1960 – Fiesta del Pacifico – Roger Nixon

Roger Nixon (1921-2009) was an American composer who studied with Arthur Bliss, Ernest Bloch, Roger Sessions, and Arnold Schoenberg. He taught at Modesto Junior College from 1951-1959, and from 1960-1990 he taught at San Francisco State University. While most known for his compositions for band, he also wrote for orchestra, chamber ensembles, piano, and voice. In 1973, Nixon was awarded the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Prize for his piece Festival Fanfare-March.[1]

In the 1950s, San Diego held a community festival highlighting the city’s Spanish and Mexican heritage. The first Fiesta del Pacifico began on July 18, 1956, and lasted for 33 days.[2] While the festival did not continue after 1959, it was commemorated by Roger Nixon’s composition of the same name, Fiesta del Pacifico. One of Nixon’s most often performed works, Fiesta del Pacifico, exists as a variant of a rondo. While not in a typical ABACA or ABCBA form, the different sections are clear, sometimes returning with slight alterations.[3]

1960 – Incantation and Dance – John Barnes Chance

John Barnes Chance (1932-1972) was born in Beaumont, TX, and began studying composition when he was 15. He studied with Clifton Williams, Kent Kennan, and Paul Pisk at the University of Texas, Austin, where he received a B.M. in music theory and composition and an M.M. in composition. After graduation, Chance served as the timpanist for the Austin Symphony Orchestra and a staff arranger for the Fourth and Eighth U.S. Army bands. From 1960-1962 he was a composer-in-residence for the Ford Foundation Young Composers Project in Greensboro, North Carolina. He served on the faculty at the University of Kentucky from 1966 until he died in 1972.[4]

Before his time in Greensboro, Chance saw himself as more of an orchestral composer. He never intended to write for symphonic bands and was unfamiliar with the limitations of students’ technical abilities. However, after many conversations with Herbert Hazelman (the band director at Greensboro High School), he began to write for high school bands. “Incantation and Dance,” Chance’s first piece for band, was performed on November 16, 1960.[5] Originally named “Nocturne and Dance,” this piece was written for and dedicated to the Greensboro High School Band.

1961 – Sinfonietta – Ingolf Dahl

The Sinfonietta for Concert Band was commissioned in 1960 by the Northwestern and Western Divisions of the College Band Directors National Association. It premiered in 1961 by the University of Southern California Wind Orchestra. Dahl later revised to the piece in 1964, and its final version premiered at the 13th National Conference of the CBDNA in Tempe, Arizona.[6] The Sinfonietta is written in three movements:

    1. Introduction and Rondo
    2. Pastoral Nocturne
    3. Dance Variations

The first movement exists as a modified Sonata-Rondo form with a two-part introduction, the second in ABA form, and the third as a theme and variations.[7] This work uses exposed solos in the oboe, English horn, bassoon, alto saxophone, cornet, horn, and trombone.[8]

1963 – Variants on a Mediaeval Tune – Norman Dello Joio

Norman Dello Joio (1913-2008) began studying music at four when his father taught him to play piano and organ. At the age of 14, in 1927, he earned his first position as a professional musician, becoming the organist at the Star of the Sea Church on City Island, New York. He began composing in 1937 after taking an advanced music theory course at the Julliard School of Music. In 1941, he was accepted as a graduate composition student at Julliard and began studying with Bernard Wagenaar. That same year he met Paul Hindemith at the inaugural season of the Tanglewood Music Center. Hindemith invited the budding composer to study with him, so once a week, Dello Joio commuted to Yale University while continuing his coursework at Julliard.[9] Dello Joio received many grants and awards during his career, including two Guggenheim Fellowships in 1943 and 1944. In 1957 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his Meditations on Ecclesiastes for string orchestra.[10]

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation commissioned Dello Joio to write

Variants on a Medieval Tune for the Duke University Band, and it premiered on April 10, 1963. In this piece, the composer creates five contrasting variations on the melody from In dulci jubilo. Originally known as a Christmas carol, In dulci jubilo has been arranged and developed by many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Variants on a Mediaeval was Dello Joio’s first original work for wind band.[11] Other important compositions to note: Scenes from “The Louvre” (1966), Fantasies on a Theme by Haydn (1968), and Satiric Dances (1975).

