In 1993, Jay Warren Gilbert updated Acton Ostling Jr.’s study on music in the band repertoire that met the criteria for serious artistic merit. Gilbert’s dissertation, An Evaluation of Compositions for Wind Band According to Specific Criteria of Serious Artistic Merit: A Replication and Update, included pieces composed in the fifteen years since Ostling’s study. Gilbert began with the 314 compositions listed in Ostling’s study, added 501 pieces that had come close to meeting the criteria, and then added 419 new compositions. By the end of the revised study, 1,261 pieces were evaluated, with 191 deemed as meeting the specified criteria for “serious artistic merit.”[1] The following panel was selected in order to evaluate the compositions:

Frank Battisti*

Eugene Corporon
Ray Cramer
James Croft
Stanley DeRusha
Howard Dunn
Richard Floyd
Donald Hunsberger*
Jerry Junkin
Mark Kelly
Craig Kirchhoff
Allan McMurray
John Paynter*
Larry Rachleff
H. Robert Reynolds*
James Smith
Richard Strange*
Myron Welch
David Whitwell*
Frank Wickes[2]

*Designates repeat evaluator

1990 – Circuits Cindy McTee

Cindy McTee (b. 1953) was born and raised in Eatonville, Washington, just outside Tacoma. Her parents played in a small dance band, exposing McTee to popular music and jazz at an early age. She began taking piano lessons at six, and her mother taught her saxophone a few years later. McTee studied with David Robbins at Pacific Lutheran University and completed a master’s at Yale, where she studied with Krzysztof Penderecki, Jacob Druckman, and Bruce MacCombie. She completed a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa, where she studied with Richard Hervig. McTee credits Penderecki as the most influential teacher in her development as a composer. In 1981 she joined the faculty at her undergraduate alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University, and taught there for three years before becoming a professor at the University of North Texas.[3] She retired as Regents Professor Emerita in 2011.[4]

Circuits was written for the Denton Chamber Orchestra in 1990, but McTee’s colleague, Martin Mailman, suggested she arrange the piece for wind ensemble. Ray Cramer and the Indiana University Symphonic Band premieredCircuits at the 1991 CBDNA conference in Kansas City, MO. McTee writes:

The title, Circuits, is meant to characterize several important aspects of the work’s musical language: a strong reliance upon circuitous structures such as ostinatos; the use of a formal design incorporating numerous, recurring short sections; and the presence of an unrelenting, kinetic energy achieved through the use of 16th notes at a constant tempo of 152 beats per minute.[5]

1992 – A Movement for Rosa Mark Camphouse

American composer and conductor Mark Camphouse (b. 1954) was born in Chicago. He completed a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music at Northwestern University, where he studied trumpet with Vincent Cichowicz, conducting with John P. Paynter, and compositions with Alan Stout. He also studied trumpet privately with Adolph Herseth. He began composing at an early age, and the Colorado Philharmonic premiered his First Symphony when he was 17 years old.[6] He taught in Radford, Virginia, from 1984 until 2006, when he accepted a position at George Mason University as Director of Bands. He retired from a successful academic career in 2022.[7]

A Movement for Rosa was commissioned by the Florida Bandmasters Association in 1992 to honor Rosa Parks. On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama. She earned the title “Mother to a Movement” for this act which helped spark the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s. Camphouse explains that his piece is a “quasi-tone poem” in three contrasting sections. The first section represents Parks’ early life in Tuskegee, Alabama. The second section represents the racial strife and disparities that took place in Montgomery, with the third section quoting the hymn We Shall Overcome.[8]

1992 – Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H) Ron Nelson

Ron Nelson (b. 1929) was born in Joliet, Illinois. He began studying piano at six and wrote his first composition the same year. Nelson studied at the Eastman School of Music, where he completed his three degrees, finishing a D.M.A. in 1957. He was awarded a Fulbright Grant 1954-1955 that allowed him to study composition with Tony Aubin at the École Normale de Musique and Paris Conservatory. He joined the faculty at Brown University in 1956 and retired in 1993.[9]

Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H) was commissioned by the United States Air Force Band, the E.T.A. Omicron Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Wind Studies Department, to celebrate the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s 125th Anniversary. It was the first composition to win all three major wind band composition awards simultaneously: the National Band Association Prize, the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Prize, and the Sudler Prize for Composition. Nelson wrote the piece in homage to J.S. Bach and used the name as counterpoint. In German nomenclature B-flat, A, C and B natural spell Bach. The piece is described as “a set of continuous variations in moderately slow triple meter built on an eight-measure melody (basso ostinato) which is repeated, in various registers, twenty-five times.”[10]

