My 2017 post, Concert Band Contest Pieces for Small Bands, has been viewed over 450 times, and several directors from around the country have emailed me to share their stories, ask questions, and encourage me to write more on the subject. I will do my best to give the people what they want!
Since writing that post, I have taken my high school band to contest 2 more times. I always learn a lot from the experience, and the students learn even more. That is why I think it is so valuable. While it means spending a lot of time on only a few pieces, the process for preparing pieces at that level makes the students better musicians. I find that when we finish and I pass out spring concert music, they are able to learn new music more quickly than they did months before. They become more intuitive about musical interpretation and naturally shape phrases like they should without me giving as many specific interpretive directions. We have our spring concert on Monday, only 3 weeks after going to contest. We are playing Joy Revisted by Frank Ticheli and Endless Rainbows by Brian Balmages, and I am amazed at how well this group of mostly freshmen and sophomores prepared the 2 pieces in such a short time. Participation in festival is an important experience that provides huge benefits for our students, and directors should not be discouraged from doing it just because they have a small band.
Here are the pieces we have used for our most recent high school festival programs, followed by some thoughts I have on instrumentation and repertoire selection. Continue reading