A Sample Curriculum For High School Instrumental Ensembles
The following curriculum example is a suggestion for Instrumental Concert Band Directors to study for use with their own programs. There has been a lot of discussion recently on the MusicPLN.org about the inclusion of particular types of music into a wind ensemble/concert band program. Many times “we”, as ensemble directors, really don’t think about the curricular needs of/for our ensembles nor give long-term thought to the integration of music literature that may fill a particular goal in our music programs. The curriculum below is just one way to think about these things and how what you are doing as a band director integrates into the bigger educational picture.
An Introduction to this Curriculum:
This curriculum may be used as either an extended two year curriculum or as a three year curriculum depending on the amount of concerts that are performed each year for a particular concert ensemble program. Any medium-advanced to advanced High School should be able to perform the pieces selected here given a “normal” rehearsal schedule. The pieces selected for this curriculum range from grade three to grade five. Again, this curriculum and the compositions included are only a suggestion for your consideration and your selections for your own ensembles will, no-doubt, vary.
The ensemble composition assumes a standard instrumentation and standard numbers of students in the group. The pieces in the programs reflect a large cross-section of classic and standard wind/concert literature. Also, the programs will include opportunity for new compositions or compositions that would have some type of time-relevant entertainment value to the audience(s) such as recent musicals, scores from current sound-tracks, or events that would be patriotic in nature. Because I personally believe that marches are a rich example of “our” heritage of band music, I typically will include a march composition in each program set.
- To provide an opportunity for students to grow and develop musically.
National Standards for Music Education: NS2, NS6, and NS5
- To provide exposure to a wide variety of musical styles.
National Standards for Music Education: NS6, NS8 and NS9
- To provide exposure to the generally accepted standard body of wind music literature.
National Standards for Music Education: NS8 and NS9
- To promote the development of the students understanding of musical skills and musical concepts.
National Standards for Music Education: 2 NS2, NS6, and NS7
- To promote an educational environment that fosters musical excellence and student growth as an ensemble.
National Standards for Music Education: NS2 and NS 7
- To provide those students with advanced skills an opportunity to perform as a soloist.
National Standards for Music Education: NS2, NS5, NS 6, and NS7
Specific Musical Skills and Professional Skills Developed (specific outcomes/objectives):
- Improve instrumental skills
- Develop performance skills and an understanding of the performance process
- Understand musical theory, vocabulary and history
- Develop self-discipline, group responsibility, and cooperation
- Encourage personal musical insight and communication though music
- Enhance critical listening and appreciation of the music
- Encourage the use of music for the enrichment of life
- Provide opportunities to enhance self esteem
- Appreciate musical performances and their cultural connections
- Promote symphonic bands and wind ensembles as serious and distinctive mediums of musical expression and cultural heritage
Suggested Instrumental Programs (two year or three year):
First Program Example
Excerpts from Kalinnikov’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor~~~~Glenn Cliffe Vainurn
On a Hymn Song of Philip Bliss~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~David Holsinger
The Stars and Stripes Forever~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~John Philip Sousa
Second Program Example
The Strategic Air Command~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Clifton Williams
Puszta~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Jan Van der Roost
Caccia~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~W. Francis McBeth
Allegro Animato~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Frank Erickson
Rolling Thunder~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Henry Fillmore
Third Program Example
Zacatecas Mexican March~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Genaro Codina
First Suite in E-flat~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Gustav Holst
American Salute~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Morton Gould
Symphony No. 1 for Band~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ClaudeT. Smith
Esprit De Corps~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Robert Jager
Fourth Program Example
Emblem of Unity~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~J. J. Richards
Poet and Peasant Overture~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~H. Franz Suppe
Salvation is Created~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Pavel Tschesnokoff
A Copland Portrait~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Clare Grundman
The Chimes of Liberty~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~E. F. Goldman
Fifth Program Example
A Roman Carnival~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Hector Berlioz~Arr. V.F. Safranek
Festive Overture~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Dmitri Shostakovich
Italian in Algiers~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~GioacchinoRossini~Arr. Lucien Cailliet
American Overture for Band~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Joseph Jenkins
The Liberty Bell March~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~J. P. Sousa
Sixth Program Example
The Klaxon~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Henry Fillmore
An Outdoor Overture~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Aaron Copland
Second Suite in F~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Gustav Holst
Country Gardens~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Percy Grainger
Washington Post~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~J. P. Sousa
*Program Descriptions/Notes for each set:
First Example Program
Flight was premiered on November 1, 1984, in the Milestones of Flight Gallery at the national Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian, Washington D.C. by the Untied States Air Force Band, Col. Arnald D. Gabriel, Commander/Conductor
The inclusion of excerpts from the Pachelbel CANON IN D was done at the request of the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. The CANON is used as background music at the Museum. Flight has been adopted as the “official march” of the National Air and Space Museum.
