Aztec Sunrise

By John Edmondson

This is a great slow piece at the grade 1 level that does not expose as many problems as many other works might. It offers many opportunities to work on balance and breathing and to explore micro-dynamics. It is not featured on many festival repertoire lists, so it is a selection that you aren’t likely to hear the band before you also playing!

About the Composer

According to the score,

John Edmondson is an internationally known composer-arranger with hundreds of publications to his credit. His years of experience as a teacher, editor, performer, and conductor make him uniquely qualified as an authority in the field of educational music for band.

About the Music

According to the score,

Aztec Sunrise is a descriptive piece intended to suggest a quiet morning during ancient times in Mexico. The Aztecs were members of the Nahuatlan people who founded the Mexican empire conquered by Cortez in 1519.

Analysis, Interpretation, and Performance Considerations

Mr. Edmondson offers several suggestions on the inside cover of the conductors score.

I like to add microdynamics in the accompaniment parts, mostly alternating between crescendo and decrescendo each measure. I have the clarinets and trumpets take a breath after the dotted half-note in measure 11 to prepare for the pick-up to their next phrase. I have the clarinets crescendo measure 12 and really play out their parts in measure 13. Measures 13-18 naturally build up to measure 19, so I treat that like a subtle crescendo and then decrescendo mm. 20-21. The same thing happens again at measure 30. Not that the mezzo-forte at measure 36 is the loudest dynamic in the piece.

The ending is a bit abrupt for my tastes, so I conduct a slight ritardando the last 2 measures.

Related Works

  • Anasazi by John Edmondson
  • As Twilight Falls by Robert Sheldon
  • Aztec Celebration by David Shaffer
  • Aztec Dance by Michael Story
  • Aztec Theme and Dance by Elliot Del Borgo
  • El Mirador: Scenes from a Lost Mayan Village by Paul Jennings
  • Mayan Dawn by John Edmondson
  • Shadowcatcher by Eric Ewazen
  • Variations on a Sioux Melody by James D. Ployhar


  • Southwestern J.H.S. Band – April 8, 2016 (ISSMA Festival, Junior Division, Group IV)