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Megan Tompkins

Repertoire List
Grade 1
Apollo Suite (String Orchestra)
Composer: Merle J. Isaac
Publisher: Alfred Publishing Company
Date: 1972
Teaching Points: Apollo Suite features four movements: Prelude, Waltz, Scherzo, and Dance. The
first movement is in common time and features a D. C. al Fine. It starts with pizzicato until it
reaches Andante in which the group bows with a legato style. The second movement is in 3/4 time
and also features pizzicato as well as hooked bowings throughout the piece. This piece even has full
measure slurs as well as two measure ties. Movement number three also requires pizzicato and
circle bows in the accompanying voices. Cellos use open C string and both cellos and violas use their
G strings. This movement also features eighth notes in the upper voices and hair pins in the lower
voices. The final movement passees the melody across the upper voices using staccato bows while
the lower voices have to play legato. Tempo will be challenging within the pizzicato sections as well
as transitions between movements. Range is all in first position and stays in the key of G so upper
strings must use low 2 and lower strings must use second finger.

Cripple Creek (String Orchestra)

Composer: Traditional
Arranger: Edmund Siennicki
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1996
Teaching Points: This piece is all in first position (with the exception of an optional high D on the G
string for basses), so students will be able to focus on building D and A string skills. Since the piece
is so simple for note reading, the teacher can spend more time focusing on the musical aspects of
the piece. The bowing is detache throughout and there are sections of pizzicato in the cello and
bass. All instrument except viola get a chance to play the melody.

Dragonhunter (String Orchestra)

Composer: Richard Meyer
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1998
Teaching Points: The piece is in 4/4 and keeps a constant tempo. The key is in D major and students
do not leave the D or A string (basses do have to shift on their G string to high D). Rhythms are
simple and there are no slurs or ties. All bowings are straightforward and the development is
pizzicato. The pizzicato section will be a good place to work on steady tempo and internalizing the
beat. The only articulation necessary for the bow is deteche. Notes must be smooth but detached so
working on getting that clean separation of bow would be good for this piece. There are only two
dynamics listed and they are piano and forte, so the teacher can experiment and add some to
enhance the piece.
Megan Tompkins

Fiddles on Fire (String Orchestra)

Composer: Mark Williams
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1996
Teaching Points: Fiddles on Fire is a great energy booster. The running eighth notes are made less
intimidating by including alternating notes so students can focus on keeping the fast tempo while
alternating fingers on the same string. The piece is also in D Mixolydian so students will have to
alternate between C natural and C sharp. The bowings are detache for eighth notes and martele for
quarter notes. Students will have to focus on bow placement, weight, and speed to help control
these factors. It also features double down bows and two note slurs (two eighth notes).

March of the Metro Gnome (String Orchestra)

Composer: Fred M. Hubbell
Publisher: Kendor Music, Inc.
Date: 1968
Teaching Points: The whole piece is played of the D and G string for all instruments. The bass part is
optional and unfortunately, basses only play for a short period. The work does feature pizzicato
sections and will force students to have to listen around the orchestra so they do not rush. The
harmonization is very simple but not boring. All parts feature the melody at some point and
rhythms are very simple (quarter, half, and whole notes and rests). Bowing are provided and are
straightforward. The piece would be best played with a solo wood block to be the steady

Grade 2
Appalachian Sunrise (String Orchestra)
Composer: Doris Gazda
Publisher: Neil A. Kjos Music Company
Date: 1993
Teaching Points: Although Appalachian Sunrise sounds beautiful, slow, and melodic, the piece is
notated in cut time so that the music feels forward moving rather than slow and stagnant. The piece
is also in C major but does feature some accidentals (such as G#’s and F#’s in Cello/Bass, and D# in
Viola, measure 79-80). The piece is generally pretty easy technique wise until measure 77 to the
end. The first violins shift into third and then into fifth, while the cellos have both forward and
backwards extensions, with basses shifting up and down on their G strings. The ending features a
huge dynamic climax on a C major chord. All bowings are meant to be done with minimal space and
feature long, smooth, legato bows.