This piece represents the composer’s first attempt at writing for the school concert band. Written in 1977, and published the following year by C.L. Barnhouse Co., it is respectfully dedicated to Louis E. Marini, Associate Professor-Emeritus at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. In talking about his former mentor, James Swearingen stated; “He was an outstanding teacher and a friend to all his students. Even today, his teachings continue to serve as a source of inspiration.”
Exaltation employs a contemporary style of writing that is both thematic and highly rhythmical. Although several tonalities are explored, the main key of the composition centers around F minor. Included in the expressive middle section is a lyrical solo for alto saxophone. A recap of the main theme brings the work to an exciting finish.
Excerpts from Kalinnikov’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor
Kalinnikov’s first symphony was a rousing success at its premiere in Kiev, part of it encored with a full repeat demanded at the next concert of the Imperial Russian Musical Society. Within a few months it was played in Moscow, Berlin, Schwerin, Vienna, Paris, and London, as well as nationwide in the United States.
A truly gifted composer, Kalinnikov wrote with lyrical originality, lacing his works with themes of great beauty in the Russian tradition. He had a unique touch with tonality, harmony and rhythm. He wrote with a determination to put his thoughts to music as fast as his frail health would allow, and left a rather remarkable legacy considering his short lifespan of 34 years. This legacy deserves to be played – and heard – far more than it is.
On a Hymn Song of Philip Bliss
Much of Philip Bliss’ music is characterized by high energy and driving rhythms but this piece is a contrast to that style. This piece is restful, gentle, and reflective in composition. The work is based on the 1876 Philip Bliss-Horatio Spafford hymn, “it is Well with my Soul.” The piece was written to honor the retireing Principal of Shady Grove Christian Academy in 1989.
The Starts and Stripes Forever
The Stars and Stripes Forever March is the official march of the United States of America. Sousa believed that the piece was divinely inspired. It came to him as he sailed home from vacationing in Europe after learning of his manager’s death. When he reached shore, he wrote “down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever been changed”. The original manuscript is in the Library of Congress and bears the inscription “J.P.S., Xmas, 1896”, most fitting because it certainly is a wonderful Christmas gift to the American people.
Second Example Program
The Strategic Air Command
This piece was first performed at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, by the Strategic Air Command. The Strategic Air Command March is the official march of what was previously known as the Continental Air Forces.
Jan Van of the Roost was born 1956 in Duffel, Belgium. He studied trombone, music history and music teachings at Lemmens Lemmens-Institut in Leuven (Louvain) and continued his studies at the Royal Conservatoires of Gent, where he completed training as the conductor and composer. This piece features four high-spirited Gypsy Dances reminiscent of the Hungarian and Slavonic Dances by Brahms and Dvorak.
W. Francis McBeth, born March 1933, in Lubbock, Texas, is former Professor of Music and Resident Composer at Ouachita University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The work Caccia is based on a 4 note motive that will appear throughout the piece being heard in different sections of the ensemble as the piece progresses.
The piece is very beautiful and scoring and very lyrical. A lush, slower middle section provides effective contrast to the lively motion of the rest of the work. This piece is an excellent example of contrapuntal writing with very effective use of instrumental colors.
Fillmore was a well-known and flamboyant composer, arranger, bandmaster and publisher. He composed over 250 works and arranged over 750 others. To prevent saturating the market with his own name, he published under eight names: Harold Bennett, Al Hayes, Will Huff, Gus Beans, Ray Hall, Harry Hartley, Henrietta Moore, and his own. When ill health forced him to retire in 1938, he moved to Miami and became an influential figure in the growth of school bands in Florida. He dabbled with piano for several years and then learned to play flute, violin, and guitar with ease. He was fascinated most of all by the slide trombone, an instrument which his father, a partner in the Fillmore Brothers religious music publishing business, considered too evil for any righteous person to play. His mother, however, believed that practicing trombone might help keep Henry out of mischief, and she secretly saved enough money to buy a second- hand instrument for her son.