1963 – The Leaves Are Falling – Warren Benson

Warren Benson (1924-2005) was a self-taught composer who wrote 150 works for various ensembles, including wind band and orchestra. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, he started taking percussion lessons at eight. Benson also began taking horn lessons in high school, where he played in a band daily. He enrolled in the School of Music at the University of Michigan in 1943. At the time, the University of Michigan did not have a percussion professor, so Benson was asked to teach private lessons and percussion methods courses for music education majors.[12] He performed with several ensembles and, for a brief time, was a member of William Revelli’s concert band. Benson on playing in Revelli’s band:

Playing in Revelli’s band, after being in the School of Music orchestra, was a letdown for me. Revelli was too harsh as far as I was concerned. He would stop a rehearsal and single out somebody who made a mistake and then really demean them, especially if they were a graduate student, making cutting remarks such as, ‘You should know better than that…what kind of example do you think you’re setting here? You mean you’re going to go out and teach students to play like this?’ He would act like this in front of the whole band. You don’t do that. It really annoyed me. I just couldn’t stand it. One time in his rehearsal, I finished a flam with my sticks lifted off the snare head, which is quite normal. He stopped the band and said, ‘Benson, were you going to play another note?!’ And I said, ‘No sir, there isn’t another note…’ to which he replied, ‘You see me afterwards.’ He thought I was insolent in my answer. After rehearsal I said, ‘You asked me a pointed forceful question for no reason and I gave you a positive answer.’ So we agreed to disagree – I went my way and he went his.[13]

Benson had a thriving and eclectic career as a musician, teacher, and composer. In 1950, he was awarded two consecutive Fulbright Fellowships to Salonika, Greece, where he taught at Anatolia College. In 1952, he was hired as the Director of Band and Orchestra at Mars Hill College, but left in 1953 for a position teaching composition and percussion at Ithaca College.[14]During his fourteen-year tenure at Ithaca, he became friends with Frank Battisti.

In 1963, Frank Battisti asked Kappa Gamma Psi, a national music fraternity, to commission Benson to write a piece for wind band, and

The Leaves Are Falling was premiered on April 30, 1964, by the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Benson began writing the piece on November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.[15] In the score, Benson expresses that the piece is a “statement of grief following the assassination of President Kennedy,” and that he took inspiration from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem Herbst (Autumn):

The leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,                                                              as though far gardens withered in the skies;

They are falling with denying gestures.

And in the nights the heavy earth is falling

from all the stars down into loneliness.

We all are falling. This hand falls.

And look at the others: it is in them all.

And yet there is one, who holds this falling

with infinite gentleness in his hands.[16]

In the second half of the piece, Benson quotes the chorale Ein’ feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress). With a combination of exposed playing in every section and tempo markings that include “half note marked at 32-34 bpm,” this piece requires great concentration from all performers involved. Two years later, Benson would compose his piece Solitary Dancer, one of the first works for band that also requires instrumentalists to sing during its performance.[17]

1964 – Emblems – Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was a renowned American composer who wrote for screen, stage, and concert hall. His extensive works include: El Salón México (1936), Billy the Kid (1938), Lincoln Portrait (1942), Rodeo (1942), Appalachian Spring (1944), and The Red Pony (1948).

