Sarah Minette, daughter of James Minette is also a middle school band director. Although she presently is pursuing her doctorate at Arizona State University, she has a wealth of great suggestions for middle school bands. She follows in her father’s footsteps in her excellence as a teacher, conductor, communicator. Thank you, Sarah! Soon we will add some suggestions for theme based concerts she has produced. sarahminettemusic.com capricesaxophonequartet.weebly.com
Kid Tested-Teacher Approved Top Middle School Pieces (a starting point)
Title Composer Grade Level
A Prehistoric Suite Paul Jennings 6th
Multi-movement, great way to introduce programmatic music and aleotoric music
The Debonair Dragon John Edmondson 6th
Lots of chromatics-pair it with learning the chromatic scale
Train Heading West Timothy Broege 6th
3 movements, programmatic, accelerando in final movement
Clouds Anne McGinty 6th
Programmatic, variations on style, “thunderstorm” section that allows percussion to “let loose”, goes into ¾ time
Ayre and Dance Bruce Pearson 6th
Excellent for teaching phrasing, low brass get the melody several times, has a “medieval” sound that kids love, slow-fast form.
Got the Spirit Rock Feldstein/O’Reilly 6th
Blues form, rock percussion, teaches syncopation
Character Larry Clark 6th
Excellent piece for articulations, great percussion parts, 1st and 2nd ending, dotted half notes.
African Festival arr. Hilliard, Elledge, Pearson 7th
Excellent cultural piece, great percussion writing, teaching call and response, key change
Drive Mark Williams 7th/ 8th
Rock “power chords” with woodwind “guitar riff” in the middle section, syncopation, “blues scale”-kids really love this piece
Soldiers’ Processionand Sword Dance Bob Margolis 7th
Two movements, first movement alternates between woodwind choir and brass, kids enjoy the harmonies, second movement is quick-lots of unison rhythms, brief accelerando.
Portrait of a Clown Frank Ticheli 7th/8th
Great use of contrasting articulations, clarinets have a nice range of low notes to high notes, trumpets can use mutes, encourages listening across the band to hear who shares the same parts.
Title Composer Grade Level
Castle’s and Dragon Todd Stalter 7th / 8th
Slow intro section with syncopation, ¾ time, faster section, “fury of the dragon”, lots of dynamics, aggressive percussion parts, D.S. al Coda from fast tempo to a slow tempo.
African Bell Carol arr. Robert W. Smith 7th/8th
Awesome African hand drum parts…repetitive, but the kids love this, they know the melody-based on the “Ukranian Bell Carol”. A very powerful piece.
Perseus and the Sea Monster Michael Grady 7th/8th
Based on mythology, lots of concepts, Dies Irae section, a fugal section towards the end. Great for enforcing articulations.
Scenes of Russia Elliot Del Borgo 7th
Beautiful clarinet opening of Russian folk song. Transitions to a fast “march-like” piece. Aggressive playing. Low brass feature that can really ignite the low brass section.
Dervish Dance Elliot Del Borgo 7th/8th
3/4 time, minor key, faster piece with “handoffs” between brass and woodwinds on the melody/accompaniment. Great piece for teaching “listening across the band”.
Marching Song Holst, arr. John Moss 8th
Excellent for clarinets, in the style of “wind band repertoire”, lyrical section in the middle of the piece-very “Holst”
Sinfonia XIX Timothy Broege 8th (advanced)
This is a tough piece. I have only done it one year, but it is fantastic. There are four movements with the last movement going into 7/8 (I had a crazy awesome band the year that I did this)
Flurry for Winds and Percussion John Kinyon 8th
Great fanfare piece. Quarter note triplets, brass choir/woodwind choir. Great piece for teaching balancing and blending
Bugs David Schaffer 8th
Fantastic programmatic piece. Cut time in last movement, nice use of contrasting styles and scoring. Forces individuals to be confident as much of the piece is thinly scored.
Snakes! Thomas Duffy 8th
Students don’t always grasp this piece at first, but after a while they really start to enjoy it-lots of interesting percussion writing, half valves for trumpets, timed measures, and yelling!
** Keep in mind that these suggestions can change, based on your band’s ability. Some of the 6th grade band pieces can be used for a beginning of the year 7th grade band, to get them in the groove of playing again and obtaining success. Likewise for 7th and 8th grade pieces.
** Be mindful of over-programming your band. You want to balance pieces that are challenging with pieces that ALL students can achieve success.
** Find a “hook” piece-something that you know all the students will enjoy. This does not have to be a top 40 favorite!!
***Again, this is a starting point. There is a ton of great middle school band literature!***