Repertoire Spotlight: Bruce Pearson and Festival Solos

SM_Aug_rep_blog_Festival Solos

This week we added 26 new ensemble titles to the SmartMusic Repertoire Library. Included are new pieces for concert band, jazz band, and string orchestra. View the complete list.  

Featured Release

In addition to the new ensemble titles, we’ve also added “Standard of Excellence Festival Solos, Book 3,” by Bruce Pearson, Mary Elledge, and Dave Hagedorn. One unique aspect of these collections of solo arrangements of classic literature is their relationship with a corresponding book, the “Festival Solos Complete Assessment Manual” by Wendy Barden and Bruce Pearson. A companion piece to books 1, 2, and 3, it includes rubrics to support the learning process and to help assess student progress. We hope to share some insights from that book in the future.

Bruce Pearson, a co-author of all four books, was kind enough to share some woodwind-, brass-, and percussion-specific performance tips for use with some pieces from the solo collection.


Rondo from Concerto #3 by Carl Stamitz

Rondo for Concerto No. 3 by Carl Stamitz

© Neil A. Kjos Music Company – Used with permission 2016

Performing a piece in the appropriate style allows a composition to “come alive.”

Carl Stamitz’ “Rondo from Concerto No. 3,” written with a 6/8 time signature, should have a “lilting” feel.  To achieve this feel in this piece (and in other 6/8 pieces at this tempo) beats 1 and 4 in each measure should have more weight than notes on beats 2, 3, 5, and 6. If all six beats in a measure are given the same weight, the result will feel “sluggish.”

Additionally, the quarter and eighth notes (unless tied or slurred) should be played short, light, and with a slight “bounce.”

By doing this, the performer will be able to recreate the style intended by the composer.


Rondo From Trumpet Concerto in Eb Major by Johann Nepomuk Hummel


Rondo From Trumpet Concerto in Eb Major by Johann Nepomuk Hummel

© Neil A. Kjos Music Company – Used with permission 2016

Playing a composition with rhythmic accuracy is, of course, necessary for a satisfying musical performance. Notes that come “on the beat” are often mistakenly played early or ahead of the beat (especially if it’s preceded by a rest), whereas notes that come “off the beat” are often played late or behind the beat.

To ensure performing with rhythmic accuracy, the previous note or rest should be sub-divided.  For example, the quarter note at ms. 26 is often played early. Because the 16th note is the shortest note in this composition, the rests prior to ms. 26 should be counted 1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a or with another good counting system. In ms. 27, the three 16th notes that occur after the 16th rest, are often played late. Beat one of that measure should be counted 1-e-&-a.  By doing this, the composition will be performed with greater rhythmic accuracy.

Finally, practice the piece slowly until the rhythmic accuracy is achieved. Gradually increase the tempo until the performance tempo is reached.

Percussion (Snare Drum)

Same Words, Different Translation by Dave Hagedorn

Same Words, Different Translation by Dave Hagedorn

© Neil A. Kjos Music Company – Used with permission 2016

This solo utilizes two performance concepts that are related.

The first concept is the sticking patterns for the paradiddle, double paradiddle, flam tap, and flam paradiddle. These rudiments should be practiced individually at slow tempos, and gradually worked up to the metronome marking indicated before working on the entire solo. The sticking patterns are of utmost importance here for coordination. You must be able to do these starting with either hand in order to play more advanced music. Actually, slow practicing with a gradual speeding up over time is important for any musical challenge.

The second concept is playing these rudiments in both a sixteenth note and eighth note triplet rhythm. Usually, rudiments are learned in a sixteenth note subdivision, so it might take some extra practice to feel the underlying pulse when playing them in a triplet rhythm. Once both subdivisions feel comfortable, and you can tap your foot with a steady pulse, then you should practice alternating between the two. Remember that the basic pulse never changes in this solo, just the subdivision. When you feel comfortable moving between the subdivisions, then work on sections of the solo, for example, measures 5 to 12. After mastering sections of the solo, then put it all together.

A steady tempo is the most important consideration, not necessarily a fast tempo.

Many thanks to Bruce Pearson for kindly sharing his expertise with us all. If you have a suggestion of repertoire you’d like included in future versions of SmartMusic, please let us know here.

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