SmartMusic Finale Garritan MusicXML

A Plan for Selecting Performance Repertoire

Bruce Pearson Conducting

When a student joins a band program, he or she expects to learn to play an instrument and perform in a large ensemble. The band curriculum should be comprehensive and address many intermediary outcomes, providing the framework to ensure meaningful musical experiences through instrumental performance.

Selecting performance repertoire is one of the band director’s greatest responsibilities and most critical tasks. To be most effective, repertoire should:

  1. Coordinate with components of the curriculum plan
  2. Account for the students’ technical and musical maturity
  3. Be high quality literature, worthy of study
  4. Meet concert programming needs

Each of these criteria influences students’ musical experience, attitude, and level of participation. Ultimately, it is the course of study combined with a congruous, correlated repertoire that will inspire a lifelong love of music (even if they no longer play their instrument) and enable them to describe what they hear in terms of melody, harmony, rhythm, intonation, dynamics, timbre, texture, form, historical period, and style.

When considering technical and musical maturity, note that a meaningful musical experience involves more than playing the right notes at the right time. Select music at a level of difficulty that will enable students to develop technique, as well as musical literacy and understanding. Find the balance between challenging students and providing an attainable goal. Everyone wants to be successful.

To optimize your students’ musical experience, select performance repertoire that is of highest quality and worthy of study. There are numerous sources for recommended musical repertoire including, among others, state contest and festival lists, “Teaching Music Through Performance in Band” (published by G.I.A.), and recommendations by master teachers and colleagues.

Finally, when selecting repertoire think of the concert programming. In addition to high quality literature, the most successful concerts provide variety and showcase the developing talents of the ensemble and individual players.

The following program format will enable students to make the most of their next performance:


Establish a positive atmosphere and aura of confidence with an energetic piece that is not too difficult, such as a march.

Major Work

Display music of the highest quality. The selection should hold technical demands for all sections and students.

Quiet Piece

Contrast the rhythmic activity, volume, dissonance, and texture of the major work. Display the development of students’ sensitivity and musicianship.

Feature or Pop Tune

Showcase an entire section, perhaps one whose other parts have been less challenging or one that is particularly strong. Avoid trivial arrangements. Look for an enjoyable piece that can be used to teach specific objectives.


Finish with a powerful up-beat selection – a piece that students can play confidently. Make sure both students and audience leave with a positive feeling about the concert, as well as the music program in general.

Everyone enjoys a band concert that shows the students’ accomplishments and provides a window into the band’s rehearsals. Remember that concerts afford music educators/ band directors a golden opportunity to share their classroom activities with parents and the community.

[Excerpts taken from: Pearson, Bruce and Nowlin, Ryan. Teaching Band With Excellence. San Diego: Neil A. Kjos Music Company, 2011.]


Dr. Bruce Pearson is an internationally recognized music educator, author, composer, clinician and conductor. His newest band method, Tradition of Excellence, offers the most advanced interactive curriculum that is second-to-none. His best-selling band method, Standard of Excellence, has provided a solid foundation for scores of music education programs around the world. His extensive correlated repertoire has helped music educators expand their programs to reinforce learning through performance.

Additionally, Bruce Pearson personally imparts his 30+ years of experience to music educators through no-cost clinics designed to improve, invigorate and enhance music programs. View his website for a full bio and visit Neil A. Kjos Company to see a list of retailers offering Bruce’s books and sheet music.

SmartMusic in Texas: Approved and Proven

To correspond with our visit to San Antonio this week for the Southwest Summer Music Exhibition, we’ve created this interactive Piktochart that details the implementation of SmartMusic in Texas:

Have feedback or questions for us about SmartMusic in Texas? Please feel free to click on “Comments” below, or if you’re at the Southwest Expo, come and see us in person at booth 4055.

2015 Southwest Summer Music Exhibition


The 2015 Southwest Summer Music Exhibition begins this Thursday on the beautiful River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

We hope to see you there! Stop by booth #4055 and get more information on how we’re bringing SmartMusic to Chromebook, our brand new choir repertoire, and how Texas Proclamation 2015 could fund SmartMusic in your classroom.