For a time, he worked in his father’s publishing business, but left in 1905 after an argument concerning the “evils” of band music and the problems in Henry’s personal life—he had fallen in love with Mabel May Jones, an exotic show dancer. After a proposal by mail, the two were married and both found employment with the Lemon Brothers Circus, launching him on a career as musician and bandmaster.
Rolling Thunder was advertised as a “trombone ace”, and has been used by circus bands throughout the years to generate excitement.
Third Example Program
Zacatecas Mexican March
Codinaplayed several instruments as a child, and preferred the folk harp. As an adult, he was known for his musical ability as well for his talent as a manufacturer of balloons and fireworks which were in great demand at folk festivals. He was imprisoned several times for unknown reasons under the dictatorship of Porforio Diaz, during which time he played his harp and learned many folk songs. Zacatecas was the winning entry in a march composition contest in 1891, and has become “Mexico’s second national anthem.”
First Suite in E-flat
Written in 1909, the Suite in E-Flat is generally regarded as a cornerstone work for concert band and is one of the few band originals that has been transcribed for symphony orchestra. The opening theme of the Chaconne is repeated by various instruments as others weave varied filigrees about the ground theme. In the middle of the first movement, the principal theme is inverted for several repetitions.
The Intermezzo is based on a variation of the Chaconne theme, presented first in an agitated style, then in a cantabile mood, the two styles alternating throughout the movement with remarkable and deceivingly simple-sounding counterpoint that is as charming as it is masterful. The March is introduced by a British band quick-march pulse from the brass and followed by Holst’s Land of Hope and Glory version of the Chaconne theme in the great sostenuto tradition of the singing chorus. Eventually, the two themes are combined in a thrilling counterpoint leading to the coda with a dynamic marking of ffff!
Morton Gould’s music is unique in its Americanism and in the seemingly endless wealth of creativity displayed by the composer. Like much of his music, “American Salute” is semi-serious in nature, and reflects Gould’s uncanny skill in thematic development. Using only “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” for melodic resources, he contrives a brilliant fantasy. Originally written for orchestra and transcribed for band, “American Salute” has become a program favorite for both bands and orchestras.
Morton Gould (1913 – 1996) showed signs of musical talent at a very early age. He began to play the piano when he was four years old, published a composition at the age of six, and was engaged to play piano over radio station WOR when he was seven. At eighteen, he joined the musical staff of the Radio City Music Hall, and at twenty-one, he became conductor and arranger for his own program on the WOR-Mutual network. He has composed more than 1000 works for radio, television, films, the musical and ballet stage, and the concert hall. He earned a Grammy for classical music in 1966. Kennedy Center Honors were awarded to him in 1994; the following year, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his String music.
Symphony No. 1 for Band
The first movement, Flourish, begins with a fanfare-like sound in the allegretto moderato tempo. The brilliance of the tutti sound is pulsed with strong rhythmic accents. The 6/8 March opens with solo bassoons playing the principal march tune. Following a trumpet and drum duet, the march develops a vigorous and pulsating pace of stirring proportions. Large and sonorous chords open the Lyric Song movement. The melodic material is given a variety of scorings, including solos and a brass treatment in contrapuntal style.
The Toccata is a movement of energy and drive which displays the technique of the band. This movement includes a fugal section for woodwinds and percussion. The work is brought to a thrilling close with the same chords with which the first movement opened. The Symphony was commissioned by Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma national honorary band fraternity and sorority, respectively, and first performed in 1977.
Esprit de Corps
Esprit de Corpsis the second Robert Jager work commissioned by the United States Marine Band (the first being Tableau). Based on The Marine’sHymn, Esprit De Corps is a kind of fantasy march, as well as a tribute to the United States Marine Band and a salute to the Marine Corps in general. Full of energy and drama, the composition has both solemn and light moments.
Fourth Example Program
Emblem of Unity
Richards was born in Wales, but grew up in the U.S. He was a virtuoso cornetist as a child and beginning at age 19 he was the conductor of numerous circus bands, including the Ringling Brothers Band. This march is his most popular and is played by hundreds of professional and school bands every year.
