Selecting Show Music that Addresses a Wide Range of Abilities

Selecting Show Music that Addresses a Wide Range of Abilities

By Key Poulan

As the current pandemic has interrupted live group teaching, a band director may struggle with knowing how to program “attainable” music for this coming fall.  A musician’s skill level is clearly the most critical component when selecting literature. As I like to say, “Anyone can program difficult music and perform it poorly!”

A director has the option to “under program”, to program the level performed in years past, or to “over-program” literature.  As we all look to this fall in particular, we need to meet the needs of ALL students regardless of the unfortunate situation this virus has created.  There is a great discrepancy between one’s very best musician and one who is struggling as a performer.  On one hand, it’s possible to get show music that is too easy for our more talented players.  These students have been through enough without needing to feel the stagnation associated with a lack of being challenged.  On the other hand, it’s not healthy to alienate our more developing players by programming music they will not be able to attain, especially within the time parameters of a potentially shortened marching season.

As educators, we want to provide music that ALL students may achieve.  A great solution is to select music that addresses the needs of the more talented musicians while not worrying about the legality of adapting music for the developing players.  Take a look and see if there are overlapping and alternative level options for musicians that take into account for limited range, syncopation, and rhythmic density.  Music editing and adaptation is something that should be cleared with the copyright holders.  In many (but not all) cases, music companies (especially independent companies) have options which allow editing or they even have works pre-edited to meet the developing player’s needs.  Contact the source and find out what options they have for these players.  We are in it for every student and it’s our responsibility to provide literature that covers multiple ability levels.

Key Poulan is a composer and arranger with an expertise in the marching arts.   He has written for the world’s most famous drum corps, marching bands, indoor wind groups, and indoor percussion ensembles.  As the owner of Key Poulan Music and as a music educator, he has been recognized as one who fosters excellence in student performance through a compassionate approach to music fundamentals.  He has several concert band works to his credit and his marching band arrangements have won several national titles at the Bands of America Grand Nationals Championships. His works have won countless state titles throughout he United States and have been performed around the world.