We’ll also be hosting clinics for both SmartMusic and Finale, starting on Thursday. Details can be found on the Southwest section of our Events page.

Choral Music in SmartMusic

Choir Photo

Last week, for the first time ever, we added choir repertoire to SmartMusic. In addition, a new Choir category was added to the “Find Music” section within SmartMusic to make these titles easily discoverable:

Find Music - Choir

You may notice the “Beta” designation on the Choir option above. With this initial offering we’re actively seeking your input on how choral repertoire is working with your choir program. Have feedback for us? Please share it with us here: Despite being referred to beta, these titles are fully functional and even include pre-authored assignments in the SmartMusic Gradebook.

Most of the choral pieces found in SmartMusic today are titles that are regularly at the top of state contests lists. One exception is Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu,” the Grammy-winning theme from the video game Civilization IV.

To be clear, this collection represents only the beginning of choral support in SmartMusic. Moving forward, additional choir titles will be part of our regular repertoire releases. Among the factors that determine what repertoire gets added next include the availability of materials from publishers, suggestions received through our beta program, and specific requests made here:

We’ve also added new choral functionality within SmartMusic. On select choral titles, you can use the Accompaniment menu to access additional accompaniment tracks (highlighted below):

Agnus Dei Accompaniment

Selecting each part allows you to change the balance of the recording, emphasizing a specific voice so students can more easily hear their part.

Keep in mind that this content is just part of what SmartMusic offers singers today. Within SmartMusic, choose “Find Music” to arrive at the “Browse By Category” page, where you can also find additional choral resources under:

  • Method Books
  • Exercises
  • Sight-Reading Exercises

Early response to the Choir beta has been very positive:

“I am beyond ecstatic that the choral content is now LIVE on SmartMusic!”
– Laura Vaughn, college instructor, SmartMusic clinician, voice teacher

I hope you’re as excited as Laura and I am to finally have choral content in SmartMusic. If you’re headed to San Antonio for the Southwest Summer Music Exhibition, check out our session for vocalists on Saturday.

Otherwise, if you have any comments or questions about choral support in SmartMusic (or anything else), please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Rob Stein on Marching Band and SmartMusic

Rob Stein

Musicians and superheroes have a lot in common. Besides both being forces for good, they also frequently fulfill different roles by day and night. Rob Stein is one such musician, working as an instrumental music teacher by day and a composer/entrepreneur by night (and weekends) as the owner of Standing ‘O’ Marching, creators of custom marching music. Rob also has a unique perspective on the world of his custom music customers as an educator, designer and judge, and he continues to be an instructor for the Blue Devils B, too.

In our interview Rob shares his experience in his many roles:

Can you tell me a little about your music education and music background?

I started playing trumpet in 4th grade, not because I knew it was the best instrument in the universe (which it is), but because my dad was a pro trumpet player and had an extra horn in the attic. I played through elementary and middle school, but joining the marching band in high school is what really lit my fire for music and the marching activity.

After my first year of high school marching band, I joined the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps, based in Mt. Holly, NJ, and spent 6 years there (’99-’04), 4 in the hornline as soprano section leader and soloist, and 2 years as drum major. After that, I finished my DCI performing career with 2 years in the Concord Blue Devils on upper lead trumpet in 2005 and 2006. “The Godfather, Part Blue” was my age out show, with finals in Madison, WI, where I started in 1999 with my first finals in the Jersey Surf. It was an incredible experience to come full circle at Camp Randall Stadium!

I completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, earning a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance with an emphasis in jazz studies, and a master’s degree in music education with K-12 certification. The University of the Arts is an outstanding, unique institution, and while there I was fortunate enough to study and perform with some of the most skilled, renowned jazz musicians in the world. I was in at least six ensembles per semester, including playing lead for both school big bands, classical trumpet ensemble, jazz trumpet ensemble, handbell choir, choir, and various small groups.

