• Essential Repertoire: October 2013

    Mike Lawson | October 17, 2013

    Essential Repertoire: From the Top draws upon “Frank Ticheli's List,” core repertoire selected by Frank Ticheli, and “Above The Rest,” the best newer material chosen and reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Gershman. Together, these reviews form a comprehensive guide to the best new and core repertoire for concert band.


    “Train Heading West and Other Outdoor Scenes” by Timothy Broege

    Manhattan Beach Music

    Grade Level: 1

    Approximate Duration: 4:30

    “Train Heading West and Other Outdoor Scenes” is a three-movement work intended for beginning band. Each movement describes a different “outdoor” scene, providing the opportunity to introduce the concept of program music at a very young age. The first movement is subtitled “Solemn Ceremony” and is intended to portray a Native American dance ritual; the second movement is self-explanatory, “Rain on the Mountains”; and the third movement follows a “Train Heading West” as it pulls out of a train station and disappears into the horizon.

  • Essential Repertoire: September 2013

    Mike Lawson | September 17, 2013

    Concert Band Music Reviews, September 2013

    Essential Repertoire: From the Top draws upon “Frank Ticheli’s List,” core repertoire selected by Frank Ticheli, and “Above The Rest,” the best newer material chosen and reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Gershman. Together, these reviews form a comprehensive guide to the best new and core repertoire for concert band.

  • Essential Repertoire: August 2013

    Mike Lawson | August 19, 2013

    Concert Band Music Reviews, August, 2013

    Essential Repertoire: From the Top draws upon “Frank Ticheli’s List,” core repertoire selected by Frank Ticheli, and “Above The Rest,” the best newer material chosen and reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Gershman. Together, these reviews form a comprehensive guide to the best in new and core repertoire for concert band.

  • UpFront Q&A: Frank Ticheli

    Mike Lawson | July 18, 2013

    Composer Frank Ticheli discusses trends in new music for concert band

    By Eliahu Sussman



    Having written significant works for orchestra, concert band, chamber groups, and choirs that have been debuted and performed by major ensembles worldwide, Frank Ticheli is a prolific force in modern music. Currently a professor of composition at the University of Southern California, where he has taught since 1991, Ticheli has been the recipient of numerous accolades and awards, including the prestigious "Arts and Letters Award" from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012.

    SBO recently caught up with the composer to discuss his thoughts on current concert band music, his approach to composition, and what he looks for when evaluating repertoire for "Frank Ticheli's List."

  • Essential Repertoire: From the Top

    Mike Lawson | July 18, 2013SBO is proud to present the debut of this new repertoire review column. Drawing upon “Frank Ticheli’s List” and “Above The Rest,” this resource will offer core repertoire works personally selected for review by composer Frank Ticheli, as well as reviews of exciting new music chosen by Dr. Jeffrey Gershman. Together, these form a comprehensive […] Read More...
  • Inspiring Works for Beginning and Mid-level String Orchestras

    Mike Lawson | January 23, 2012

    Finding music that is educationally sound and inspires students to work hard and play well is a real challenge. Music that creates motivation in our students is an important factor in learning at any age, but it is a must for the young orchestra. Selecting pieces that students naturally love is essential to keep young orchestra students learning, practicing, enjoying orchestra, and inspired to play their instrument for years to come. Here are some works that students will love playing so much that they may not even notice they are learning!

    Music for First-year strng students

  • Fresh Works for Percussion Ensemble

    Mike Lawson | November 16, 2011

    Over the past 15 years, the repertoire for percussion ensemble has increased exponentially. The variety and diversity of current composers, themes, and instrumentation are truly fantastic. It's a wonderful time to play percussion music! With this expanded quantity of choices, though, comes the question, "Where do I look to find what's out there?" The classics are always quality selections to play, but how and where does one find the newer literature? How do you know if it's worth the effort to perform? The purpose of this article is to provide educators with starting places and pieces to begin the journey into this newer repertoire world.

    Along with these recommendations, I tried to take into consideration an array of ability levels, instruments used, and number of players. While not all of these works are brand new, they were selected because they are not played very often and might be "new" to you.

  • Staff Selections: Holiday Selections for the Band and Orchestra

    Mike Lawson | September 20, 2011

    Balancing musical quality, technical difficulty, and fun is the challenge as we turn our attention to the holiday season. The lighter selections are plentiful, but with so much time spent preparing music for the December concert, it's not easy to find music that propels the curricular aims forward at the same time.

    Here are both standard and new selections that would be great for the next holiday concert. The difficulty range is mostly grade 3 and 4, and some of the works are available for either orchestra or band.

  • Staff Selections: Advanced Works For Concert Band

    Mike Lawson | August 2, 2011

    Searching for music that is appropriate for advanced concert bands and wind symphonies can be a daunting task. The selection of pieces to be performed is entirely subjective and reflects the taste of the director. In addition, the process of finding suitable music involves a great deal of time and intensive score study on part of the conductor in order to determine which compositions best fit a particular musical group. 

    These six compositions at the grade five and six level of difficulty should be in the music library of every advanced band program. The review includes an overture, suites, a tone poem, and a symphony. All are selections that will challenge even the best performers.

  • Top New Works for Concert Band

    Mike Lawson | July 26, 2011

    It's time to begin planning for the next school year. The marching music might be ready and the drill actively being written, but what about the concert side of the program? After picking a few of the wonderful standards in band repertoire (which are always a good choice), directors need something new that will get everyone off to a good start. The works should be engaging for students to play and of a high enough quality to justify the expenditure of ever-shrinking funds in the budget. In addition, these pieces should also stand the test of time and be worthy of repeating at some point in the future. This article strives to avoid trendy music that will date itself soon, while highlighting first-rate selections that are enjoyable to play. Here are some new pieces that top my list for many different age groups and abilities.

    "Be Still, My Soul" by Robert W. Smith (CL Barnhouse Company)

    Grade: ½ 
    Duration: 2:30

    It is impressive how musically mature this work sounds even though it was written with such limited technical ranges! Using only 6 notes and scoring for beginning band, it is a wonderful first lyrical arrangement for your young band. The original hymn-tune is an African-American spiritual with the same melody as Sibelius' Finlandia; there are a lot of teaching opportunities that go beyond the music with this one. I could see this as a great addition to any beginning band concert, or a good sight reader for older bands that stresses musicality rather than technique.

  • Staff Selections: Repertoire for Brass and Woodwind Choirs

    Mike Lawson | June 23, 2011

    Small ensembles are a necessary part of any vibrant, successful music program. These groups provide students with unique opportunities to perform music not suited for larger groups, as well as the chance for students to perform as soloists, without the potential of being "buried" in a larger ensemble. Smaller, specialized groups can also be a real confidence builder for students.

    This review is divided into three parts: Part I reviews transcriptions of works by the master composers, Part II takes a look at ensembles that are written in a contemporary styles, and Part III reviews some of the standard literature for every band program.



    The following pieces have skillfully been transcribed from other sources for woodwind and brass choirs.

  • Essential Works for Chamber Groups

    Mike Lawson | March 6, 2011

    Originally, chamber music referred to a type of classical music that was performed in a small space such as a house or a palace room, and typically featured smaller ensembles that played without a conductor. Today, chamber music is performed very similarly in terms of both venue and instrumentation. A chamber orchestra is usually composed of 40 or fewer musicians and because of the limited number of instruments in the group, each instrument plays an equally important role. Generally speaking, chamber music is performed by only one player per part.

    The following chamber music pieces should be a part of every string teacher's repertoire and library.

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