As a band director, choosing your programme is the most significant thing that you need to get right. How do you plan your programmes currently? Do you simply pick a programme for each performmance, or do you look at the year as a whole and plan which Openers, Slow Tunes, Biggies, Finishers and Entertainment pieces to use? John Paynter when talking about programming always thought in these terms, Frank Battisti will tell you that when programming for any band at any level you have to offer an emotional and intellectual challange to your players - he will also go on to recommend that you have a rolling progamme of introducing recognised master pieces of wind ensemble writing to your players, so that over a period of three years they are exposed to significant repertoire with a diversity of styles.
Tim Reynish has some very good advice to offer on his website…
We must learn to teach music - not band, not orchestra, not chorus, but music itself… Choosing music is the single most important thing a band director can do, and is the only thing a band director can do alone…Frederick Fennell
I firmly believe that music will someday become a ‘universal language’. But it will not become so as long as our musical vision is limited to the output of four European countries between 1700 and 1900. The first step in the right direction is to view the music of all peoples and periods without prejudice of any kind, and strive to put the world’s known and available best music into circulation. Only then shall we be justified in calling music a ‘universal language'. Percy Grainger Symphony or chamber orchestras, opera companies, choirs and chamber groups draw on three centuries and five continents for their programmes. Musicians working in jazz, rock, folk or world music know no boundaries when planning what to play. We in the wind band world sometimes tend to be more chauvinistic, and to limit our programming to what we can easily purchase and easily play. Often we do not have time to look outside the box for new repertoire ideas. The big challenge for all of us is time; we owe it to our students to view time and its challenges in a different way.
Since starting to conduct wind music, I have often wondered why our youth symphony orchestras play the “classics”, from Mozart to Mahler, Bach to Brahms, while our youth wind orchestras often play rubbish. I also wonder what it is that players and audiences look for in a work, and I suspect that they are searching for music which is familiar and which packs an emotional punch. For the wind band, there are few classics, and many of those do not carry an emotional message, so we owe it to our players and audiences to seek out a new repertoire, with an emotional message, which will become familiar over the years. I believe that we need to challenge our players, choosing works which present musical, intellectual, technical and emotional problems for them to solve and yet it is essential to select music which bridges the ever widening gap between composer and audience. For me, music is essentially an emotional language, and I hope that any work I conduct, whether contemporary or traditional, will reflect this for both players and audience.