Are there particular educators or musicians that really stand out as your mentors?

I’ve been extremely lucky to receive instruction and advice from some of the kindest, most experienced educators, musicians and composers in the country. George Colon was my very first instructor in high school; his enthusiasm for the activity, motivating instruction and drill writing skills immediately got me hooked. George is extremely humble, and taught me valuable lessons in recognizing and prioritizing the accomplishments of friends and students above all. I will always remember the energy he brought to the field every day: it was absolutely infectious.

While I marched in The Blue Devils, I was very fortunate to learn from brass caption head, John Meehan. John always had a way to push us to the next level, and had an uncanny ability to keep his finger on the pulse of the brass section. On tour, every day potentially brings a new set of tasks, challenges, and emotions. As a member, and as current instructor with The Blue Devils B, I was and still am blown away at his ability to understand the daily needs of the members, both mentally and physically, to keep pushing the horn line to its maximum potential. John has also been exceedingly kind to me over the years as I have asked for his advice on many occasions. He is always willing to take the time to help others succeed.

My parents are undoubtedly my biggest influence and role models. Music runs in the family, back to my grandmother, who graduated from Juilliard on piano and was Gene Kelly’s accompanist in summer stock theater. Both of my parents were musicians for much of their careers: my dad a pro trumpet player and music teacher, and my mom a piano phenomenon who was playing gigs at 10 years old. My parents have taught me the invaluable lesson of hard work, relentless persistence until the goal is achieved. Regardless of the obstacle, they have never let anything stop them from accomplishing their goals, for their careers and for their family.

How was Standing ‘O’ Marching formed?

I started Standing ‘O’ Marching during my time at graduate school in 2006-2007. After aging out of drum corps, I still wanted to stay as involved in the marching activity as much as possible. I was instructing numerous marching bands in my area at the time, and wanted to get more involved with writing marching band music.

I started by building my own website, which, in 2006, was not nearly as convenient or easy as it is today. While it wasn’t the most visually appealing, I was proud to have built it myself and have something concrete to get started. Before launching the website, I wrote my first three original shows so I could have some material available. In the spring of 2007, Standing ‘O’ Marching officially hit the web, and that year I started by arranging for two local New Jersey Bands.

Now wrapping up the 2015 writing season, I am fortunate to have 45 bands performing my music this year.

What is unique about the custom music that Standing ‘O’ Marching offers?

I have experienced the roles of being a marching band director, judge, show designer, instructor, and performer for bands ranging from 25 members to over 250. Understanding the time constraints and logistics of designing and implementing a marching show has been extremely beneficial, and is absolutely vital to consider while writing a show. I believe that the custom music I offer is not only effective and contemporary, but allows the members to achieve and perform at a high level sooner rather than later. As I write, I constantly evaluate various aspects of the music from different viewpoints:

- Is this passage effective for the current moment of the show? Does it clearly convey the theme?
– Is it achievable for the members given their rehearsal schedule, but also challenging enough to keep them interested?
– Is it exciting?
– Will the members enjoy performing it?
– Will the audience and judges enjoy listening to it?
– Will the judges clearly be able to hear what is intended?

As a performer, I remember playing music that made me feel like I was going to explode with intensity and pure adrenaline. When a band director tells me that the students love the music, that they’re excited for it and enjoy the show, it is a wonderful feeling knowing that Standing ‘O’ Marching is helping young musicians around the country to have that same experience of intensity.

What was your first introduction to SmartMusic?

At The Midwest Clinic in Chicago, 2012, I was exhibiting across from the MakeMusic booth, so I had the good fortune of watching the SmartMusic demo about 20 times a day throughout the convention. The guys giving the demo were outstanding and really showcased the program practically. By the end of the week, I was hooked and ready to dive in with my students. I had a flash drive from the MakeMusic booth loaded with information about SmartMusic, as well as product information to pass on to my school administration.

How is SmartMusic part of what you do today?

