Four Band Director's Top Festival Picks - Nottelmann Music Company
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Four Band Director’s Top Festival Picks

Four Band Director’s Top Festival Picks

It’s a time-honored tradition – music educators chatting about their favorite festival pieces, those that worked well for their program and were enjoyed by their students.  Here’s installment #1 in our series of Top Festival Picks.  In this posting, we feature picks by St. Louis Area’s Ron Sikes, Joe Pappas, Sister Gail Buckman, and Larry Johnson, complete with reference recordings.  NOTE: Grade Levels appear as listed by JW Pepper Publications.

Ron Sikes:  Director of Bands for the Jefferson R-7 School District in Festus MO.  At time of publication, his responsibilities include 5th Grade Band, 6th Grade Band, 7th/8th Grade Band, 7th/8th Grade Jazz Band, High School Jazz/Salsa Band, and High School Band.  The Jefferson High School Concert Band was selected to perform at the Missouri Music Educators Association Convention.  Ron is also known as a professional percussionist in the St. Louis area, well known for his participation in the Funky Butt Brass Band.  You can reach Ron at his Facebook Page.

Title: Mannin Veen
Composer/Arranger:.Hayden Wood
Grade Level: MA
Publisher: Boosey and Hawkes
Description: Folk song based. Beautiful writing. Challenge for everyone in the band.

Title: The People
Composer/Arranger: Gary Gackstatter
Grade Level: M
Publisher: C. Alan Publications
Description: Great percussion parts. Memorable melody.
University City Summer Band ~ ‘The People’ by Gary Gackstatter

Title: Blue Ridge Holiday
Composer/Arranger:.Elliot Del Borgo
Grade Level: ME
Publisher: EPP
Description: Del Borgo is a master. Great percussion writing. Interesting parts for every section of the band. Superb fugue writing.

Joe Pappas

Joe Pappas:  Joe has written over two hundred compositions for beginning bands to college wind ensembles, but most known for his compositions for young bands and young musicians. After forty six years of successful teaching in public schools and college level, he now devotes most of his time to composing, working as an educational consultant, judging band festivals, and running his own company, JPM Music Publications.

Title: Kitty Hawk 1903
Composer/Arranger .William Owens
Grade Level: Medium Easy
Publisher: FJH
Description; This is an excellent work for young high school or advanced middle school bands. It’s challenging and has plenty of melodic material that flows nicely. The slow section does call for the French Horns, but is well cued in the alto saxes. This is a great festival or concert piece.  AUDIO RECORDING

Title: American Folk Rhapsody No. 1
Composer/Arranger: Clare Grundman
Grade Level: Medium
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Description: This is a standard classic that has shown to be great music by still being available! I would recommend this piece for all level bands for festival or programs. It’s solid, well scored, no exposures and can make almost all bands with decent instrumentation sound good!  AUDIO RECORDING

Title: Fall River Overture
Composer/Arranger: Robert Sheldon
Grade Level: Medium
Publisher: C L Barnhouse
Description: This fine contest overture provides beautiful sonorities that can be achieved even by young ensembles. The lively opening theme and expressive andante section are a winning combination that will delight students and audiences alike.  AUDIO RECORDING

Title: Mambo Furioso
Composer/Arranger: Brand Karrick
Grade Level: Medium Difficult
Publisher: JPM Music Publications
Description: This Latin work is excellent for both festival and concert bands. It features the timbales as an important instrument as the piece was dedicated to Tito Puente. The contrapuntal aleatoric section with use of “unusual” sounds will keep the interest of the students and audience. The sax section is featured as a major contributor to the sonorities of this fine piece!  AUDIO RECORDING

Title: Ascend
Composer/Arranger: Samuel Hazo
Grade Level: Medium
Publisher: Hal Leonard Corporation
Description: Wow!  This exciting piece for advanced middle school or younger high school bands will keep the students excited for sure, and work hard to achieve the nuances and style. This piece works well with most size groups, but instrumentation, rhythm and articulation accuracies are a must. The contrapuntal rhythmic section through the dynamic ending will give you plenty of material to work on and provide the group with performance excitement.  AUDIO RECORDING

Sister Gail Buckman:  Sister Gail is the band instructor at Saint Gabriel the Archangel School where she directs a very large and successful grade 5-8 program, and at the time of publication, she is in her 50th year of teaching.  Sister Gail was named Outstanding Music Educator for 2012-13 by the St. Louis Metro District #8 of the Missouri Music Educators Association.  A dedicated user of Smartmusic, she was named Grand Prize winner of the company’s “Share Your Smartmusic Story” in 2009.  You can reach Sister Gail at her Facebook Page.

Title: Abington Ridge
Composer/Arranger: Ed Huckeby
Grade Level:  Easy
Publisher: Barnhouse
Description: It’s an overture. It has great teaching tools in the rhythms and style.

Title: Spirit of Avalon
Composer/Arranger: Michael Sweeney
Grade Level:  Medium Easy
Publisher: Music works
Description: It is in standard march style which is important for middle school students to learn how to play.

Title: A Scottish Ballad
Composer/Arranger: Robert Sheldon
Grade Level:  Easy
Publisher:  Alfred
Description: A slower piece that incorporates some interesting rhythms.

Larry Johnson:  A long-time director of the bands at St. Joseph School of Cottleville, St. Charles MO.  Larry directs a very large grade 5-8 school band program with an established history of outstanding performance and recognition in band festivals.  One of the keys to their success is Larry’s knack for finding quality band literature that matches up well with each festival band.  He is also a well-known professional saxophonist and recording artist in St. Louis.  Find Larry at

Title: Imaginarium
Composer/Arranger: Randall D. Standridge
Grade Level: Medium Easy
Publisher: Grand Mesa Music
Description: Very interesting selection for children to perform. Four very different themes. Challenges all instrument groups.  AUDIO RECORDING

Title: Prairie Dances
Composer/Arranger: David Holsinger
Grade Level: Medium
Publisher: TRN Music Pub. Co.
Description: Fun 6/8 piece with syncopation. Interesting themes for all instrument groups.  AUDIO RECORDING

Title: Sleeping Place of the Stars
Composer/Arranger: Ralph Ford
Grade Level:  Easy
Publisher: Alfred
Description: Very energetic and fun to play.  AUDIO RECORDING

Title: March of the Trolls (from “Lyric Suite”, op. 54)
Composer/Arranger:  Edvard Grieg/arr. Beck
Grade Level:  Medium Easy
Publisher: Alfred
Description: Nice contrasting piece for a program. Beautiful overture with a very melodic B section.  AUDIO RECORDING