Fiddling A-Round (String Orchestra)

Composer: John Caponegro
Publisher: Kendor Music, INC.
Date: 1935
Megan Tompkins

Teaching Points: Although Fiddling A-Round is listed as a level 2, it is a very easy level 2. The
rhythms in the piece are not very complicated and focus on the passing of eighth notes from section
to section. The piece is in e natural minor and stays in first position for all except the basses, which
shift up to the high D on the G string (4 measures after C and 1 before E). The round is broken down
into three parts, Violin 1, Violin 2/Viola, and Cello/Bass. This piece is a good way to get all sections
playing the melody and is a great piece to build intonation. Since the round starts with the building
of the e minor chord (low to high voices), the students have to start from a solid foundation in
order to play through the melody.

Conquistador! (String Orchestra)

Composer: Deborah Baker Monday
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1999
Teaching Points: The most challenging aspect of this piece is the rhythms. The notes are pretty
straight forward for the most part (a few accidentals cross the board). Because of the complexity of
the rhythms, students will have to work on feeling the running eighth notes and constantly count.
The time is tricky because if the performer relies on feel rather than exact subdivision, they will
enter incorrectly. There are a few tempo changes as well as drastic changes in dynamics (p to ff).
This is also a great piece to work on phrasing with. The phrase occurs every three measures so
students can use that constant as a way to build their skill and get back together by the fourth

Dramatic Essay (String Orchestra)

Composer: Mark Williams
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1994
Teaching Points: This is a great piece to help reinforce bow control. Because of the nature of the
piece, students must have steady bow speed and weight distribution for the slow sections while
having a strong idea on bow placement, speed and weight for the faster and aggressive sections.
Although the piece is simple in regards to note identification, it would be a challenging level 2
because of the technical ability the students would need to have in order for the piece to be played
successfully. The rhythms are pretty straightforward, but there are many ties featured in the
Andante sections. There are also many bow lifts and a spiccato bow stroke is necessary for the
Allegro section.

Jupiter from the Planets, Op.32 (String Orchestra)

Composer: Gustav Holst
Arranger: Deborah Baker Monday
Publisher: Neil A. Kjos Music Company
Date: 2006
Teaching Points: This piece does teach the students to be much more independent than compared
to a level 1. The range is very simple as are the rhythms, so students can focus more on phrasing
and articulation. The piece has a beautiful choral like ending in which the sections must move
Megan Tompkins

together and play in the same position in the bow in order to create the correct effect. All sections
get the melody for a prolonged period of time, which will make this piece much more enjoyable to
the student. The teacher can focus on the transferring of the melodic line and how each instrument
must make it seamless. The key is in G major and stays in first position with the exception of the
cellos and basses, but many parts can be taught in 3rd position across the orchestra.

Toccatina (String Orchestra)

Composer: William Hofeldt
Publisher: Neil A. Kjos Music Company
Date: 1991
Teaching Points: The main idea of this piece is the over exaggeration of dynamics. The composer
make a special point to mention that the piece was written to be easy melodically so that the
dynamics would be the “star” of the piece. There are many sforzandos throughout the piece as well
as many swells or hair pins. Everything is in arpeggios and scalar patterns so that students will
have an easier time facilitating the fingerboard. The piece is also in d melodic minor and as the
composer writes “is meant to help build technical skills just as an etude would.” The piece also calls
for a martele bow stroke and all lower bow control.

Grade 3
A “Bark” Gigue
Composer: Ralph Hultgren
Publisher: Ludwig-Masters Publications
Date: 1994
Teaching Points: The piece is in 6/8 and is felt in two. It is also in G major and features a chromatic
section across the orchestra. The work also features running eighth notes and works on long-short
bow strokes with quarter notes followed by eighth notes. The bowings are all detache as is typical
of a Gigue. All instruments do shift into a position (the highest being fourth in the cello line). There
is a coda so students will have to go over what D.S. al coda means. Overall the piece works to keep
the traditional Australian folk style so the tempo is quick and constant.

Arlington Sketches
Composer: Elliot Del Borgo
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1994
Teaching Points: Although this piece is listed as a Grade 3, it is definitely a harder Grade 3. The
piece features a lot of running scalar sections as well as challenging slurs that have bow crossings in
the upper strings. Those bow crossing slurs are also done consistently on two eighth notes.
Students will need to work on bow speed, and distribution to master the bowing. There are also
sections of third position in all of the instruments as well as fifth position in the first violin section.
The piece also has accidentals (Eb’s) as well as double stops with fingers down. LAstly the piece
incorporates running sixteenth notes in all voices.

