More Contest Repertoire for Small Bands

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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

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15 Rules for a Successful Small Pep Band

I wonder how many band directors would cancel pep band for a basketball game if they found out less than 30 students were coming. How about 20 students? How about 15? How about 7?

I wonder how many pep bands play at a girls basketball game each year. How about 2? How about 5? How about every single one?

The Southwestern Jr./Sr. High School Pep Band plays at almost every boys and girls varsity home game. We accomplish this despite being a small band program at a small school. We are not afraid to play with small numbers as long as it is a workable combination of students. One of the games where we sounded best last year was a game where we had 7 students there.

We accomplish this through careful planning leading up to and during the season. Here are my rules for successful small pep bands: Continue reading

Concert Band Contest Pieces for Small Bands

I know I am not alone in the world as a band director of a very small school who wants their students to be competitive with what larger schools are doing. I know many other directors want to do this, but they feel uncertain about adapting concert band literature at a judged performance or about their band being able to hold their own at an event involving much larger bands. Continue reading