Welcome to the Top 3 by Three, a series that promotes great band repertoire. Each segment features three excellent band directors and three of their favorite pieces to teach and perform. Choosing great music can be a challenging task, but it is such an integral part of educating, engaging, and motivating your students. Top 3 by Three aims to help you choose music that your students' will love and learn from. Veteran teachers Dr. Arris Golden - Michigan State University, Tiffany Hitz - Carson Middle School, and Greg Scapillato - Northbrook Junior High School, share their favorites for middle school band.
Greg Scapillato, Northbrook Junior High - Northbrook, IL
Composer: Melanie J. Donahue
As the composer notes, this piece draws inspiration from folk melodies in Ireland. It has a introspective, wistful feel tinged with a bit of melancholy. The scoring is friendly to young bands in terms of range and rhythmic complexity. Sections have a chance to shine, with the melody passed around to upper winds, active inner parts, and opportunities for low winds to shape the intensity and direction of the ensemble’s interpretation. The composition offers some great soloistic passages for flute, saxophone, and trumpet.
The composition utilizes the keys of A-flat and B-flat. The opening solo/duet passage with flute and alto saxophone is exposed. The piece offers a wealth of opportunities to teach intonation, phrasing, expression, balance, and dynamic contrast. In keeping with the style of Irish folk melodies, it makes use of dotted rhythmic figures.
Title: Sandy Bay March
Composer: Brian West
Publisher: Brolga Music/Ludwig Music
This composition is a great way to introduce the elements of march style to younger bands with one to two years of experience. It offers sections analogous to elements of a march like first/second strain, trio, break strain, and final strain in the context of a piece written with the younger performer in mind. For example, Mr. West did not include a key change at the trio section. The melody is light and uplifting, and each section has the opportunity to present it.
It is written in the key of B-flat without key changes, and very few accidentals. Rhythmic elements to take into consideration are eighth rests that occur on beat one, and the syncopated rhythms found throughout. This piece also allows the ensemble to work toward consistent, matched articulation and style within the tutti sections.
Title: Come to the Fair!
Composer: Pierre La Plante
Publisher: Daehn Publications
Mr. La Plante is the master at capturing tuneful folk melodies and translating them into enjoyable, artful compositions for bands, and this selection is no exception! The piece offers the opportunity to develop the ensemble’s proficiency with both triple and mixed meters. There are solo and soli passages throughout, and every section shifts in their melodic/harmonic roles during the performance.
The piece contains one key change, moving from B-flat to E-flat key centers. Ensembles approaching this piece should have basic proficiency with 6/8 time, and the part independence across the piece requires confident performers in each section. The slurred passages in 6/8 time can be pitfalls for the wind players. The piece moves from 6/8 time to a 3/4 time with a slower Tempo di Valse feel. It finishes with 6/8 that includes a mixed meter section that alternates between 6/8 and 3/4 time signatures at one-measure intervals.
Stay tuned! Part III featuring Tiffany Hitz, director at Carson Middle School - Herndon, VA, will be posted on Friday, August 17th.
Missed Part I? Read about Dr. Arris Golden's favorite pieces for middle school band.