In May 1963, the College Band Directors National Association decided to commission a prominent composer to write a work for wind band. Keith Wilson, CBDNA President wrote to Copland asking him to consider accepting their commission. Emblems premiered on December 18, 1964, by the University of Southern California band at the CBDNA National Convention in Tempe, Arizona. In the score, Copland noted:

… I wanted to write a work that was challenging to young players without overstraining their technical abilities. The work is tripartite in form: slow-fast-slow, with the return of the first part varied. Embedded in the quiet, slow music, the listener may hear a brief quotation of a well-known hymn tune Amazing Grace, published by William Walker in The Southern Harmony in 1835. Curiously enough, the accompanying harmonies had been conceived first, without reference to any tune. It was only a chance of perusal of a recent anthology of old ‘Music in America’ that made me realize a connection existed between my harmonies and the old hymn tune.

An emblem stands for something – it is a symbol. I called the work Emblems because it seemed to me to suggest musical states of being: noble or aspirational feelings, playful or spirited feelings. The exact nature of these emblematic sounds must be determined for himself by each listener.[18]

The premier was met with some controversy, and the members of CBDNA were not initially enthused with the piece. However, over time Emblems has been accepted as a work of great artistic merit for wind ensemble. When performing Emblems, it is crucial to consider that this composition uses parallel quartal and quintal sonorities, which can be challenging to balance. Endurance should also be considered when programming this piece, as it is vital that players are not fatigued[19] While many of Copland’s pieces have been transcribed and arranged for band, Emblems is his only work written specifically for a wind band.


1966 – Designs, Images, and TexturesLeslie Bassett

American composer, Leslie Bassett (1923-2016) was born in Hanford, California. His studies at Fresno State College were interrupted by World War II, and he served a thirty-eight-month tour as a trombonist in the 13th Armored Division Band. After returning home, he completed his undergraduate studies in 1947 and went to graduate school at the University of Michigan. While at Michigan, he studied with Ross Lee Finney and completed an M.M. in composition in 1949. He was selected as a Fulbright Scholar from 1950-1951 and was able to study with Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, France. In 1952, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan, where he also completed a doctorate in 1956. He was named chair of the composition department in 1970 and held that title until his retirement in 1991. His compositions won several major awards, including the Prix de Rome in 1961 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1966.[20]

Designs, Images, and Textures was commissioned by Frank Battisti and the Ithaca High School Band. The piece was published in 1996 when Bassett won the Pulitzer Prize for his Variations for Orchestra. Designs, Images, and Textures is written in five movements: Oil Painting, Water Color, Pen and Ink Drawing, Mobile, and Bronze Sculpture.[21]

Other pieces for winds that Leslie Bassett wrote include Sounds, Shapes, and Symbols (1978), Colors and Contours (1985), and Lullaby (for Kirsten) (1985).

1966 – Variations on a Korean Folk SongJohn Barnes Chance

After completing graduate school in 1956, John Barnes Chance was concerned about being drafted into the military. Rather than wait to see what would happen, he and his friend Larry Weiner voluntarily enlisted, hoping to stay stateside. Chance was initially assigned to serve as a percussionist and arranged for the Fourth U.S. Army Band at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. In 1958 his assignment changed, and he was sent to Seoul to serve as the music arranger for the Eighth U.S. Army Band.[22]

While in Korea, Chance was exposed to the Korean folksong Arirang (pronounced AH-dee-dong). In 1966 he used this pentatonic-based melody to write Variations on a Korean Folk Song.[23] Chance presents Arirang as the central theme in this composition and then develops five variations that alternate between fast and slow tempos. This piece was awarded the Ostwald Award in 1966 by the American Bandmasters Association.

1968 – Music for Prague 1968 – Karel Husa

In the spring of 1968, Husa’s sister invited him to return home for a visit, but he could not attend due to a prior engagement teaching a summer course at Northwestern University. At that time, the people of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) were experiencing more freedom under reforms by Alexander Dubcek, known as the “Prague Spring.” However, on August 21, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact members invaded Prague to stop Dubcek. Eleven days later, Husa was commissioned to write a piece by the Ithaca College Concert Band. Within two months he wrote Music for Prague 1968, and the piece premiered on January 31, 1969.[24] Music for Prague contains four movements:

    1. Introduction and Fanfare
    2. Aria
    3. Interlude
    4. Toccata and Chorale

In the score Husa requests that the following Foreword be printed in its entirety in all concert programs or read to the audience before any performance of the piece:

Three main ideas bind the composition together. The first and most important is an old Hussite war song from the 15th century, Ye Warriors of God and His Law, a symbol of resistance and hope for hundreds of years, whenever fate lay heavy on the Czech nation. It has been utilized also by many Czech composers, including Smetana in My Country. The beginning of this religious song is announced very softly in the first movement by the timpani and concludes in a strong unison (Chorale). The song is never used in its entirety.

