Byline: Strike A Chord

Internationally acclaimed conductor, educator, adjudicator and clinician, Monte Mumford recently joined us as a webinar panelist on the topic of sourcing repertoire for Strike A Chord. Mr Mumford has shared an insightful list of tips for sourcing repertoire, which you can indulge in below.

Exploring the thought process and rationalisation behind selecting ensemble repertoire towards achieving both educational and artistically creative outcomes.

• It is important to remember that repertoire choice forms an important component in the teaching process.

• Therefore, repertoire choice should remain inextricably linked to our training material. Repertoire provides the incredible opportunity to trial skills and knowledge gained from our investment in technical development.

• One should always careful to choose repertoire that will not outstrip our student’s actual ability to meet the challenges, thus having the opportunity to experience the unfettered joy of music-making.


Consider setting criterion, which will enable one to:

1. Recognise & choose music with both depth and integrity

2. Recognise & choose proven composers and arrangers

3. Explore the ‘standard’ repertoire

4. Develop strategies on how to keep 'current' with the latest developments in repertoire

Accurately assessing our choice of repertoire should include the following considerations:

A. Individual attention spans, instrument ranges and embouchure endurance factors.
1. How long is the work?
2. What are the tempi implications? How much of the work is slow as opposed to fast?
3. How much sustained playing is required, and at what range?
4. How high do the 1st parts extend? And, how low for the bass line?
5. Intonation demands.

B. Technical demands, such as:
1. Fingering, articulation and slide shift demands
2. Rhythmic complexity considerations, such as syncopation and sub-division issues.
3. Expressive and dynamic demands
4. How active and varied are the accompaniment/bassline parts?

C. What are the instrumentation requirements?
1. Is the required instrumentation available; are appropriate substitutions possible?
2. Do the members of the ensemble collectively have the technical skills to meet the musical demands of the work?
3. What are the “solo” requirements within the work, and does the ensemble possess players capable of playing them with sufficient skill and expression?

D. Musical and educational considerations
1. Does the work provide adequate opportunities to introduce, develop and support the skills of our ensemble performance student learning objectives?
2. Is the work worthy our and our ensemble’s time and investment?


Coupled with an effective and definable repertoire selection process is the need to also develop both a personal, as well as a group profile for both our students and ensembles. Maintaining an up-to-date profile is essential for achieving effective educative planning.

1. Start with a three-sentence descriptive statement regarding strengths, weaknesses and areas open for improvement on each student.

2. Include the student and the ensemble's learning styles along with past experiences.

3. What do you wish to accomplish with this specific work?

4. Now expand the exercise to include a three-sentence description for your ensemble.

Thoughts and reflections on a “good music” definition: What will ultimately guide our repertoire choices?

‘Good music’ is capable of reflecting and engendering the widest of human emotion. It also represents an artistic creation of human kind within the context of an identifiable, stylistic period and culture. It too, reflects the ebb and flow of human experience, often expressing some of the most deeply felt of human emotions.

‘Good music’ holds our attention and is remembered through the interaction of the creative use of rhythm, melody, harmonic motion, timbre and texture. It can, at its best, take us to places deep within our heart, and stir up long forgotten memories.

Personal choice/taste, musical understanding and musical depth are often directly related to our own personal experiences, encountering both great visual and performing art and great artists. To what degree and frequency do we experience exposure to great art in our personal lives? How good are we nourishing our musical souls? Surely being an artist is a way of life, a way of understanding the world of beauty and ugliness around us, experiencing triumph and tragedy, peace and restlessness.

Every piece of music that we choose to share with our students should be subjected to this criterion. However, an aesthetic choice must take in the context of musical depth that great performing artists bring to the art form. This is why we need the inspiration through regularly being exposed to the finest of musical performances.

There are several texts available that will assist us in determining the complex issue of ensemble grading and ensemble assessment. However, in the final analysis, repertoire choice remains a highly subjective topic and it is imperative that we have a clear knowledge and deep understanding of our ensemble’s strengths and weaknesses.

I would like to conclude this discussion on repertoire choice with a quote from Professor Craig Kirchhoff, former Director of Bands, University of Minnesota:

“Selecting repertoire is much more than picking pieces for the next concert, festival or competition. In fact, selecting the appropriate repertoire is the most important thing that we do as music educators. We enjoy a very special freedom and a very special privilege because we are empowered as music educators to create a meaningful curriculum for our students. With that freedom and privilege comes an enormous responsibility.”

Watch the full webinar segment featuring Wilma Smith, Monte Mumford, Joanna Drimatis and Mark Walton below.

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