by Ken Tilger, Band Education Specialist –
Ah, the Top 10 list; tired and overdone yet convenient and ubiquitous, packaging anything you can imagine into digestible groups of information providing variety and selection, but not too much. To share some of my favorite titles, composers, etc. for concert band (and present them in manageable amounts!), I’ve decided to do an occasional series of personal, unranked Top 10 posts (in spite of them being tired and overdone). Besides, it rhymes with my name!
My first 10 are from our Signature Selections for Young Band for this year (2017-18). Yes, there are many more titles that I like and ranked highly. In fact, I support and like all of our choices, but these are my favorite 10 from the bunch. They include programmatic pieces, a lyrical work, 2 unique marches, and a wonderful reverent work based on Taps, so there is plenty of variety – almost enough for an entire program. I know your students will enjoy playing them, and I hope you find some new favorites, too. Enjoy these awesome titles, and look out for the next post featuring Ken’s 10!
Rob Romeyn – Grade 2
Bold, exciting, and aggressive Blaze! begins with an explosion of sound (and horns!), leading to a memorable syncopated theme. Layered part writing make it sound interesting and mature. A perfect concert opener!
The Boom-Boom Galop
Randall D. Standridge – Grade 2.5
A humorous circus-style galop with a Germanic sound, this invigorating march takes adrenaline to a whole new level! Contrasting sections punctuated by the humorous “boom-boom” exclamations of the bass drum make for a fun-to-play, seat-of-your-pants experience that is a blast! Careful with that tempo!
William Owens – Grade 2.5
Embark on a beautiful and mysterious musical journey through the African Congo in this refreshing new work! The lively allegro sections and the haunting andante section explore a wide spectrum of sounds and rhythms. There is plenty of adventure to be had (and playing style and independence to be learned) in this brilliant work by one of my favorite contemporary composers.
Gently, I Wander
Robert Sheldon – Grade 1
For a moment of quiet musical escape during your next performance you can’t do better than Robert Sheldon’s writing. Simple, elegant lines combine with rich harmonies and counterpoint to provide an uplifting moment of repose. Gorgeous, lyrical, and beautiful!
Randall D. Standridge – Grade 1.5
Another work of unique style, Marzo Zingaro seeks to portray the image of a lone wanderer, happily marching across the Italian countryside. It succeeds. The first strain portrays a more daring mood, while the trio and finale portray a happier style while dynamic contrasts and articulation set the style. Translated as March of the Gypsy, what more needs to be said?
Moai (Song of Ancient Giants)
Michael Sweeney – Grade 1.5
The giant stone statues of Easter Island (known as “Moai”) have long been a source of mystery and wonder. Using hints of Polynesian drumming, haunting ancient-sounding melodies, and pyramid entrances this accessible work for 2nd year players creates a feeling of exotic majesty.
William Owens – Grade 1.5-2
A wonderful band overture that opens with brilliant woodwind passages, colorful percussion and a strong trumpet statement, Resplendence draws inspiration from the music of the early Greek Orthodox Church. Largely characterized by its brisk, free-flowing quality, the pleasant melody passes through several sections of the ensemble against resplendent variations in tonal color. The music becomes gradually slower and stronger as the ending approaches, yielding a powerful final chord. A perfect program opener!
Chris M. Bernotas – Grade 1
The mystery of the ninja comes to life in this dramatic piece for young band. Students can create their own adventurous storyline to enhance the strong rhythms and pentatonic sound. A fellow band director, Chris knows how to create pieces that musically and conceptually are a perfect fit for beginning band!
Tribute for Band
arr. Michael J. Miller – Grade 1
Tribute for Band is a thoughtful patriotic piece based on the famous civil war bugle call “Taps.” Hints of several well known patriotic melodies are heard in this respectful, moving work designed to pay homage to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is also fitting as a tribute to fallen first responders.
Voyage of the Dragon Armada
Timothy Loest – Grade 0.5
Another middle school band director, Tim Loest creates pieces that are great for beginners and always a hit, too! This gripping work depicts the epic voyages of China’s great naval Admiral Zheng He who commanded 250 ships and 28,000 men a century before Columbus set sail for the New World. The captivating pentatonic melody is immersed in vivid orchestration and colorful percussion writing.
About the Author:
Ken is a former band director, and has been with Stanton’s since 2004. His iPod ranges from jazz and funk to classic and alternative rock, and symphonies. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Dave Matthews Band, Tom Petty, and The Tragically Hip have been in heavy rotation lately. Besides music, he geeks out on amusement parks, hockey (especially the 5x Stanley Cup Champion Penguins), and all things Pittsburgh.