The second idea is the sound of bells throughout, Prague, named also the City of “Hundreds of Towers,” has used its magnificently sounding church bells as calls of distress as well as of victory. The last idea is a motif of three chords first appearing very softly under the piccolo solo at the beginning of the piece, in flutes, clarinets and horns. Later it reappears at extremely strong dynamic levels, for example, in the middle of the Aria.

Different techniques of composing as well as orchestrating have been used in Music for Prague 1968 and some new sounds explored, such as the percussion section in the Interlude, the ending of the work, etc. Much symbolism also appears: in addition to the distress calls in the first movement (Fanfares), the unbroken hope of the Hussite song, sound of bells, or the tragedy (Aria), there is also the bird call at the beginning (piccolo solo), a symbol of the liberty which the City of Prague has seen only for moments during its thousand years of existence.[25]

  1. William Berz, "Nixon, Roger." Grove Music Online. 24 Feb. 2010; Accessed 12 Nov. 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-1002085448.
  2. Charles Davis, “Dedication, Parade Begin 33-Day Fete,” The San Diego Union. July 18, 1956. 1.
  3. Timothy Salzman, ed. A Composer’s Insight, Volume 3 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2006), 135.
  4. Raoul F. Camus, "Chance, John Barnes." Grove Music Online.2001; Accessed 6 Dec. 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000047053.
  5. Steven N. Kelly, “John Barnes Chance and His Contributions to Music Education.” Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 21, no. 1 (1999): 30. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40215204.
  6. John H. Kloecker, “An Analysis of Ingolf Dahl's Sinfonietta for Concert Band. Journal of Band Research, 28(2), 1993. 39
  7. Ibid, 40.
  8. Chad Nicholson, Great Music for Wind Band: A Guide to the Top 100 Works in Grades IV, V, VI (Meredith Music Publications, 2009). 133.
  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). 16-17.
  10. Jackson, Richard. "Dello Joio, Norman." Grove Music Online.2001; Accessed 7 Dec. 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000007496.
  11. Norman Dello Joio, Variants on a Mediaeval Tune (New York: Marks Music, 1963), 1.
  12. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 3 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2006). 32-33.
  13. Ibid, 33.
  14. Yim, Chee Weng, 2017. "An Analysis OF Passing Bell (1974) BY WARREN BENSON (1924-2005)." Journal of Band Research 52 (2) (Spring): 19-39,93. https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/analysis-passing-bell-1974-warren-benson-1924/docview/1896759051/se-2. 19-20.
  15. 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). 92-93.
  16. Warren Benson, The Leaves Are Falling (New York: Marks Music, 1966), 1. 
  17. Battisti, The New Winds of Change. 93-94.
  18. Ibid, 90.
  19. Chad Nicholson, Great Music for Wind Band. 128.
  20. Daniel R. Davis, "A Performance Analysis of Three Works for Wind Band by Leslie Bassett." (Order No. 9511316, University of Cincinnati, 1994). https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/performance-analysis-three-works-wind-band-leslie/docview/304102952/se-2 (accessed December 7, 2022). 1.
  21. Ibid. 4.
  22. Steven N. Kelly, “John Barnes Chance and His Contributions to Music Education.” 27.
  23. Ibid, 28.
  24. 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). 72-73.
  25. Karel Husa, Music for Prague 1968 (New York: Associate Music Publishers, 1969). 1.


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