This is a great piece of music: Shenandoah Triptych

Mike Lawson • April 2022ArticlesGreat Music Reviews • April 20, 2022

Every band and orchestra director is always looking for great music to teach and perform. This can become even harder to find at grade .5 to grade 3. This is the first installment of music reviews from successful teachers sharing their “go-to” compositions. I hope SBO readers will share their reviews (see the WRITE FOR SBO tab on our homepage). These can be reviews of new music, but they don’t have to be, as you will see from the following review of a Grade 2.5 piece published in 2002.

Dr. Karen Gregg has been the band director at Lyons Middle Senior High School in Lyons, Colorado. It’s a small school, only 180 enrolled in high school, but 75 of them (not a misprint!) are in the band. Gregg had this to say about “Shenandoah Triptych” by Brian Balmages:

It’s not a new tune (published in 2002). I have programmed it on alternating years for my 7th/8th grade band because it is such a powerful teaching tool. 

The piece is essentially in three parts:  the opening is fanfare-ish and energetic, with brief snippets of the Shenandoah melody (but never played in its entirety). The second section, lyrical, features the entire Shenandoah melody but played completely in retrograde – what a fun way to teach compositional techniques to young students!  The third/final section is back to a fast tempo with rhythmic interest, lots of use of percussion toys, and ends with a beautiful and powerful statement of Shenandoah (the complete melody) under a woodwind and percussion ostinato. The students love it and every time I bring it out, I find new things to teach and how to teach them.z

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