The Mississippi Community
Symphonic Band



THE MCSB MUSIC COMMITTEE:

On This Page: Who Is the Mus Comm? | Music Suggeston Guidelines | What You Can Do | Types Of Tunes | Length of Music

HERE'S AN OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE MUSIC COMMITTEE IS, AND THE "DUTIES" INVOLVED

The "official" Music Committee consists of designated band members who have an interest in helping us find good music to add to our library and play in our concerts. It helps, but is not necessary for these people to have a good working knowledge of concert band literature. The unofficial music committee is anyone else who wants to help us find good tunes to play at our concerts.

The music committee makes suggestions to the music director for tunes to play in our concerts. It is the Music Director's sole decision to determine exactly which tunes will be programmed in any concert. However, suggestions and feedback are ALWAYS welcome. The Music Director does not make these decisions in a vacuum, and is not omniscient. If you know of a great tune we need to program, by all means tell us!

WHO IS THE MUSIC COMMITTEE?

There are a select group of people who are "officially" on the Music Committee. These are the people the Music Director asks for suggestions when it's time to come up with the repertoire for upcoming concerts. If you would like to serve on the official music committee, please get in touch with the Music Director.

If you are not on the official music committee, it's still okay to make suggestions. But PLEASE read the music suggestion guidelines first.

MUSIC SUGGESTION GUIDELINES

We have a limited number of tunes we can play in each concert. Please see the Concert Repertoire Planning Document (see the menu button above) for a list of tunes we have designated or are considering for upcoming concerts. If there is a spot in the program with no listing, that means we need a good suggestion for a tune to fill that spot.

BEFORE you make any suggestions, you are required to read Peter Greene's "Binmore Scale" essay. You can find it here. This is a fun, and only somewhat tongue-in-cheek essay about what kind of music makes up a great concert for a community band.

Be detailed in your suggestion. The ideal tune suggestion would be like this: "Hey, I just heard this GREAT tune played by the ABC Community Band! It's THE DEFG OVERTURE by H. I. Jekyll. I have ordered this tune from a distributor and will bring the score and parts to you next week, as my gift to the band." That would be an ideal tune suggestion. It would stand a great chance of being programmed, if you picked a good tune.

The second best way to suggest a tune would be to give us all the information about the tune, and where we can order it. A second best suggestion might look something like this: "I just heard this GREAT tune played by the ABC Community Band! It's THE DEFG OVERTURE by H.I. Jekyll. I've included a link to a YouTube video of the ABC Band playing it so you can hear what it sounds like. If you like it, you can order it from www.jwpepper.com. It's their catalog number 10002345, and it costs $80 for score and parts. Let me know if you like it." Notice this suggestion has the following information:

When you make suggestions for tunes for us to play, we need at least this much information so we can make a decision as to whether to purchase it. If you don't furnish us this information, then SOMEONE is going to have to go find it before we can make a decision on whether to purchase this tune.

We have had people in the past make suggestions giving us only the tune title. We really can't make a decision based on that. I mean, really! We need ALL the information above before we can decide, and if you don't furnish that information to us, then we have to go look it up, and I bet we have even less time to do that than you do.

I guess what I'm saying here is that if you do NOT give us all the needed information, then the chances of us accepting and using your suggestion are dramatically decreased. 'Nuff said about that?

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you're interested in helping us pick out tunes to play in our concerts, then what you can do is LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN to as much concert band music as you can find. The MCSB owns about 40 CDs of band music from other bands, mostly the Military Bands and the Allentown Band, plus we have dozens more MP3s of this kind of music. If you want to listen to some, just ask.

You can find listings and usually MP3s of concert band music from many of the bigger publishers, such as

Also, many colleges and universities have recordings of their performances available, either online or by request. If you find some good sources for recordings of concert band music, please let us know.

When you find a tune you really like, one you think would be fun for the band to play and fun for our audience to listen to, then put together all the information we need for decision-making, and send it on!

THE TYPES OF TUNES WE PLAY

We want to put on a good variety of music in each concert program.

Usually, we open up each half of the concert with a march. The more rousing, the better. We will also occasionally put another march in the program, perhaps just before the half. Concert marches fit well there.

