More Middle School Band Repertoire Suggestions

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.

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!***


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