By Ray Benton, Technology and Media Specialist, Nottelmann Music Co. Ray, who serves as editor for The Nottelmann Blog at Music Educators Corner, has 32 years of experience teaching band in the St. Louis area. These picks were performed while directing his successful band program at Rockwood South Middle School.
What music educator doesn’t like to share? I certainly do! Here are ten grade 3 pieces my students loved playing and I loved directing. While there’s a lot of variety in this list, I found they are all very playable, high quality compositions, worthy of festival and concert performance. Take a few moments to look them over and review the full audio recordings. The selections appear in no particular order. Enjoy! -Ray
As the title suggests, it provides a wonderful training opportunity for both fanfare and chorale style. A solid choice for a concert or festival opener.
Starting off with a “bang,” this three-section composition is a treatment of the traditional Scottish folk-song “Johnnie Cope” – a fanfare (“Battle”), a lyrical song (“Lament”), and a reel (“Dancing”). Many of your woodwinds will get their wish as they get to join the percussion section in the opening measures (hand sounds, no instruments needed). It provides the opportunity to showcase your students playing fanfare style in “Battle,” legato and chorale style in “lament,” and a lilting dance style in “Dancing.”
This piece is in three contrasting sections, with modal harmonies and rhythmic ostinato that create a dramatic atmosphere. Interesting colors and styles are provided with the percussion section’s rain sticks and shakers and the flute section’s optional switch to recorders (this switch is really worth the effort). Here’s a recording with score view.
If you’re looking for an effective opener for festival or concert, consider this one. Short and sweet! With driving percussion and contrasting colors from brass and woodwind choirs, it keeps driving from beat one all the way to the final chord. It quickly makes the statement “we are here!” My Rockwood South Symphonic Band opened our 1998 MMEA program with this one.
Quincy Hilliard is a composer that truly understands how to write for young band, and this piece is a good example. Based on a legend of an Indian princess, the piece opens with an alto saxophone solo designed for a player possessing a beautiful sound and rubato playing skills. A two-section work written in a dramatic style. AUDIO RECORDING
The demand in this Ralph Vaughan Williams classic from 1937 is not so much for technical skills but for a mature sound and a feel for classical phrasing. A great showcase for fanfare and lyrical styles, packed into a piece of less than 2 minutes long. A wonderful introduction for young people into the world of classical band literature.
John Higgins is another master writer for young band. This overture is built on themes of a Celtic flavor in four through-composed sections and begins with a dramatic fanfare section. The slow, lyrical section includes a solo for flute and a brief one for alto saxophone. The piece maintains interest by the way it incorporates many contrasting colors and textures.
This composition is a sound portrait of an historical event, a train chase that occurred during the American Civil War in 1862. It includes train effects such as a flute section train whistle, crossing signal bell from the chimes, and a full accelerando and ritardando (train departing and slowing to a stop) make this a fun piece to play. Has the added bonus of cross-curriculum potential with possibilities of a history department and music department in collaboration. AUDIO RECORDING
Opens with a euphonium solo on the traditional Irish folk song I Know Where I’m Going, requiring a student who possesses a mature tone and vibrato. After this beautiful lyrical section, it moves into section two, Highland Celebration, built with Gaelic dance-like rhythms with an exciting conclusion. It’s out of print but, at time of publication, still available at JW Pepper Online.
See also Editor’s Choice – 10 Concert Band Pieces You May Have Missed – Grade 2/Easy.