We also like to include a medley of show tunes, from the movies or from Broadway, a rich-sounding hymn, perhaps some patriotic music, maybe some Spanish-style music, such as a paso doble.

We also like to include at least one good classical music transcription (Rossini or Von Suppe overtures are great here), and one selection of music written specifically for concert band.

Another genre we like to include on each program is NOVELTY music. This can be funny stuff, like P.D.Q. Bach, fun stuff like "The Whistler And His Dog" or having the audience whisle along with "Colonel Bogey" or "On The Mall," or soloist or ensemble pieces with band accompaniment. We occasionally feature vocalists with the band, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

While our main guideline is FUN for the band and for the audience, and our next guideline is VARIETY, we will probably be able to make a place in our program for any sufficiently fun piece of music.

So let us know what tunes you think would be good for us to play.

LENGTH OF MUSIC WE PLAY

(Length essay below by David Miller, January 2014)

The length of tunes for us to program is, as our British friends might say, a bit of a sticky wicket.

Right up front, let me give you my considered take on it. There’s no such thing as a tune that’s too long – there’s only a tune that’s too boring. (By the way, this goes for many things – books, articles, emails, you name it.)

We have played tunes that were barely longer than two minutes, at the end of which the audience was drumming their fingers, rolling their eyes at the ceiling, and heaving big sighs.

On the other hand, I can name several tunes for you, longer than 10 minutes (including the “Sound of Music”), that kept the audience captivated through the last note.

Part of the key to this is that these longer tunes aren’t just one tune – they’re usually a compilation of many tunes. My own “Centurions,” which lasts 13+ minutes, got one of the longest standing ovations we’ve ever had. But it wasn’t one tune – it was really ten tunes melded together as a medley.

Another part of the key to this is that the tunes themselves must be eminently listenable. They must be either familiar, good music the audience knows already and enjoys hearing, or melodies of such compelling quality that the audience truly enjoys hearing them for the first time.

A third part of this key is the orchestration (bandstration?). A really fine tune scored badly will be boring, while a ho-hum melody scored really well can be quite enjoyable.

The final part of this key is the performance. First, the ensemble must have the technical proficiency to play the arrangement, and play it with involvement and passion. While it is not usually possible for a really good ensemble to salvage a bad tune or arrangement, it is definitely possible – as we well know – for a marginal performance of a great arrangement to become painful to the audience.

Bottom line – it’s a judgment call. OUR judgment call.

For example, as of now, January 2014, my judgment is that our audience is not ready for all the movements of the Holst #2 Suite in F for Military Band (in one sitting). Many of them would be bored and fidgeting long before the end. Also, our band is not technically proficient enough to play the Finale to Shostakovitch’s 5th Symphony (which we have in our library), let alone play it with enough passion to captivate the audience through this too-long-to-sit-through work.

Therefore, when you are considering works to suggest for MCSB concerts, please keep the above in mind as to the length of the works you are considering. Generally three to six minutes is the ideal length, but exceptions can be made … for exceptional music.

This is currently my take on tune length. I’m open to having my mind changed if someone can show me good reasons why I should.

The following was posted on the Community Music forum on April 26, 2015:

Community audiences can listen to a work that lasts, say, around twenty minutes or so if the melodies are engaging enough, the music keeps the attention span alert, and it has a lot of orchestral color. A work like Persichetti's sixth symphony for band may be succinct (under twenty minutes), but the average lay listener will be bored by it even if it is in four movements because there's not a single melodic idea memorable enough for them (as opposed to a sophisticated listener who will say otherwise), whereas if you play Donald Hunsberger's transcription of John Williams' music from Star Wars, the audience can't get enough of it, and that lasts roughly eighteen minutes, primarily because audiences know the music. The same with Gershwin's An American in Paris, which is under twenty minutes, would work as well since most audiences - classical or not - know this piece either through the concert hall or by way of the 1951 movie. (And yes, three transcriptions of the complete work exist, as opposed to the truncated version by Jerry Brubaker, which I wouldn't do at all.)

Some long-ish pieces can work. It just has to be the right one.

Kevin Scott
Director, Maybrook Wind Ensemble
Maybrook, New York