Geometric Dances
Megan Tompkins

Composer: Richard Meyer

Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1995
Teaching Points: Geometric Dances goes through three sections, a Square Dance, a Round Dance,
and a Triangle Dance. Students will have a chance to experience 2/4, 3/4, and 6/8, so a change in
both rhythmic feel and style is required. This piece goes through the keys of D and C major, as well
as d minor.

Rosin Eating Zombies from Outer Space

Composer: Richard Meyer
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Teaching Points: This piece is a great use for viola melody. The violas receive quite a few sections of
melody as well as individual soli sections. The piece also allows the group to experiment on their
instruments in a way they usually don't. It encorporated hard pizzicato (snapping) and light
pizzicato (all found in the in the lower voices). It also calls for students to practice sliding their
fingers up and down the strings to create an effect rather than just melody. There are also sections
where the players can play over the bridge and just explore the different way they can change the
mood of the piece. Although the piece is mostly in minor, it does feature sections in major. The
rhythms as well as the range are low and relatively comfortable for all instruments. It is a good
piece to help reinforce G, C, and E string (basses) notes.

Shepherd’s Hey
Composer: Percy Grainger
Arr. S. Dackow
Publisher: Tempo Press
Date: 1999
Teaching Points: Dockow arranges this piece so that the string are divided up into 8 lines (and at
one point 13 voices) rather than a traditional 5. The student will have to focus on playing more of a
solo instrument in an ensemble rather than a whole section. Although notation is very easy to
understand and read, students will have a hard time with quick entrances and rolling of chords.
This piece would be a higher level 3 because of its use of shifting in the upper strings as well as
lower strings. There are many hair pin sections so work can be done on phrasing. What is most
beneficial is that the melodic structure of the piece remains the same, the whole group can work on
effecting the mood of each section and different articulations that are best suited for a particular

Grade 4
Hungarian Dance No. 6
Composer: Johannes Brahms
Arr. Merle J. Isaac
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 1869
Megan Tompkins

Teaching Points: The ensemble might have a hard time in the opening phrase as well as the
repeated phrase later in the beginning because of the fermatas and quick change in tempo. All
Instruments must also be comfortable in third position and cellos and bass up to fourth position.
The piece also has prolonged half notes so vibrato would be a great technique to teach with this
piece. There are also many sections that require a spiccato bow, but students must be careful not to
rush those sections. The rhythms are also a little tricky. There are sixteenth note triplets which act
like trills, but students may have a hard time reading them as such.

Composer: Vaclav Nelhybel
Publisher: E. C. Kerby Ltd.
Date: 1971
Teaching Points: The piece begins in Adagio and works up to an Allegro. Students will have to work
on tempo transitions as well as stylistic approaches. The Adagio will require legato bow strokes
while the Allegro calls for balance point spiccato. The melodic structure of the piece is based on five
notes (A, D, C, B, and A). It is a great contemporary piece to work on because it goes through two
mode that students are not always familiar with (D minor/dorian and A minor/hypodorian). The
piece is in first position and does require a mute for some sections. There are sections of
syncopation across the orchestra and a large dynamic contrast is needed (pp-ff).

Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance (String Orchestra)

Percy E. Fletcher
Boosey & Hawkes Music Publications
Teaching Points: The piece features both fast and slow works with the first movement in 6/8 and
the second in 2/4. The first movement starts in a two pattern and works its way into a pure 6. The
second movement fires away in 2 and towards the end can almost be taken in 1. In standard fiddle
fashion, there are many string crossings in both movements as well as rolled chords and open
string double stops. The range does not go above third position in the violins and violas and cellos
and basses have some extensions and only shift up into third position. There melody is passed
around to all voices and harmonies are rich and full. There are many C-string moments for both
cello and viola so those sections must be powerful. There are hooked bows as is standard in fiddle
rep and rolled pizzicato chords. The piece switches between a minor and e minor with one section
in the first movement in D major. The piece also incorporates two measure ties as well as slurs and
call for multiple articulation styles (legato, staccato, spiccato). This would be a great piece for high
school students.

