by Ken Tilger, Band Education Specialist –
Ever wonder how Stanton’s picks the titles that are in our promotions? In short, members of our staff listen to, review, and in the case of our piano department, play through, almost every new title! With yesterday’s announcement of our Top Choices for Young Band, we’re using our first Behind the Scenes feature to see how our band department picks the best new concert band arrangements each year.
Three of our five band & orchestra staff, Kent, Ken, and Kris, take the time to listen to all of the new concert band recordings from beginning to end. As you can see in the breakdown below, we evaluated 550 new pieces from grade 0.5-5 from 13 different publishers this year. Yes, this is a long and daunting task. Since there is so much music to get through, we’ve gone from listening independently at the store to working off-site at the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library so we can work uninterrupted. Even without the day-to-day store tasks, it took about 7 or 8 full work days to get through everything.
We listen to one publisher at a time, and move from the easiest titles to the hardest – it’s hard to gauge the quality of any grade 0.5 title after listening to grade 4! While we listen we all score each piece on a scale of 1-10 with a 10 being exceptional. Having three of us score each piece helps to limit biases and no one person’s opinion determines a title’s fate. After all of the publishers are completed, our scores are entered into a spreadsheet, and averaged to determine what we want to promote and recommend. The top 40-45 average scoring titles for both young band (gr. 0.5-2.5) and high school (gr. 3-5) form the basis of each promotion, then we review each preliminary list and adjust it for an appropriate number of titles at each difficulty, and a sufficient selection of marches and Christmas titles.
Once all of the titles have been chosen, new descriptions are written for each title. We prefer to provide our own write-ups since publisher descriptions range from pure fluff to extensive programmatic descriptions. Rarely do any of them provide information about the musical skill required or teaching opportunities presented. After the new write-ups are completed and any other items added that we want to feature, the layout is created by Dan, our orchestra specialist. The final promotions then get sent to the printer, and mailed to you!
We really hope you find our suggestions useful, and that we save you time when selecting music for your bands. Keep an eye out for our Top Choices for High School Band coming soon!
– You’d be surprised at how often our scores are the same or within a point or 2 of each other; we definitely hear a lot of the same things in spite of age, experience, personal musical tastes, etc.
– Yes, we get to listen to music all day during this process, but it gets to be exhausting
– The large publishers produce so many new titles that they each require a full day to get through their whole promotion! Aren’t you glad you can listen to specific grade levels?
– Our favorite publishers to listen to: FJH, Grand Mesa, Daehn Publications
By the Numbers:
# Publishers = 13
Total New Band Pieces = 550*
*excludes repromoted (old) titles & flexible instrumentation series
Difficulty # New Titles # Promoted
Beginning Band (gr. 0.5-1) 99 11
Junior High/Middle School (gr. 1.5-2.5) 210 34
High School/College (gr. 3-5) 241 40-45
About the Author:
Ken is a former band director, and has been with Stanton’s since 2004. He enjoys comic books, playing with his young son, and plays saxophone with Swing’s the Thing Big Band. You should check out their album Walk On Out the Door available on iTunes and Amazon.