Poet and Peasant Overture
Preludes and overtures were often written to set the mood of Viennese folk plays and therefore might be used for more than one production. Such was the case for Poet and Peasant, which introduced a comedy of that name in 1846. The piece had already been heard as the overture to the play Lots of money, short of sleep and may also have prefaced two other plays. This overture did not belong to an opera until several years after its 1845 composition date.
The themes from this overture are among the most often quoted material for comic effects for stage productions and animated cartoons. Probably, they represent, in sound, an era of nostalgia from the old-time park band concerts and are familiar to audiences of all age groups. This composition deserves to be heard in its original context as a serious, but highly entertaining, selection.
Salvation is Created
Pavel (Peter) Tschesnokoff was a composer for the Russian Orthodox church before the time when communism took over, forming the USSR With the shift of power in government came greater control over what composers could write, giving Tschesnokoff two options: either continue writing sacred choral works and have his family taken away and possibly killed by the communists, or not write music for the church and keep his life and his family. Tschesnokoff opted to save his family, and never wrote another piece of sacred music.
Years after his death, communism fell, the Berlin Wall came down, and the Russian Orthodox church opened its doors again. “Salvation is Created” became the unofficial anthem of the church. Tschesnokov never heard the piece performed, but his children were finally able to hear it years later. The simple text of the hymn is as follows:
-Salvation is created in the midst of the earth,
-O Lord, our God.
A Copland Portrait
A magnificent tribute to Aaron Copland adapted by Clare Grundman, Featuring Fanfare For The Common Man, “Saturday Night Waltz” from Appalachian Spring and concludes with “Buckaroo Holiday” and “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo.
The Chimes of Liberty
The year 1937 was a good one for Goldman marches; he wrote eight that year, including Chimes of Liberty. Like Sousa’s marches, many of Goldman’s march titles were patriotic, such as Builders of America, America Grand March, and Old Glory Forever.
Fifth Example Program
The Roman Carnival
Berlioz’s early attempts at composition were not well received, having rebelled against the rigorous methods of his teachers, and he had to support himself as a chorus singer at a vaudeville theater. On his fourth attempt, he won the Prix de Rome for his Sardanapale. Berated by his contemporaries Bizet, Debussy, and Ravel, Berlioz found support during his tours of Germany, Russia, and England, eventually gaining the recognition and appreciation of a great composer. His Treatise on Instrumentation became popular as a textbook.
The Roman Carnival Overture is based on theme from the opera “BenvenutoCellini”. The opening Roman dance and the love theme are two of the melodies prominently featured. The opera itself was not very successful, but this overture has proven very popular ever since it was composed. Its first concert performance took place in Paris in 1844, under Berlioz’ personal direction.
The gestation of Shostakovich’s Festive Overture has been subject to several different theories. One author claims that it was originally written in 1947, but was suppressed by Shostakovich along with many of his compositions created during this repressive period of Soviet history. Others believe that the celebratory quality of the overture displays Shostakovich’srelief at the death of Josef Stalin (in 1953), whose regime had twice censored the composer and his music.
Most probably, the work was commissioned for a gathering at the Bolshoi Theater in November of 1954, celebrating the 37th Anniversary of the October Revolution. The conductor, Vasili Nebolsin, realized that he had no appropriate piece to open the high-profile concert. He approached Shostakovich, who was at the time a musical consultant at the Bolshoi. The composer set to work, and the overture was completed in three days, the individual pages of the score being taken by courier before the ink had dried to copyists waiting at the theater to create the orchestra parts.
Italian in Algiers
Italian In Algiers, a comic opera, was the second of Rossini’s works to achieve great success. It was produced in Venice in 1813. Like most of Rossini’s operas it is no longer in the repertoire, but the melodies of the overture have made it a favorite on band and orchestra programs.
American Overture for Band
American Overture for Band was written for the U.S. Army Field Band and dedicated to its conductor at the time, Chester E. Whiting. The piece is written in a neo-modal style being flavored strongly withboth Lydian and Mixolydian mode. Its musical architecture is a very free adaptation of the sonata form.
The music material borders on the folk tune idiom, although there are no direct quotes from any folk tunes. The work calls for near virtuoso playing by several sections, especially the French horns.
The Liberty Bell March
According to America’s leading Sousa scholar, Paul E. Bierley, Sousa was inspired to write this march because of a huge painting he had seen of the Liberty Bell in Chicago. This march is in typical Sousa style, full of bouncy rhythms, brilliant in its orchestration, both melodic and stirring.