1992 – Postcard Frank Ticheli

Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) has written over 40 pieces for bands and wind ensembles of all levels. He completed a Bachelor of Music in composition at Southern Methodist University. He completed a master’s and doctorate at the University of Michigan, where he studied with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and George Wilson. In 1991, Ticheli joined the faculty at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and he also served as Composer in Residence for the Pacific Symphony Orchestra from 1991-1998.[11]

Robert Reynolds commissioned Postcard in memory of his mother, Ethel Virginia Curry, requesting that Ticheli write something to celebrate her life. Curry loved palindromes and included them in her children’s names (H. Robert Reynolds’ first name is Harrah), so Ticheli incorporated palindrome into the piece, creating an A.B.A.’ form. In his program note, Ticheli explains:

The B section is based on a five-note series derived from the name Ethel: E (E natural) T (te in the solfeggiosystem, B flat) H (in the German system, B natural) E (E-flat this time), L (la in the solfeggio system, A natural). The development of this motive can be likened to a journey through a series of constantly changing landscapes.[12]

Postcard was completed in 1991 and premiered on April 17, 1992, by the University of Michigan Symphony Band conducted by H. Robert Reynolds.[13]

1993 – Symphony No. 4 David Maslanka

Maslanka’s Symphony No. 4 was commissioned by The University of Texas at Austin Wind Ensemble, Stephen F. Austin University Bands, and the Michigan State University Bands. Director of Bands at The University of Texas at Austin, Jerry Junkin, approached Maslanka about writing a new piece for wind ensemble to be performed at the 1994 Texas Music Educators Association Convention. The original request was for a ten-minute piece, but as Maslanka began composing, he knew it would be much larger.[14] Regarding Symphony No. 4, Maslanka wrote:

The roots of Symphony No. 4 are many. The central driving force is the spontaneous rise of the impulse to shout for the joy of life. I feel it is the powerful voice of the Earth that comes to me from my adopted western Montana, and the high plains and mountains of central Idaho. My personal experience of the voice is one of being helpless and tom open by the power of the thing that wants to be expressed – the welling-up shout that cannot be denied. I am set aquiver and am forced to shout and sing. The response in the voice of the Earth is the answering shout of thanksgiving, and the shout of praise.[15]

In the Symphony, Maslanka incorporates two Bach chorales: Christus, der uns selig macht (Christ Who Makes us Holy and Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten (Only Trust in God to Guide You). He also quotes the hymn Old Hundredth, sometimes called the “Doxology.” Maslanka was inspired by the life of President Abraham Lincoln and decided to use the “Doxology” after reading a passage from Carl Sandburg’s biography on Lincoln:

In the rotunda of Ohio’s capital, on a mound of green moss dotted with white flowers, rested the coffin on April 28, while 8,000 persons passed by each hour from 9:30 in the morning till four in the afternoon. In the changing red-gold of a rolling prairie sunset, to the slow exultation of brasses rendering Old Hundred, and the muffled booming of minute guns, the coffin was carried out of the rotunda and taken to the funeral train.[16]

1995 – Urban Requiem Michael Colgrass 

Urban Requiem was commissioned by Gary Green and the University of Miami Wind Ensemble. Michael Colgrass completed the piece in 1995, and it was premiered at the Southern Regional convention for the College Band Directors National Association in 1996. Green requested that the piece reflect the nature of the city of Miami. Colgrass dedicated the piece to Green and wrote, “It is written for all urban souls, living and dead, who like myself love our cities and continue to be inspired by them.”[17] Urban Requiem is a single-movement work that is about twenty-eight minutes in length.

1995 – Ghost Train – Eric Whitacre    

Grammy Award-winning composer Eric Whitacre (b. 1970) was born in Reno, Nevada. He began studying composition as an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Whitacre continued his studies with John Corigliano and David Diamond at the Julliard School, where he completed a master’s in 1997. He currently serves as Visiting Composer at Pembroke College at Cambridge University and has completed two terms as Artist in Residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. His album Light & Gold won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance in 2012.[18]

The first movement of Ghost Train was written in the winter of 1993. Whitacre was a student at UNLV and asked Thomas Leslie, director of wind band studies, if he could write a piece for the wind symphony. Leslie said yes, and that if it turned out well, they would play it at the upcoming CBDNA convention in 1994. Whitacre writes

I struggled with the work all through Christmas break (I wrote it in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Waco, Texas) and presented Tom with the first movement when school resumed. He played it beautifully at the convention, and BOOM… the thing took off like a shot. Band directors began calling me at home, trying to buy it from me, and my formal career as ‘composer’ had begun.[19]

He wrote the second and third movements a year later, and Thomas Leslie premiered the Ghost Train Triptych in the Spring of 1995.[20]

