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The Ten Commandments of Programming

Cheryl Floyd • December 2022MAC Corner • December 15, 2022

Repertoire selection is among the most important respon- Thou shalt program pop music sparingly. Of course, sibilities for all band, choir, and orchestra music educators. there are certain times when pop music is appropriate We have the freedom to make choices based on our groups’ such as pep rallies, football games, spring concerts, abilities, preferences, and most important, musical growth. Yet, it and even summer music camp. But a steady diet of seems to remain a struggle for every director every year. Certainly, music that is ear candy does not serve our educational this is a formidable task and not one to be taken casually. I have found that having a clearly defined template of criteria brings focus and consistency to the task. I call mine the Ten Commandments of Repertoire Selection.

Thou shalt consider musical challenges of every student. While every piece in your folder cannot be equally challenging to all, there should be at least one piece that “pushes the envelope” for every section. A challenge that takes them somewhere they’ve not been before.

Thou shalt choose at least one piece that challenges your students both in terms of craft and artistry.

Here goes!

Thou shalt introduce students to music that expands their horizons. Remember there is some 700 years of music out there. Everything from Renaissance to classical to traditional repertoire to new works of the 21st Century should be on your radar screen. Certainly, we are teach- ing technique and craft. But we are also developing musical tastes for a lifetime. The music matters!

Thou shalt limit your repertoire selection to no more than one piece by any given composer at any given time. Programming a steady diet of repertoire written by only one or two composers short-changes your students as well as you! Certainly, I have my favorites, but I constantly remind myself.

Thou shalt program at least one piece that chal- lenges YOU to grow as a teacher and conductor!

There are many talented composers out there. Be obsessed with finding artistic, musically satisfying repertoire for your stu- dents. Expand their musical taste. Most important, don’t forget to consider young and underrepresented composers. Their music  needs to be heard.

Thou shalt explore a broad range of key signa- tures, both major and minor. Certainly band, choir and orchestra directors have their “user friendly keys.” But it is our responsibility to expand our students’ comfort zone in terms of tonalities.

Thou shalt perform one expressive, lyrical piece on all concert programs. I have a friend who calls them “mellow, yellow pieces” A caveat! A piece that has 8-16 measures of lyricism at the beginning then quickly transitions into something that could easily be a marching band chart or a show tune does not count. The bottom line, always be working on 5at least one piece that is expressive rather than impressive.

Thou shalt perform one multi-movement piece in its entirety. I sometimes refer to these as “project pieces.” Consider programming one movement on the holiday concert, add another for music festival and perform the entire work on the spring concert. You and your students will experience a great sense of accomplishment.

A final thought for my band friends. Thou shalt routinely pro- gram one quick step march. My dad always says it’s not a real concert without a real march. I love it, that a traditional march has a key change, mission. and you can explore 2/4, cut time or 6/8 in a fun energy filled set- ting.

Resolve to obey these commandments in programing your concert in 2023. Your students, your audiences, and you will all be better for it.

A 1980 graduate of Baylor University, Floyd has done graduate work at the University of Texas with Paula Crider, Robert Duke and Karl Kraber. Since 1985 she has served as co-principal flute with the Austin Symphonic Band and in this capacity has performed at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic on two occasions, the American Bandmasters Association in 1993 and before the Texas Music Educators Association and Texas Bandmasters Association on numerous occasions. She is a member of ABA, TMEA, TBA, and Phi Beta Mu.

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