Choice Of Repertoire

We must learn to teach music - not band, not orchestra, not chorus, but music itself...Choosing music is the single most important thing a band director can do, and is the only thing a band director can do alone, made more important because of the substandard repertoire continuously being published. So many publishers in the business today are printers who don't care about quality, but only about what will sell. We must not allow them to give the band a bad reputation nor to make our decisions for us, since the music we choose today can affect students for ever. Frederick Fennell


No lists of repertoire here - as I am reminded by WASBE colleagues, one man's meat is another man's poison - or cheese! I do however think that some of the British music written for school and amateur bands is more varied and interesting than some better-known commercial works in USA and Europe. My website will have various personal views, and I would recommend that you look also at the WASBE Schools network, possibly purchasing the WASBE 2003 Conference CDs of easier band repertoire from Mark Custom. If you have difficulty in locating material, contact Jim Cochran of Shattinger. The repertoire lists by Felix Hauswirth give an international view, those books published by GIA edited by Richard Miles give an essentially American view but are invaluably linked to compact discs.


Choosing the best literature for our players is our greatest responsibility. The band world is essentially commercial, there are publishers who are set to make big money out of bands by getting their composers to write standard formula pieces which have nothing to say musically except start together, loud - soft -very loud wait for standing ovation! They and their composers are salesmen, and we must, as musicians look at other non-commercial repertoire to see if it will teach our players more, and entertain our audiences in a more satisfying way.

Our essential thinking must be whether a work has a musical function or not. Selections from "Phantom" or "James Bond Themes" or "Michael Jackson Thrillers" may well have a valid place in your repertoire for social reasons, but you must ask whether the arrangements and pieces you choose are musical, whether they will give your players a valid experience, will they provide material for you to conduct, or will you just be a time-beater. Don't de-sensitise your players.

At a recent clinic on a less than challenging satisfying piece, the conductor bemoaned the fact that the players did not practice. Wow, with five months to go rehearsing this same piece for the contest week after week, you would need to be a very stupid player to practice the piece now. Another Singapore colleague was wondering why so many students drop out after high school. I do believe that more would stay if they got a musical kick out of band, not just a social buzz.



I believe that we need to challenge our players, choosing repertoire which is musical, intellectual technical and emotional, and yet bridging that often too wide gap between composer and audience. For me music is essentially an emotional language, and I hope that any work I conduct, whether contemporary or traditional, will reflect this for both players and audience.

If you look at my library list you will see up-to-date details of all of the repertoire books. There are several published by Manhattan Press, edited by Bob Margolis.

The simplest way to compare hundreds of works at American Grades 1 - 4 is to invest in Teaching Music through Performance in Band published by GIA and now in five volumes. With each you can also order CDs of all of the easier repertoire.


Felix Hauswirth 1000 selected works for wind orchestra and wind ensembles (Emil Ruh, 1998)
Felix Hauswirth 333 easier selected works for less experienced bands (Emil Ruh, 2000)
Cipolla & Hunsberger The Wind Ensemble and its Repertoire (University of Rochester, 1994)
Jonathan Good British Literature for Symphonic Winds
Keith Kinder Best Music for Chorus and Wind (Manhattan Beach Music 2005)
Holland, Rundell, Reynish British Wind Music of Four Decades (RNCM, 1991)
Rodney Winther An annotated Guide to (conducted) Wind Chamber Music (Warner Bros 2004)
Norman E Smith Program Notes for Band (Program Note Press, 2000)
Wallace/Corporon Wind Ensemble/Band Repertoire (Univ of Northern Colorado, Greeley, 1984)
Dvorak/Grechesky/Ciepluch Best Music for High School Band (Manhattan Beach Music, 1993)
Editor Richard Miles Teaching Music through performance in Band (GIA Publications, from 1997)

We should always question:

1 Can we teach musical values through this piece, not only ensemble and dynamics, but phrasing and balance, good tone and intonation, a sense of structure and architecture, sensitivity?

2 Will this work challenge the players and the audience?

3 How can this work lend itself to musical interpretation?

4 Would I choose this work to play in my diploma examination?

As David Whitwell puts it in his admirable book, The Art of Musical Conducting, WINDS 1998: Because in English all music is included under one word, "Music", some musicians make the mistaken conclusion that all music is therefore somehow equal.

I count it but time lost to hear such a foolish song.William Shakespeare

Music must be made popular, not by debasing the art, but by elevating the people.Henry Cleveland, 1840

A good performance of a poor work is of no artistic consequence. and regrettable both because it furthers bad taste and because it means time and labour unprofitably squandered.Felix Weingartner

When you grow older, avoid playing what is merely fashionable. Time is precious. It would require a hundred lives merely to get acquainted with all the good music that exists.Robert Schumann

Contesting can be an excuse not to extend our players. In USA, they spend half the academic year on marching band, the rest on contesting, and this is a dual excuse not to explore repertoire and extend the students. The fact is that the best bands make marching band and contesting part of the overall musical experience. Sight reading, initiating new repertoire, trying out variety of programming, taking your audiences with you on a voyage of exploration of new international repertoire will give your bands an enrichment and will develop their musical skills.

We all connive with the "music business". Anyone interested in what the thinking parent feels should log on to Stephen Budiansky.