Finlandia, Op. 26, No. 7 (Full Orchestra)

Jean Sibelius
Owen Goldsmith
Alfred Publishing Co
Megan Tompkins

Teaching Points: The piece is very dark and rich in textures. The group will have to work on
dynamic and tonal control. Although it is dark, the melodic lines are beautiful and in stepwise
motion. The instrumental range is not challenging for winds but does call for some fifth position in
the violins and fingers as well as bowings are featured in this arrangement. The arrangement also
eliminates some of the original tricky rhythms, but a strong rhythmic pulse is needed due to the
syncopation in the strings and woodwinds towards the climax of the piece (m.113 - end). The brass
feature double tonguing. The tonal structure of the piece is f, and Ab minor. The arrangements calls
for: two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones,
a tuba, timpani, percussion, and full strings. This is a very hard level 5 but because of the range, it is
not on the same level as a 6.

Capriccio Espagnol (Full Orchestra)

Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Publisher: Public Domain
Date: 1887
Teaching Points: This piece is fast paced and requires a lot of technical facility in both strings and
winds. The string parts include ricochet bow strokes as well as spiccato strokes in the faster
movements, while the slower movements call for creamy and smooth legato bows. The brass is
featured in both a beautiful choral and fanfare. Since the piece is written by a Russian composer, it
is meant to be played with a lush and deep tone so discussing to play in the string and with lots of
spun air is important. The piece is very taxing on the whole ensemble with the tremendous use of
bow and air, the musicians must learn about pacing and not to over blow/bow.

Grade 5:
Eine Kleine Nacht Musik K. 525 (String Orchestra)
Composer: Mozart
Publisher: Public Domain
Date: 1787
Teaching Points: The four movement piece is a staple for all string players. The piece is in the key of
G major and although the range is reasonable, getting the articulations just right is incredibly tricky.
Students must work on keeping a brushed bow stroke during fast and separate passages while
smooth and pure legato through slurs and slower sections. They also have to work on phrasing and
how each phrase must start in a crescendo and end in a dramatic crescendo. Getting the trills just
right is also a very hard task and starting from the note above must be stressed. Students must
focus on not rushing through the second movement with the separated half notes throughout the
melodic line. Violins will have to shift up to 4th position, while violas and basses will have to shift as
high as 3rd position.

“Hoe Down” from Rodeo (Full Orchestra)

Aaron Copland
Teaching Points: The piece is very fast paced and features many passages of running sixteenth
notes in all sections (strings and winds) at an Allegro tempo in 2/4. Since the key is in D major, it is
Megan Tompkins

a relief to the strings, but makes the wind parts more challenging. Although most of the piece is fast
and staccato, there are sections that call for legato but the tempo must remain fast. There are plenty
of passages that feature syncopation so students must work on their internal pulse. There are a few
solo passages in the winds and the orchestra must work on balance and blend to create the right
texture of the solo. The instrumentation calls for: one flute, two piccolos, two oboes, one english
horn, two clarinets, one bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones,
tuba, timpani, xylophone, glockenspiel, celeste, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, piano, harp, and full
strings sections

Danse Macabre (Full Orchestra)

Composer: Camille Saint-Saens
Publisher: Public Domain
Date: 1874
Teaching Points: This piece can be quite a challenge as a level 5 and offers a violinist an opportunity
to play out. The solo is not particularly hard in first position, but can be created harder by having
the student play the solo on the G and D and A string in multiple positions. The piece also features
multiple sections where the solo tells a story and the rest of the orchestra responds to the melody.
This piece could demonstrate different articulations in both the winds and strings on how to make
the instrument represent a laugh (with chromaticism and prolonged long slurs) or a cry and retreat
(using tremeloes and slight swells across the orchestra). There is a lot of modality throughout the
piece. Students will have to focus on their chromatic scales to help build this skill and get it in their

Rhosymedre: “Prelude on a Welsh Hymn Tune” (Full Orchestra)

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Arr. Arnold Foster
Galaxy Music Corporation
Teaching Points: Rhosymedre is a great piece to help teach rhythmic pulse (slow moving lines) and
reading in 4/2 time. The piece stays in G major and is rhythmically very challenging to read. The
melody is stepwise and legato and violas start the melody in the beginning so a strong viola section
is needed. All parts feature divisi sections so rhythmic independence must be strong throughout all
sections. The piece is very mellow so the loudest dynamic is forte. That means that the group must
focus on balance and blending. The instrumentation calls for: two flutes, one oboe, two clarinets,
two bassoons, two horns, one, trumpet, and full string parts. All wind parts are doubled by the
strings so if no winds are available, the piece can be played as a string orchestra.

