording

  • Turn off the “click” sound & use only the visual count-off
  • Record your performance.
  • CLICK THE LISTEN BUTTON: balance the soloist and the accompaniment volume by moving the “my part/accompaniment” volume slider.
  • Save your takes.

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Making the CD

  • Save your performance MP3 to your computer
  • Burn the CD. I use iTunes
  • I use white inkjet printable CDs
  • Students use markers to personalize their CDs with decorations
  • Remember to include the date on the CD
  • I put the CDs in red paper CD covers to be festive

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We all know that the holiday season can get pretty hectic so maybe the best suggestions for a successful project would be:

  • Start the project early!
  • Use short easy songs.

I hope your students and their parents enjoy this project as much as mine have!

 Jim Schulz

Jim Schulz

In Jim’s 38 years of teaching, he has taught all levels of instrumental music from 4th grade to adults, including bands, jazz bands and orchestras. His current part-time teaching assignment is teaching strings: grades 4-6 in the Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln, NE. He received his BME in 1977 and his MM in 1986, both from University Nebraska Lincoln. He has participated in International Music Workshops in Lausanne, Switzerland and Graz, Austria, and is a Past President of NSBA and ASTA.


Piece of the Week: Firebird Suite by Stravinsky

Firebird Suite

Igor Stravinsky was a virtually unknown composer in St. Petersburg Russia when he was discovered by the famous Parisian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev at a concert in 1909, and from that moment began one of the most productive and iconic artistic partnerships of the early twentieth century. Russian music was at the time very popular in Paris, and Diaghilev had been scouting for composers to write music for his new Ballets Russe dance company. The Firebird, which premiered in 1910, was the first collaboration between Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and the iconic dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinski. The piece launched both Stravinksy’s career and helped build the wild popularity of the Ballets Russe de Paris. Stravinsky, Diaghilev and Nijinski would go on to collaborate on several more iconic ballet pieces, including Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913), the latter of which was so shocking in its use of dissonance and violent choreography that it famously caused a riot upon its premier.

The Firebird, though less controversial than the later Rite of Spring, is no less important a piece. The story is a fantastical tale of a prince, a magical firebird, a wicked sorcerer and an enchanted princess. With such a typically “romantic” setup, Stravinsky could easily have rested on a tried and true 19th century symphonic style. Yet Stravinsky pushed at the edges of traditional tonality, incorporating chromatic and sometimes dissonant extended harmonies, off-beat rhythms, folk-melodies into an otherwise familiar tonal landscape.

The Firebird was later made into a five-movement instrumental suite, and SmartMusic has several arrangements of this piece available for your band or orchestra. The piece provides an excellent point of entry into twentieth-century music for your students and audiences. Check out these options and consider putting some Stravinsky in your concert calendar.

Audio Sample: The Firebird (Berceuse and Finale), for Full Orchestra, from Alfred Publishing

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Composition Notes

These thrilling selections from one of the most beloved 20th century musical compositions for symphony orchestra provides a great introduction for younger players to Stravinsky! This transcription provides access at the perfect level.

 Audio Sample: Danse Infernale from The Firebird Suite, for Full Orchestra, from Belwin

Audio provided by Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.

Composition Notes

“The Firebird,” a dramatic ballet in one act, was first performed in 1910. It was a resounding success and brought immediate fame to the composer. “Danse Infernale” takes place in the castle of the sorcerer, Kastchei, who captures wayfaring strangers and turns them to stone. Grotesque orgres and terrifying monsters dance wildly. Later in the ballet, Kastchei is destroyed and the music proceeds to the beautiful “Berceuse and Finale.”

Audio Sample: Suite from the Ballet “The Firebird,” for Concert Band, from Ludwig Music Publishing

Audio recorded by Carnegie Mellon University bands.

 Composer Biography

Igor Stravinsky was born on June 17, 1882, in Oranienbaum, Russia and died on April 6, 1971, in New York City. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the Modern era. While encouraged to study law by his father, Stravinsky preferred instead to study composition with Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. Stravinsky’s compositions came to the attention of Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballets Russes, who commissioned from him the ballet scores for “The Firebird” and “The Rite of Spring.” These works contained powerful rhythms, massive chord formations and brilliant instrumentation. “The Rite” was so affecting that the audience rioted at its premiere. Stravinsky then turned to the neoclassical style that revived the forms, harmonies, genres, and textures of seventeenth and eighteenth century composers. Works from this period include the oratorio “Oedipus Rex” and the “Symphony of Psalms.” Each work develops rich and somber sonorities and uses Baroque era (1600-1750) techniques, such as the fugue, within slowly shifting tonalities and rhythms. This period climaxed with the opera “The Rake’s Progress” that was much more experimental in tonality than his other works from this period. After Schoenberg’s death in 1951, Stravinsky began to compose serial, atonal music, a method pioneered by Schoenberg some years earlier. Stravinsky lived in Los Angeles for twenty-five years, then moved to New York City. He died there just two months before his ninetieth birthday.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.


