I am fortunate enough to have a lot of wonderful people in my life, and one of them is Mansfield HIgh School Choir Director, Reginal Wright. Reggie asked me to perform with his Male Chorus at this year’s TMEA convention – who placed as the State Honor Choir this year – alongside my long-time friend, Micah Bell. The concert took a couple of hours, so I decided to keep myself busy the rest of the time by exhibiting three dozen self-published pieces at the Pender’s Music Booth. Pender’s was incredibly cool to support self-publishing composers in this way! I took a few of my works and the other pieces I solicited from twelve of my composer friends, which spanned the Grade 1-4 levels in both the Concert Band and Jazz Band categories. I also bit the bullet and decided to finally brand my company, Woodrow Music, LLC, by hiring the a graphic designer to create a seriously awesome logo (actually two!). Thanks to everyone who partcipated in my Facebook poll on the design!!
First of all, I LOVE writing band music – truly at all levels. I grew up playing in Texas band programs – and am therefore no stranger to the culture and the literature. I have a written a few pieces for band spanning Grade 1-5, and hope to continue writing at all levels. One of my life goals is to make it onto the Texas PML list as a self-publishing composer. If you don’t know what a PML is, basically there is a list of music in just about every state that public school musical groups must select and perform music from each year. A really eye-opening (at least for me, anyway!) site to check out for Texas’ list is uilforms.com, to see what bands, choirs and orchestras play for this State mandated contest. Just go to the site, then hit “results”, then “PML selection rankings” and you’ll be able to search by year, ensemble type, and even size of the school (6A, 5A, etc.). A close look at this site will show that there is quite a bit of diversity in what bands play at the Grade 4 and 5 level (and even Grade 3 to an extent). At the Grade 1 and 2 levels, you’ll see that there is less diversity, with the top pieces in each category being played by 162 and 210 groups, respectively. Also, if you take a look at my picture on the right below – this is the Pender’s music booth at the end of this year’s TMEA convention. The rows in these bookcases are organized by Grade level, with Grade 1 music on the top row, Grade 2 on the second, etc. At the beginning of the convention, all these rows were completely full. Clearly, there is a high demand and need for Grade 1 and 2 band music!
As a result of this realization, I have been studying the top fourteen pieces in the Grade 1 band category ever since I arrived home! It’s been four years since I wrote And it Begins (my Grade 2 piece, which will always very special to me). Speaking of which, And it Begins is coming out in the Alfred Spring Band Catalogue next month as a result of its winning the National Band Association/Alfred Young Band Composition Contest. This recording is of the Texas Christian University Wind Symphony and conductor Bobby Francis:
So, I am, for the next few months, focusing again on writing for young band. I am going to write a Grade 1, a Grade 1.5, and a Grade 2 in a style that is appropriate for State music lists. I am also organizing a consortium for financial and community support. Consortium members pay $300, and then will get a digital copy of all three pieces by August 1st, and will also receive access to my closed Facebook group, where I will be posting sketches, asking for opinions and generally just engaging in conversation throughout the creative process. Each band will get to choose ONE piece to have their school and director name appear on the score. I’ll cap the consortium at nine programs, and still have four spots open at present. Update 4/13/2018 I have seven programs committed, and two spots open:
Director Dean Surface and Trinity Springs Middle School – Keller, TX
Director Jennifer Bergeron and Walsh Middle School – Round Rock, TX
Director Jeffrey Krubsack and Wauwatosa East High School – Wauwatosa, WI
Director Angie Hutto and Bethesda Christian School – Fort Worth, TX
Directors Matt Koperniak, Dean Patterson and Riverwatch Middle School – Suwanee, GA
Director Martin Trammel and Groves Middle School – Beaumont, Texas
Directors Nathaniel Neugent, Victoria Hitz and T.A. Howard Middle School – Mansfield, Texas
My next educational post will be about my observations after studying the aformentioned top fourteen pieces on the PML in the Grade 1 Band category. Get ready to hear a lot of nerdy info on tempo, meter, texture (polyphonic vs monophonic, etc.), melody, key – you get the picture!
Until next time…