1996 – Les Couleurs Fauves Karel Husa

Les Couleurs Fauves was commissioned by the Northwestern University School of Music alumni to honor John P. Paynter’s 40th anniversary with the school. Unfortunately, Mr. Paynter passed away prior to its premier in 1996. Husa first met Paynter when he took a one-month summer teaching appointment in July of 1968. This appointment was why he did not visit his sister during the “Prague Spring.”” Husa described Mr. Paynter as “very gentle, and very powerful, monumental in front of the band.”[21] In his explanation of the piece, Husa writes:

I have always been fascinated with colors, not only in music, but also in nature and art. The paintings of the Impressionists and Fauvists have been particularly attractive to me, and their French origin accounts to the French title of my piece. The two movements (Persistent Bells and Ritual Dance Masks) gave me the chance to play with colors…sometimes gentle, sometimes raw… of the wind ensemble, something John liked to do. John had become a wonderful friend since we met for the first time in 1968, when we both taught summer courses at Northwestern University. At that time I had written only one work for band, the Saxophone Concerto. John’s devotion to wind ensemble made a great impression on me and certainly influenced me to write for these instrument combinations. His honesty and dedication to the art of music and to teaching was exemplary. He had first-class baton technique and communicated to the players, as well as to the audiences, in a very moving way: powerful, passionate, or delicate and gentle, as the score required. I was reminded of those French painters, whom I admired as a young student in Paris. They called themselves Fauvists (vivid, wild), for they used both, often powerful strokes of brushes with unmixed colors. Their paintings, through breathe with sensitivity, serenity and gentleness. John’s transcriptions as well as his conducting had these characteristics, and hopefully Les Couleurs Fauves will remind you of them.[22]

1996 – Blue Dawn into White Heat Gunther Schuller

Frederick Harris and the Belmont (Massachusetts) High School Symphonic Band commissioned Blue Dawn into White Heat. This third-stream piece premiered on March 20, 1996, with Schuller conducting. It is written in one movement divided into three sections, and includes a few improvisational moments in the trombone, tenor saxophone, and piano.[23]

1997 – Niagara Falls Michael Daugherty

Michael Daugherty (b. 1954) was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a family of musicians. His father was a drummer for a dance band, and his five brothers were also musicians. Daugherty had many musical interests and played for a drum and bugle corps and a rock band called Soul Company. He studied composition at the University of North Texas (1972-1976) and the Manhattan School of Music (1976-1978) before receiving a Fullbright scholarship to study computer music at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM in Paris (1979-1980). He began doctoral studies in 1980, but returned to Europe from 1982-1984 to study with György Ligeti. Daugherty completed his doctorate at Yale in 1986 and joined the faculty at Oberlin. In 1991, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan as Professor of Composition.[24] He was awarded Grammy Award for Contemporary Classical Composition in 2011 for his Deus Ex Machina in 2017 for Tales of Hemingway. In 2007 he won the A.B.A. Ostwald Award for Raise the Roof, a piece written for timpani and symphonic band.[25]

Niagara Falls was commissioned by H. Robert Reynolds and the University of Michigan Symphony Band and premiered on October 4, 1997. Daugherty visited Niagara Falls many times and drew inspiration from the waterfall, as well as the many “tourist traps” like haunted houses or wax museums surrounding the destination.[26] In the score, Daugherty writes:

Its principal musical motive is a haunting chromatic phrase of four tones corresponding to the syllables of “Niagara Falls,” and repeated in increasingly Gothic proportions. A pulsing rhythm in the timpani and lower brass creates an undercurrent of energy to give an electric charge to the second motive, introduced in musical canons by the upper brass. The saxophones and clarinets introduce another level of counterpoint, in a bluesy riff with a film noir edge. My composition is a meditation on the American Sublime.[27]

His other works for wind ensemble include: Dead Elvis (1999), Bells for Stokowski (2002), Labyrinth of Love (2012), and Songs from a Silent Land (2019).

1998 – Southern Harmony Donald Grantham

Donald Grantham (1947) was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, and studied music at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Southern California. In 1973 and 1974, he spent the summer studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Grantham joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1975. He has received many awards for his compositions, including the Prix Lili Boulanger, Nissim/ASCAP Orchestral Composition Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Band Association Revelli Prize, and the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Competition.[28]

Southern Harmony was commissioned by the Southeastern Conference of Band Directors and premiered on February 27, 1999, by Frank Wickes and the Louisiana State University wind ensemble. It was selected for both the 1999 N.B.A. Prize and A.B.A. Ostwald Award. Grantham was inspired by and selected hymns from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion hymnbook to create this work.[29] The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion was published in 1835 by William “Singin’ Billy’ Walker as a compilation of hymns, psalms, odes, and anthems.[30] The hymns selected for Grantham’s Southern Harmony make up four movements:

    1. The Midnight Cry
    2. Wondrous Love
    3. Exhilaration
    4. The Soldier’s Return; Thorny Desert

Some other works by Grantham include J’ai été au bal (1999), Kentucky Harmony (2000), and Baron Cimetiere’s Mambo (2004).

