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Favorite Band Works by Practicing Directors featuring Stacey Larson Dolan

Thank you for reading Top 3 by Three, a series promoting great band repertoire. The

series features three outstanding band directors and three of their favorite band works. Choosing great music can be a challenging task, but it is such an integral part of educating and engaging your students. Top 3 by Three aims to help you choose music that your students' will love and learn from. Veteran teacher, Stacey Larson Dolan - Associate Director of Bands at VanderCook College of Music shares three of her favorite works for middle school band.


Part II: Stacey Larson Dolan, VanderCook College of Music - Chicago, Illinois

Title: The Headless Horseman

Composer: Timothy Broege

Publisher: Manhattan Beach Music

Grade: 2

The Headless Horseman is an outstanding representation of program music for a middle school band. There is smoldering mystery in the opening measures followed by a chase on horseback which culminates in a screeching halt and a questionable ending. In fact, it is one of the few pieces I’ve found in young band repertoire that leaves the listener wondering if the ending is actually the ending! This two minute piece can be performed throughout the year, but programs especially well into a fall concert.


  • Key center is g minor

  • ABA form

  • Excellent musical representation of the chase scene in American writer Washington Irving’s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

  • The programmatic nature provides the director with clear analogies for articulative choices

  • Mixed-meter present in 4/4, 2/4 & 6/4 (felt in 4+2)

  • Solo for trumpet and euphonium

  • Tri-tone in low brass is challenging but good for developing intonation sensitivity

  • Dissonance should be embraced in cluster chords

  • Attention to blend in cross instrument melody lines is needed

  • Extreme dynamic contrast ranges from pp to ff

Other works by Timothy Broege

Train Heading West and Other Outdoor Scenes

•Rhythm Machine

•Burlesque for Band

•Prelude and Fughetta

Title: Kentucky 1800

Composer: Clare Grundman (1934 - 1996)

Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes

Grade: 2.5 - 3


Kentucky 1800 by Clare Grundman is a staple piece in young band literature. This master arranger has presented three American folk songs in a fresh and genuine manner that engages me each time I program or hear the work. It begins with a bold introduction and moves into variations on The Promised Land, Cindy and I’m Sad and I’m Lonely.


  • Key centers are F major, Eb major, Ab major, G major, g minor

  • The form is a Rhapsodic tone poem

  • Varied styles present throughout the work

  • Excellent tie in to American folk songs and their origins

  • Range in the Trombone I part is high for a developing player (there is a Robert Longfield arrangement of this that alters the range)

  • Trumpet solo

  • Discussion of Western Expansion and its positive and negative effects

  • Beyond melodic content, the inner moving lines in this piece are a treat to the ear

Other works by Clare Grundman:

  • American Folk Rhapsody No. 2

  • A Copland Tribute

  • The Blue and the Gray

  • Little Suite for Band

  • An Irish Rhapsody

  • Hebrides Suite

Title: Paper Cut

Composer: Alex Shapiro

Publisher: American Composers Forum, Hal Leonard

Grade: 2.5 - 3

This is a multimedia piece written for band, electronic track and sheets of paper. In it the performer explores the different sounds available when experimenting with or “playing” a piece of paper. Alex is known for her electro-acoustic works and this is strong representation of her composition style. A key aspect is teaching young students to fully commit to the performance of choreography that goes with the piece. If you are looking to stretch your students to see music in all aspects of life, this is a work you will want to program


  • Through composed

  • Need a computer, audio system, and audio mixer

  • Conductor wears headphones with a click track

  • Band plays paper in the first half of the piece

  • Unique choreography and alternative notation exploring texture of paper

  • Range and difficulty is not taxing

  • Monorhythmic on paper passages with syncopation

  • Balance needs to occur between the three elements of band, track and paper

  • Make sure students have rehearsal paper and performance paper (and to recycle!)

Other works by Alex Shapiro:

  • Rock Music

  • Tight Squeeze

  • Lights Out

  • Beneath


YouTube video of Alex Shapiro talking about her work Paper Cut

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