SmartMusic plays multiple roles in my day-to-day projects as a music educator, and composer. I teach elementary and middle school instrumental music at Clinton Public School in Clinton, NJ. Because it’s a K-8 school, I have a rare opportunity to start students in 4th grade and teach them through 8th grade.

I have one weekly 40-minute group lesson with each student, and a 25-minute weekly ensemble rehearsal, based on a 6-day rotating cycle. I teach multiple ensembles, including a 4th grade band, 5th/6th grade band, 7th/8th grade band, and jazz band. So, once every 6 days, I get a 25-minute rehearsal with each one of those ensembles.

Once I saw the SmartMusic demo in 2012, I knew it would be beneficial for my program. With minimal rehearsal time and widely varying instrumentation in each grade, I typically compose or arrange the concert music myself. With SmartMusic, I am able to make SmartMusic files of all of the concert music: either the music I select is already in the SmartMusic catalog, or I can simply make my own SmartMusic files in Finale.

As any music educator can imagine, 25 minutes, once every six days, is not a considerable amount of rehearsal time. Especially at the elementary/middle school age, students can get confused when hearing other instruments in rehearsal. Parts they consistently play well on their own will turn into mass confusion and hysteria as soon as the percussion kicks in (sorry, percussionists!), but practicing with SmartMusic allows students to have a full band rehearsal on their own any time they want. This has facilitated more individual progress, allowing me to begin focusing on more advanced concepts of musicianship during rehearsal. I also use SmartMusic during lessons and give weekly assignments, which has led to a rapid growth in my students’ sight-reading abilities.

As a composer, SmartMusic has also proved to be extremely beneficial for the bands that utilize the SmartMusic files available with every show on my website. Many schools across the country request SmartMusic files, and the ability to quickly convert a show into a SmartMusic file has allowed me to offer a higher level of service and assistance to my bands.

Do you hear from groups that will only purchase your music if SmartMusic accompaniments are included?

Yes, more each year. And I completely understand why!

What are you hearing from educators about the impact of technology as it relates to performance outcomes or rehearsal efficiency?

The band directors that purchase the SmartMusic files all tell me they have an easier time hitting the ground running, students can have more productive practice sessions over the summer and throughout the season. Anyone who has instructed a marching unit before understands what happens when individual performance breaks down; the entire show suffers, every caption.

Band directors tell me that on the competition field, individual music scores specifically have been a strong point as a result of the work students can do with SmartMusic, which benefits every aspect of the performance. I typically have all of my marching band writing completed by mid-June before I leave for DCI, with my earliest bands receiving their full shows in February/March.

Imagine having your complete show music, in SmartMusic form, before the end of the school year for your students! What an advantage!

Can you tell us about your workflow?

I start by writing in Sibelius, making audio, full show PDFs and scores once the show is completed. At that point, I am able to export the finished product to an XML file, open that XML file in Finale, and with a few tweaks and adjustments, make a fully functional SmartMusic file for winds.

MakeMusic has done a phenomenal job of allowing composers to work across platforms. I’m also fortunate to have assistance from a very good friend and colleague who is a SmartMusic wizard, Eric Weingartner. Eric is the Associate Director of bands at Homestead High School in Cupertino, CA, and the musicians he and director John Burn produce there are nothing short of amazing. SmartMusic is also an integral part of their program.

Have any suggestions for other composers/arrangers who’d like to begin selling their work?

Some of these may sound cliché, but nonetheless are absolutely true. It takes a lot of time and energy to build a library of music, to learn a composing program, and to become proficient enough to write at a good pace and make the music look professional. Time is one of the biggest factors that will make or break an attempt at a music writing career, especially as most of us who start out writing are typically working another full time job. I have to be careful in balancing school teaching, writing, and oh yeah, FAMILY! Maintain a consistent schedule that allows you to enjoy your life and still get a lot of productive work done.