Piece of the Week: Water Music by G.F. Handel

Water Music

Originally written for a floating celebration on the Thames river, George Frideric Handel’s Water Music has remained a popular and familiar suite of tunes ever since. The piece was commissioned by England’s King George I, and had its watery premiere on July 17, 1717. As the famous story goes, King George was so pleased with Handel’s composition that he requested that the piece–which was actually three suites of pieces–be played several times in a row, both on the trip up river (with the rising tide) to Chelsea and then on the return trip back downriver to London. While this may sound like an eccentric royal stunt, music historian Anthony Hicks (writing in the Grove Music Online) points out that King George I’s river trip was a carefully staged political event that was intended to increase his visibility to his subjects. One can only speculate how much Handel’s beautiful music helped increase the King’s popularity and political power.

Handel originally scored this piece for a hefty fifty piece orchestra featuring strings and woodwinds, a surprising fact given that the ensemble performed on a barge floating on one of the busiest rivers in Europe. With three suites containing 21 individual pieces, Water Music is also large in its scope, which makes sense given the length of time Handel had to keep the king (and his many subjects lining the river) entertained. In this new concert band version from Alfred Publishing, arranger Douglas E. Wagner concentrates on three of the best-known pieces from the Water Music suite, including the famous Hornpipe movement, and sets all three in the key of Bb with no accidentals.

This arrangement is a perfect way to introduce your young band to this wonderful Baroque suite. The tunes are simple and sturdy, and the piece will sound good for beginning level students and beyond.

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Composer biography:

George Frideric Handel was born on February 23, 1685, in Halle, Germany and died on April 14, 1759, in London, England. Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach are generally considered to be the greatest composers of the Baroque era (1600-1750). Like many musicians of his time, Handel learned the craft of composition in Italy. He became skillful in all the Baroque musical forms, including opera, oratorio, chamber cantata, concerto and sonata. The 93 volumes of his published works contain many pieces in these forms. Handel moved permanently to London in 1714 where his Italian operas, and later his oratorios, brought him great financial success. Handel is probably best-known for his oratorio “Messiah.” Like his many other oratorios, it combines soloists, chorus, and orchestra to tell a Biblical story. His most popular instrumental works include “Water Music,” written to entertain King George I as he sailed down the Thames river on a barge, and “Fireworks Music,” written for a royal fireworks display celebrating the Peace of Aachen. Handel was also a renowned keyboardist. Handel was a popular figure in his social circle and at court. Though he became virtually blind at age 68, he continued to compose and perform until his death, six years later. Unlike many composers, Handel was a wealthy man when he died, and left significant bequests to his servants, charities and friends.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at gwoodworth at make music dot com. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

Teacher Tip: Implement Deliberate Practice

Kevin Mead, band director at Churchville-Chili High School in New York, shares how he is using SmartMusic to guide his students’ practice.

Our challenge: “Pineapple Poll”

The Churchville-Chili Wind Ensemble is currently working on the first movement of “Pineapple Poll”. I wanted to encourage and reward the students’ use of a “deliberate practice” approach for learning this challenging piece of music.

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Deliberate practice process:

  • I used the large group “pre-defined” assignment feature to automatically schedule specific assignments to all students.
  • Deselected the “Require default tempo” box and told students to select their own best submission tempo.

 Picture 34

In the “Instructions to students” window, I asked students to:

  • Start practicing at a slow tempo and don’t increase the tempo until you can get all green notes (regardless of how slow).
  • DO NOT submit the assignment until the last few days before it is due.

Picture 4

I gave the students two options for submission:

  • If they played the excerpt at a tempo of mm=100 or greater, the recording grade would be out of 100 points possible.
  • If they choose to play the piece any tempo slower than mm=100, the recording grade would be out of 95 points
  • The SmartMusic “right note at the right time” assessment would be used at either tempo.

The results

  • Students worked at getting up to tempo and playing the notes correctly.
  • It discouraged students from submitting a poor performance at a faster tempo.
  • In either case, the SmartMusic grade remained unchanged, so getting the correct note at the correct time was rewarded.

My next step will be to create a rubric that encourages the same deliberate practice approach to learning our music.

Kevin Mead

Kevin R.Mead has been teaching music for 30 years, most of them in the Churchville-Chili School District in New York State. Mr. Mead is currently the director of the Senior High School’s select Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. His ensembles have won several awards and honors including many “Superior” ratings and 1st place performances throughout the east coast. Mr. Mead has been honored with several personal awards including his district’s “Triple C” award for service, a “Fish” award for “Making Their Day,” and was selected by the members of the Churchville-Chili Senior High National Honor Society as the 2005-06 “Teacher of the Year.”