St. Paul’s Suite (String Orchestra)

Gustav Holst
J. Curwin
G Schirmer, Inc
Megan Tompkins

Teaching Points: Through the use of folk tunes and strong melodic passages, this piece will be be
both fun and catchy to students. It does have a false sense of ease. It looks easy, but both the length
and modality of the works make it challenging. The first movement features fast sections and is in
C# mixolydian which causes the first violin section to have a fast shift into 5th position. The second
movement is challenging because it is a constant ostinato and is very slow moving. The ostinato is
transferred between sections and steadiness as well as bow control is important. This movement
also features zero cadences until the end which cause a sense of unease and may throw off the
group. The third movement features many tempo changes and may catch the unsuspecting
musician off guard. Finally, the last movement focuses on polyrhythms across the orchestra. While
one section may be playing the “Greensleeves” theme, the rest of the orchestra is playing a different
melody on top of it which creates a hemiola. The cellos also have to read in tenor clef which makes
the section even more difficult.

Grade 6:
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 (Full Orchestra)
Composer: Johannes Brahms
Date: 1880
Teaching Points: All of the parts (string and wind) are extremely challenging and require a high
level of performance skill. There are many arpeggiated sections in the string sections which would
make scale work important. The strings also feature many running sixteenth note and thirty-second
note runs in the upper strings. There are many exposed sections in the woodwinds and brass so
special attention is needed from the conductor. The piece focuses around c minor, C major, and G
major. It also features common and cut time as well as 3/4. Lastly, the piece calls for dramatic
dynamics, articulations, and espressivo sections due to its romantic nature. The needed
instrumentation for this piece is: piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons,
contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals,
triangle, and full strings sections.

Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 (String Orchestra)

Composer: Samuel Barber
Date: 1935
Teaching Points: Adagio for Strings calls for very mature musicians play the piece in a haunting
manor. It features many swells so it calls for very solid bow control. Although the piece is not super
technical in the beginning, the piece comes to a climax by section 5 of the piece. All string sections
have shifted into fifth or seventh position, and intonation at this point is critical. What is most
helpful is that the melodic structure of the piece is in stepwise motion so shifts are manageable. The
melody is also passed through each section and modulates through Bb minor, Eb minor, E major,
and ends back in Bb minor. The tone of the piece is connected to the dramatic change in dynamics
and all pp must be drastically different from mp and vise versa. This piece would best suite an
advanced high school group.
Megan Tompkins

A Night on Bald Mountain (Full Orchestra)

Composer: Mussorgsky
Publisher: Public Domain
Date: 1867
Teaching Points: This piece features the instruments as effects rather than all melodic. There are
parts where the strings are meant to mimic the wind or the laughing of evil spirits, so a thorough
understanding of different articulations to fit the mood is necessary (martele, spiccato, deteshe,
etc.). There are some very tricky passages that have the strings shifting into 4th positions (with
violins shifting into 7th). The melody is passed back and forth between all sections of the orchestra
and is a great way to teach tone and balance. The teacher can focus on the sections passing the
melody off and having the orchestra blend behind it. Finally, the last section of the piece will require
great bow control in regards to speed, weight and tilt. The part is very light and airy and will
require focus and control in both the strings and winds.

Candide Overture (Full Orchestra)

Composer: Leonard Bernstein
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Date: 1956
Teaching Points: One of the hardest aspects of this piece is the quick tempo. There are also quick
mute changes in the brass which would be a great section to go over in regards to choreographing
the changes. There are also some awkward fingering throughout the ensemble that are even more
challenging because of the fast tempo. The teacher should take time to allow the students to layer as
an ensemble at slower tempos before bringing it up to make sure everyone is lining up. There is
also a sense of airiness and articulations need to complement it. Here is also changes in meter
throughout the piece and melody is transferred to different beats so it never feel the same. A strong
sense of rhythms and subdivision is needed.