Rob Stein ConductingAlso, (and I have to remind myself of this constantly) that the road to success is NOT a mostly vertical climb up. It’s more like a roller coaster: There are peaks, valleys, turns, challenges, and constant struggles. Every perceived failure is not actually a failure, but just part of your journey to success.

If I spend 3 hours writing 12 bars that I ultimately wind up deleting or changing to something completely different, those 3 hours were not wasted. That was time that was necessary for me to get to what I ultimately wanted to keep.

Stay positive, and always seek to continue improving your game anyway you can.

Thanks again to Rob for taking time out of his action-packed schedule to provide his insight. Have questions about SmartMusic and Marching Band – or anything else? Let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

SmartMusic Choir Repertoire Released

Choir Repertoire Update

Last week we added 49 SmartMusic choir titles to our continually growing collection of repertoire:

Title Comp/Arr Publisher Pepper Level
African Noel – TTB Moore, Donald; South African Folk Song BriLee Music Publishing Co. ME
Agnus Dei – SATB Porterfield, Sherri Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. M
Amor De Mi Alma – SATB Stroope, Z. Randall; de la Vega, Garcialso Walton Music Corp MA
And Nature Smiled – SSA Koepke, Allen Santa Barbara Music Publishing M
Annie Laurie – 2 Part Scott, Lady John; Rentz, Earlene; Douglass, William BriLee Music Publishing Co. E
Autumn Vesper – SAB Snyder, Audrey Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. E
Baba Yetu – SATB Tin, Christopher; Kiagiri, Chris Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. MA
Bells, The – SATB Ahrold, Frank Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Confitemini Domino – 3 Part Gilpin, Greg BriLee Music Publishing Co. ME
Cry Out and Shout – SATB Nystedt, Knut Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. MA
Cum Sancto Spiritu – SAB Lotti, Antonio; Liebergen, Patrick M. Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Dance on My Heart – SSA Koepke, Allen Santa Barbara Music Publishing M
Dark Night of the Soul – SSAATTBB Gjeilo, Ola; St. John of the Cross, Walton Music Corp MA
Domine, labia mea aperies – SATB Lassus, Orlandus; Archibeque, Charlene Santa Barbara Music Publishing MA
Ezekiel Saw the Wheel – TTBB Spiritual; King, Betty Jackson Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Festival Sanctus – SATB Leavitt, John Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Gallant Knight, The – TBB Patterson, Mark BriLee Music Publishing Co. E
Gartan Mother’s Lullaby, The – SATB Traditional Irish; Ginsberg, Neil Santa Barbara Music Publishing ME
Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal – SATB Traditional; Parker, Alice Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. M
Homeward Bound – SATB Keen, Marta; Althouse, Jay Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
How Can I Keep from Singing? – SATB Gilpin, Greg BriLee Music Publishing Co. ME
I Am Not Yours – SSATBB Stroope, Z. Randall; Teasdale, Sara Walton Music Corp MA
I Know an Old Woman – SSA Mills, Alan; Morton, Debra; Bonne, Rose BriLee Music Publishing Co. M
Instruments of Praise – SSAA Koepke, Allen Santa Barbara Music Publishing ME
Is it Nothing to You? (O Vos Omnes) – SATB Victoria, Tomas Luis da; Klein, Maynard GIA Publications Inc MA
Jubilate Deo – SATB Martinson, Joel GIA Publications Inc MA
Kyrie – SATB Porterfield, Sherri Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Lamb and The Tiger, The – 2 Part Gray, Cynthia; Blake, William BriLee Music Publishing Co. ME
Laudate Dominum – SATB Juneau, Thomas Carl Fischer LLC. MA
Night Winds – SA Farnell, L.; Cotter, Jr., Joseph S. BriLee Music Publishing Co. ME
Novum Gaudia – TB 12th Century French Carol; Singh, Vijay BriLee Music Publishing Co. E
O Rushing Wind – 2 Part Patterson, Mark BriLee Music Publishing Co. ME
O Sing Out Forever – SAB Purcell, Henry; Liebergen, Patrick M. BriLee Music Publishing Co. ME
Pie Jesu – SATB Gilpin, Greg Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Rise Up Shepherd and Follow – SATB Traditional African-American Spiritual; Jefferson, Robert Carl Fischer LLC. MA
Rock My Soul – SSAA Spiritual; Schallehn, Hilger Schott Music GmbH & Co KG M
Sing Me a Song of a Lad That is Gone – TTB Porterfield, Sherri Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Sing We Joy – SATB Purcell, Henry; Liebergen, Patrick M. BriLee Music Publishing Co. E
Song of the River – Unison Patterson, Mark BriLee Music Publishing Co. E
Stars I Shall Find – TTBB Dickau, David C.; Teasdale, Sara Walton Music Corp MA
Swallow, The – SSA Newfoundland Folk Song; Schram, Ruth Elaine BriLee Music Publishing Co. E
Tarantella – TTBB Stroope, Z. Randall Carl Fischer LLC. MA
Ticket to the Kingdom – SATB Moore, Donald Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Tiger, The – 3 Part Mixed Porterfield, Sherri Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. ME
Torah Orah – SA Hebrew folk song; Adams, Brant Santa Barbara Music Publishing ME
Ubi Caritas – SATB Gjeilo, Ola Walton Music Corp M
Wade in de Water – SATB Spiritual; Koepke, Allen Santa Barbara Music Publishing M
Weep No More – SSAA Childs, David N. Santa Barbara Music Publishing M
What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor? – TTBB Traditional Sea Shanty; Eddleman, David Carl Fischer LLC. M