1999 – Bandanna Opera Daron Hagen

Daron Hagen (b. 1961) is an American composer, author, filmmaker, conductor, and pianist who has written more than ten operas and over 400 art songs. He studied at Curtis, Julliard, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has won many awards for his compositions, including the Charles Ives Prize (1983) and an Academy Award from the American Academy of the Arts (2014).[31]

The College Band Directors National Association and a consortium of seventy-eight colleges and universities commissioned Daron Hagen to complete an opera incorporating a wind ensemble for the instrumentation. Hagen worked with librettist Paul Muldoon and the two-act opera,

Bandana was premiered by the University of Texas Opera Theatre at the 1999 CBDNA National Conference. Robert Simone served as director for the performance, with Michael Haithcock conducting.Bandana is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello that takes place at the border of Texas and Mexico.[32]

  1. Clifford N. Towner, An Evaluation of Compositions for Wind Band According to Specific Criteria of Serious Artistic Merit: A Second Update, D.M.A. diss. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2011). 3-4.
  2. Jay Warren Gilbert, An Evaluation of Compositions for Wind Band According to Specific Criteria of Serious Artistic Merit: A Replication and Update (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, 1993).
  3. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 1 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2003). 107-108.
  4. Cindy McTee, “Narrative Biography,” Cindy McTee, October 9, 2022, https://www.cindymctee.com/narrative_bio.html. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  5. “Circuits for Wind Ensemble,” Cindy McTee, https://www.cindymctee.com/circuits_band.html. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  6. Mark Camphouse et al., Composers on Composing for Band (Chicago, IL: G.I.A. Publications, Inc., 2002). 79-80.
  7. Mark Camphouse, “Bio,” Mark Camphouse, https://www.markcamphouse.com/bio.html. accessed December 12, 2022.
  8. Frank L. Battisti, The New Winds of Change: The Evolution of the Contemporary American Wind Band/Ensemble and Its Music (Delray Beach, FL: Meredith Music Publications, 2018). 155.
  9. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 2 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2003). 138-140.
  10. Richard B. Miles et al., Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, vol. 1 (Chicago, IL: G.I.A. Publications, Inc., 2010). 870-871.
  11. Mark Camphouse et al., Composers on Composing for Band. 349-350.
  12. Frank Ticheli, Postcard (Brooklyn, NY: Manhattan Beach Music, 1993).
  13. Ibid.
  14. Stephen Paul Bolstad, David Maslanka's Symphony No. 4: A Conductor's Analysis with Performance Considerations (Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, 2002). 11.
  15. David Maslanka, “Symphony No. 4,” David Maslanka, September 14, 2020, https://davidmaslanka.com/works/symphony-no-4-2/. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Paul David Garcia, The Assimilation of Musical Styles in Michael Colgrass' "Urban Requiem." (Hattiesburg, MS:  The University of Southern Mississippi, 2003). 7.
  18. Eric Whitacre, “Biography (Long),” Eric Whitacre, March 31, 2022, https://ericwhitacre.com/biography/long. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  19. Eric Whitacre, “Ghost Train – Music Catalog,” Eric Whitacre, January 9, 2019, https://ericwhitacre.com/music-catalog/ghost-train. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 1 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2003). 75.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Frank L. Battisti, The New Winds of Change. 171.
  24. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 1. 35-36.
  25. Michael Daugherty, “Long Biography,” Michael Daugherty, composer, https://michaeldaugherty.net/long-biography/, accessed December 13, 2022.
  26. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 1. 35.
  27. Michael Daugherty, Niagara Falls (New York, NY: Peermusic, 2003).
  28. Mark Camphouse et al., Composers on Composing for Band, vol. 2 (Chicago, IL: G.I.A. Publications, 2004). 97-98.
  29. Paul Gordon Davis, The Historical and Musical Correlation of "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion" with Donald Grantham's "Southern Harmony" (Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, 2006). 16-17.
  30. Ibid. 8-9.
  31. Daron Hagen, “Bio,” Daron Hagen, https://www.daronhagen.com/short-bio, accessed December 13, 2022.
  32. Frank L. Battisti, The New Winds of Change. 180.


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