Simple Symphony (String Orchestra)

Composer: Benjamin Britten
Date: 1934
Teaching Points: This piece features four movements: Boisterous Bourree, Playful Pizzicato,
Sentimental Saraband, and Frolicsome Finale. Just as their names suggest, all four movements are
based off of different baroque dances. The piece goes through the keys of C, G, D, F, and Bb major as
well as d and g minor. Along with the multiple key changes, there are sections of chromaticism
within the harmonic lines and multiple positions are included (1/2, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and
extensions). Since the first movement is a bourree, it is encouraged that the group stay fast and
light. The movement should have a forward feeling to it even when it changes to a legato section
and back to a staccato section.The second movement requires precise pizzicato so inner pulse must
be strong across the group. There are many rolled chords so intonation is very important.
Movement 3 requires a lot of bow control and harmonies must be very intune to help with the
modulations and exposed leading tones. The final movement, tests all of the technical facilities of
the players by incorporating drastic dynamic changes, syncopation, bow control, strong rhythmic
Megan Tompkins

pulse for fast pizzicato sections, and shifts into fifth position. Dynamic contrast is important
throughout all four movements. This piece is on the lower end of a level six and would best suited
for a good high school group.

Kabuki Dance (Grade 1 - String Orchestra)
Composer: Richard Meyer
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Date: 2004
Teaching Points: Kabuki Dance is an exceptional piece to help teach the music of eastern asia.
Although the form of piece has been written in traditional western style, the melodic structure is in
D pentatonic. The only notes the students will use are D, E, F#, A and B. The piece does feature the G
string for violins, violas, and cellos, and requires one high D for basses. There are accents in the
Allegro section and circle bows in the accompaniment. The accompaniment voices should be short
and detached at the balance point (as a precursor to spiccato). There are plenty of crescendos and
decrescendos focusing of going from piano to forte in a matter of a measure.

Happy Hoedown (Grade 1 - String Orchestra)

Composer: Bruce Chase
Publisher: Hal-Leonard Corporation
Date: 1983
Teaching Points: The piece is a good introduction to fiddle music while incorporating basic music
notation. The melody focuses of open fifths and major 3rds and is found in the first violin section.
The harmony is very simple and introduces G string notes (1st finger A and open G) to the viola’s
and cellos. The bass line incorporates the G, D, and A string all in first position. When taken up to
tempo, the piece is only 1 minute 30 seconds. It is 60 measures long and includes eighth, quarter,
half, and whole notes, as well as quarter, and whole rests. The piece is in the key of G but does not
feature any G#’s other than in the violin melody on the E string.

El Toro (Grade 2 - String Orchestra)

Composer: Don Brubaker
Publisher: Highland/Etling Publishing/Alfred Publishing Co.
Date: 1957
Teaching Points: The piece is very fast pace and although the piece is in 3/4, it fells in 1. It is in e
minor and all instruments stay in first position. El Toro does feature two solos and both solos are
only 6 measures long. They would be great sections for any young player who is looking to play
their own solo or any first violinist or cellist who would want to play the written out solo part. The
piece also features a D. C. al coda as well as accelerandos and fermatas. There are many different
styles of bow (spiccato, legato, slurs, ties, etc.) which cause the harmony parts to imitate castanets,
cow bells, and singing voices. Although the piece is listed as a level 2, it is a very easy level two and
would be good for a second or third year group.

Tremors (Grade 4 - String Orchestra)

Megan Tompkins

Composer: David Balakrishnan

Publisher: SHAR Music Productions
Date: 1997
Teaching Points: Tremors was written with the high school student in mind who had never
improvised before. It has a written out improvisation part as well as features a section that only has
guidelines written in so that the performer can follow them when performing. The harmony part
has also been written out in typical orchestral fashion. It also calls on some fiddle aspects such as
“lazy” double stops while keeping a jazzy feel with a very short and almost percussive like bow
stroke in the harmony. There are many key changes, but there is no key signature notated. All
changes occur in the form of accidentals. The piece is also written in 6/4 and alternates to 4/4, so
students will have to learn how the beat is subdivided in 6/4 time.

Skylife (Grade 5 - String Orchestra)

Composer: David Balakrishnan
Publisher: SHAR Music Productions
Date: 1996
Teaching Points: This piece was written in a hard rock/bluegrass style. It incorporates
improvisation for all sections as well as syncopated and complex rhythms in the harmony. The
teacher can take time to teach how to improvise on a single note on any rhythms, or a set rhythm
with any note. Since it is improvisation, the students can have full range over what they want to
play, but it is best done when the teacher starts with a set of parameters and the students work
around them. There are four sections in the piece that call for solo improvisation, but the teacher
can vamp as many time as they would like with as many students as they would like. There is a ton
of syncopation so the students must have a steady pulse. There are many accents and sforzandos
throughout the piece so a strong sense of bow control is needed.