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

MakeMusic Acquires Weezic

Early this morning we announced that MakeMusic has acquired Weezic, the augmented sheet music innovator. View the press release.

Weezic and MakeMusicMembers of the Weezic and MakeMusic teams, seen in MakeMusic’s Boulder offices in June, 2015.

If you’re not familiar with what Weezic brings to music practice, check out this introductory video or read the announcement on their site.

Weezic was acquired due to its core strengths of web-based music learning and assessment technologies. Additionally, the Weezic team is comprised of exceptionally talented researchers and developers.

Together we plan to release a web-based SmartMusic, compatible with Chromebooks, for back-to-school 2016. To meet this ambitious time frame, existing Weezic products will be wound down over the coming months, allowing our development staff (including those in our new Paris office) to focus on the effort.

“We are committed to growing SmartMusic and providing world class practice tools to musicians, teachers and composers,” stated Gear Fisher, MakeMusic CEO. “With this acquisition, SmartMusic will become available on the web, and in particular, it will become accessible on Chromebook.”

Existing SmartMusic subscribers can rest assured that nothing within the current SmartMusic product will be immediately affected by this acquisition. We will continue to produce updates to SmartMusic (as we did this week) and will retain our focus on maintaining and building upon the current product.

If you have any questions, please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

SmartMusic Update

SmartMusic Product Update

We are happy to announce that SmartMusic will be updated in the next few days.

Additions include:

  • Choral content – A new Choir category has been added to Find Music and will appear in My Library when choral content is downloaded. While available to the public, the choral support is still in beta testing, and your feedback is welcome at:
  • Login update – The login page now appears when you launch SmartMusic. First-time users who have not set up an account can try SmartMusic sample content by clicking “Skip to demo.”
  • Performance improvements – Performance when navigating through Find Music or when creating assignments is faster, and playback of submitted assignments has been improved on Windows.
  • Bug fixes – Tempo changes are no longer reset when setting a practice loop.

If you are using the latest version of SmartMusic, this update will be applied automatically unless you have turned off automatic updates. To update from earlier versions of SmartMusic, download the latest version from

In a similar time frame, an update for SmartMusic on iPad will also be released, which will include choral support, a tuner, and several other enhancements. Look for notifications from Apple for more details.

To stay posted on this and other SmartMusic updates, subscribe to this Knowledge Base article. If you have any questions regarding this update, please contact our Customer Success Team.