It is one of Sousa’s finest marches, bringing the audience’s attention to the Liberty Bell itself through the use of chimes during the trio.
Sixth Example Program
The Klaxon, March
Composed in 1929, this march (subtitled March of the Automobiles) was written for the Cincinnati Automobile Show, which began at the Music Hall in January 1930. Fillmore invented a new instrument for the occasion called a Klaxophone. It consisted of twelve automobile horns, mounted on a table and powered by an automobile battery.
An Outdoor Overture
Aaron Copland interrupted his work on the ballet “Billy the Kid” to compose this overture. It was written in 1938 at the request of Alexander Richter, director of the High School of Music and Art in New York City. Mr. Richter commissioned many composers to write works especially for the public high school orchestra. This work is by far the most popular of all the pieces commissioned by Richter.
Aaron Copland writes: “When Mr. Richter first heard me play it from the piano sketch, he pointed out that it had an open air quality. Together we hit upon the title An Outdoor Overture.” The work was premiered by Richter’s orchestra in the school auditorium on December 16 and 17, 1938.
Second Suite in F
Like Holst’s First Suite, the Second Suite had to wait more than ten years to receive its first performance. The Second Suite is based entirely on material from folk songs and morris dances. The first movement starts with a morris dance followed by the lyric folk song Swansea Town. The tune at the trio is Claudy Banks. The second movement uses the Cornish song I’ll Love My Love, a modal lament about a maiden sent to Bedlam because her true love has gone to sea.
The “Song of the Blacksmith” uses changing meters and anvil effects in the percussion section to create its atmosphere. The final movement, “Fantasia on the Dargason,” was later used by Holst as the finale of the St. Paul Suite for string orchestra.
In a letter to Frederick Fennell, responding to Fennell’s request for information for the liner notes of he Mercury Recording of “Country Garden’s”, Graingerwrote as follows: “The Morris Dance tunes ‘Country Gardens’ and ‘Shepherd’s Hey’ are instrumental versions of songs long popular in the English country-sideunder the titles ‘The Vicar of Bray’ and ‘Keel Row.’ When Cecil Sharp discovered the Morris Dance versions around1908, he sent them to me with the remark: ‘I’ll think you will find them effective to arrange.’ But I did not arrange ‘Country Gardens’ until I was a bandsmen in the U.S. Army. Our band would take part in Liberty Loan drives and I would be asked to improvise at the piano – without much response from the audience. But I thought of ‘Country Gardens’ as a likable and lively little tune that might please. So I tried it and sure enough, it was popular at once. So I wrote it down in the barracks.”
Later in his life, despite the steady stream of income from its royalties, the fame of “Country Gardens” and the widespread public association of this work as being his best known piece, came to haunt Grainger. Mentally, it became his albatross. He came to think of his own brilliant original music as “my wretched tone art”. “The typical English country garden is not often used to grow flowers in; it is more likely to be a vegetable plot. So you can think of turnips as I play it”.
During the 1880’s, several Washington D.C. newspapers competed vigorously for public favor. One of these, the Washington Post, organized what was known as the Amateur Authors¹ Association and sponsored an essay contest for school children, commissioning Sousa to compose a march for the award ceremony. When the new march was played by Sousa and the Marine Band, it became immediately popular, and happened to be well suited to the two-step dance, which was just being introduced.
A dancemasters’ organization adopted it at their yearly convention, and soon the march was vaulted into international fame. The two-step gradually replaced the waltz as a popular dance, and variations of the basic two-step insured the march¹s popularity all through the 1890¹s and into the twentieth century. In fact, in some European countries, all two-steps were called “Washington posts.”
Next to “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, it has been Sousa¹s most widely known march.
*I keep a number of program notes that I’ve gathered over time and I do not recall the exact origin of all of these program notes. No doubt, some are liner notes from the compositions themselves, some from various printed sources, some from online, and some partially my own.
It is my hope that many people will view this example curriculum that originates from my own thoughts, concerts, and classes so that they may begin to think about extended instrumental curriculums and objectives for their own ensembles. Many times “we” as directors and conductors do not take the time to relate what we do to educational and musical objectives, nor do we attempt to think “beyond” the next concert. By looking at concerts as periods of “three years” you can better include the types of musical literature that you would like your students to be exposed to over time and concentrate on exactly what musical objectives that you are trying to achieve…
As always -please feel free to comment in the section below.
Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.