SmartMusic Repertoire Released: 20 Ensemble Titles

SmartMusic Repertoire Released

We recently added another 20 new ensemble titles to the growing collection of SmartMusic repertoire. Among the pieces for Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, String Orchestra and Full Orchestra included in this batch are:

Nautical Bits & Pieces (Based on Favorite Sea and River Songs)

Nautical Bits and Pieces

As the title suggests, “Nautical Bits & Pieces” contains short excerpts from eight well-known sea and river songs. Included are “Blow the Man Down,” “Spanish Ladies,” “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” “Song of the Volga Boatmen,” “Sloop John B,” “Blow Ye Winds,” “Haul Away Joe,” and “Anchors Aweigh.”


Take the "A" Train
Take the “A” Train

Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967), an American composer, pianist, and arranger, composed “Take the ‘A’ Train” in 1939. Duke Ellington had offered Strayhorn a job in his orchestra and gave him money to travel from Pittsburgh to New York City. Ellington wrote directions for Strayhorn to get to his house by subway. The note started, “Take the ‘A’ train…” and Strayhorn used it as the title for his composition which was to become the theme song of Duke Ellington and his orchestra, one of their biggest hits, and one of the masterpieces of jazz repertoire.

Here is the complete list:

Title Comp/Arr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Nautical Bits & Pieces (Based on Favorite Sea and River Songs) Story, Michael Alfred Concert Band VE
Rolling Thunder (March) Filmore, Henry arr. by Foster, Robert Carl Fischer Concert Band M
Daedalus’ Labyrinth O’Loughlin, Sean Carl Fischer Concert Band ME
Whitewater Run Kiefer, Ed Carl Fischer Concert Band E
Unleashed Terry, Petter Carl Fischer Concert Band E
Military Escort (March) Bennet, Harold arr. by Clark, Larry Carl Fischer Concert Band E
Blue Orchid, The Owens, William TRN Concert Band E
Groove Machine Navarre, Rand Northeastern Music Concert Band B
Sideways Walking Dog Smith, Zachary Belwin Jazz Ensemble E
There is No Greater Love Jones, Isham arr. by Richards, Eric Belwin Jazz Ensemble A
Star Eyes DePaul, Gene; Wolpe, Dave; Raye, Don Belwin Jazz Ensemble M
Rockin’ Merry Christmas, A Neeck, Larry C.L. Barnhouse Jazz Ensemble E
Rush Hour Niehaus, Lennie Kendor Jazz Ensemble M
Take the “A” Train Strayhorn, Billy arr. by Lopez, Victor Belwin Jazz Ensemble ME
Andante from Trio Sonata Op. 5, No. 1 Handel arr. by Sieving, Robert Highland/Etling String Orchestra M
Phantom’s Escape O’Loughlin, Sean Carl Fischer String Orchestra M
Slavic Celebration Calhoun, Bill Carl Fischer String Orchestra E
Country Song (Two Songs Without Words, Op. 22, No. 1) Holst, Gustav arr. by Sieving, Robert Highland/Etling String Orchestra MA
Grave and Allegro Telemann, Georg arr. by McCashin, Robert FJH String Orchestra M
Last Chorale, The (Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit) BMV 668 Bach, JS arr. by Lipton, Bob FJH String Orchestra M

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

Music for Music’s Sake

Music for Music's Sake video image

This television commercial aired a few years back touting the 21st century progressiveness of a communications company. In the background Gene Wilder is singing “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The announcer explains that when we were five years old, anything was possible. Visually, child-like crayon images illustrate the wonderment of a child’s mind and there’s an implied message that as we get older, we lose this ability to be expressive and see the world with amazement.

The commercial really made me think about the young students that join band. From the first day of instruction, they desperately want to experience the wonderment of music-making. They begin their musical journey with the same creativity and giddiness of a five-year-old. The question is whether or not somewhere along their musical journey, they lose the passion and energy that they brought to the table from the start. What we hope happens over time is that they will have an appreciation for music, continue playing their instruments, and will resonate with music for the rest of their lives. What happens in between should be a world of self-discovery through the act of making music.

In this day of budget cuts, where most arts agencies find themselves on the proverbial chopping block, it is really important that we be able to communicate to parents, administrators, business leaders and school board members why the study of music is so important. Many times when we think of advocacy, we begin to quote how the study of music increases SAT scores and improves problem solving, reading comprehension, motor proficiency, spatial awareness, and listening skills. Sometimes, we quote research studies about cognition, where scientists have proven that the study of music actually causes one to use more of the brain. All of these studies are valuable and we should freely use them to defend our cause. However, they don’t necessarily explain why music making is so important.

Is Music an Activity?

The most dangerous label that I see associated with the study of music is that it’s an “activity.” This is especially true in the public school climate where administrators see the arts in the same manner as extra-curricular activities or driver’s ed. We must be able to defend why we are part of the core curriculum and why we are necessary. Furthermore, we need to be able to clearly articulate the study of music for music’s sake.

What is it that music does for the soul that other pursuits can’t do? How does communicating through the language of music change a person? When you hear Irish Tune from County Derry, the second movement of the Persichetti Symphony for Band, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, or Eric Whitacre’s Water Night, why does the music itself stop you in your tracks and cause you to experience emotions and feelings that go to the very core of the soul. How does music intuitively cause you to move, dance, and interpret?

The first time I heard a live performance by the Chicago Symphony, they performed Mahler’s First Symphony. That experienced transformed me as a person, changed the way I heard music, and made me passionately pursue a career in music. Do we go out of our way to share with our students the experiences that changed us musically?

For Rehearsal

In a practical, real-world application, do the following at your ensemble’s next rehearsal:

  • Play to and away from arrival points and seek to discover what the music is intuitively asking you to express
  • Reduce the vertical “impulses” and create long lines for phrase shape; no audience has ever heard a barline
  • Discover suspensions, note weighting, and the concept of tension/release
  • Ask your students to expressively improvise slow, melodic, eight-measure songs
  • Sing or play slow, melodic phrases to your students for them to play back using “call and response”
  • Sit down at the piano and improvise for your students

I recently had a person tell me that the reason we don’t use the music for music’s sake argument in advocacy is because it’s not definable. Well…. I disagree. We better start figuring out ways to define it or we may be out the door with the “activities.”

Music is intrinsic and in every individual; it is connected to the human spirit and the imaginative mind. The study of music actively engages students in the creative process. Each rehearsal, students have the chance to explore and investigate new ways of artistically stating who they are and what they feel. Music can only be explained by music, but it is definable and it makes life richer and fuller for those that experience it and listen to it.

As you tenaciously pursue the perfection of the components of playing, never forget that it’s a means to an end … making music with your students so that the process is artistic and they are deemed artists.

George Szell once stated:

“When you start going into every phrase and search for the maximum content that can be conveyed without distortion or gratuitous underlining, you are probing further into the heart of the music and touching the composer himself.”

scott_rush 300Scott Rush is the Director of Fine and Performing Arts for Dorchester School District Two in South Carolina. Prior to that appointment, he was Director of Bands at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina for 15 years. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where he received a Master of Music degree in French Horn Performance. Under his direction, the Wando Symphonic Band performed at the 2007 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008, the Wando Band program received the prestigious Sudler Flag of Honor by the John Philip Sousa Foundation.

Mr. Rush is active as a clinician and adjudicator and has presented workshops for various universities, school districts, and conferences throughout the United States and Canada. He is the author or co-author of six highly touted books published by GIA Publications. They are: “Habits of a Successful Band Director,” “The Evolution of a Successful Band Director,” “Habits of a Successful Musician,” “Habits of a Successful Middle School Band Director,” “Habits of a Successful String Musician,” and “Quality of Life Habits of a Successful Band Director.” He has been the recipient of the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence on five occasions and is a former board member of the NBA. In 2010, Mr. Rush was elected into the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and in 2015 was elected into the South Carolina Band Directors Association Hall of Fame.

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