Directors’ Vote 2023 Results


Directors’ Vote: The Results Are In! The Most Popular 2023–2024 Editors’ Choice Selections

Each year, the J.W. Pepper editorial team helps directors like you find repertoire by reviewing all the new music from hundreds of publishers and designating the very best titles as Editors’ Choice. For the third year running, we opened up the polls to our directors across the country: we wanted to know which of the newest Editors’ Choice selections were your favorites.

In addition to sharing your picks, we asked for a short comment explaining what you love about each piece: what excites you about the music, how you intend to use it with your ensemble, your impression of the composer, and any other relevant comments.

We hope this list helps you in your repertoire search, and we’d like to thank everyone who took the time to submit a ballot in this year’s campaign!

The most popular 2023–2024 titles for each ensemble are as follows:


Winner: Woke Up This Mornin’—Traditional Spiritual, arr. Austin Hunt

“A superb arrangement of this well-known gospel song. The piano is supportive while having a personality of its own! The ranges are also good for developing young men.”—Remel, TX

“This piece is very exciting to sing and hear. I love the upbeat accompaniment and barbershop-style harmonies.”—Adaluz, TX

“Fun, imaginative, accessible but still challenging, this spiritual arrangement puts young men’s voices to full advantage. The accompaniment is brilliantly impressive and can stand on its own but is still supportive.”—Sheryl, TX

“This is a wonderful soulful arrangement that deserves recognition.”—John, TX

Honorable Mentions:

Legatum—Ryan Main

“Ryan Main is a favorite of my choir; we even commissioned a piece by him last year (Il Lampo). We love how he adds in meters that are unexpected in choral music and how he layers voices—it is very approachable for high school singers. He has made my students LOVE Latin!”—Emily, RI

“Very fun, fast-paced, unique, and well-crafted. Great to sing and a definite crowd pleaser!”—Clark, UT

Be the Light—Franklin Willis

“Gospel music that’s accessible for elementary and middle school-aged singers!”—Micah, KS

“Upbeat, fun, uplifting spiritual with a rockin’ organ accompaniment!”—Clark, UT

Howdidow, deediddleumday (Leatherwing Bat)—English Folk Song, arr. Vicki Tucker Courtney

“Vicki Tucker Courtney has written so much great music! This is another gem!”—Jeanna, TX

“Catchy tune, great lyrics, makes me smile.”—Audra, TX

Concert Band

Winner: March of the Sad Santas—Brandon Robinson

“It is such an original idea for the minor key. Students are gonna love playing it!!”—Diana, MO

“Students will enjoy the fun changes to some familiar Christmas songs.”—Jan, MO

“The composer does consistently great work and this is just another banger. ????”—Tim, MO

“This one is clever, creative, and different. Not the usual run-of-the-mill Christmas piece!”—Glenda, MO

Honorable Mentions:

Skeletonic—Andrew David Perkins

“It’s an excellent piece with many teachable areas: tempo, style, phrasing, and minor keys. Designed to come together in a few rehearsals, it’s the perfect fit for a fall/Halloween concert.”—John, MI

“Such a great teaching piece that is so attainable by young bands!”—Mark, MI

The Fledgling—Patrick Glenn Harper

“It is a very beautifully written piece. I love how upbeat and fun it is in the start but then changes to be dramatic, yet still upbeat towards the end.”—Emme, AL

“I really like the drum groove when the main melodic idea is introduced. I also like how the main theme is introduced in different ways, i.e., the lyrical and fanfare thematic uses.”—Connor, AL

Sea Adventure—John M. Pasternak

“The melody is beautiful!”—Theresa, OH

“I can feel the ocean spray as I listen.”—Janet, OH

String Orchestra

For the second year in a row, Caryn Wiegand Neidhold claimed the top spot in our string orchestra category.

Winner: Zephyr—Caryn Wiegand Neidhold

“Love the energy and driving rhythms. All parts are interesting, challenging, and will engage students throughout.”—Laura, NV

“A great addition to the rock genre and a chance for students to explore outside of classical music.”—Joshua, NV

“Great voicing with a fun theme. It’s an immediate foot-tapper that makes you wish you were in the orchestra.”—Ian, MN

“Melodically complex enough to keep the kids interested, but not so much that the kids can’t tackle it.”—Mark, AK

Honorable Mentions:

Dark Imperium—Aaron Fryklund

“Beautiful, upbeat, engaging, and powerful melody.”—Cristina, TX

“The key is a nice change! I love the counterpoint and the way all instruments have equal participation, especially the violas. Memorable melody!”—Sara, TX

Gothic Quest—Emily Golan

“As a bass player, I really appreciated that the melody was shared amongst all the musicians in the string orchestra. Not often is this the case. The lyricism of Gothic Quest was what drew me to the piece initially; then, after further listening, I fell in love with it.”—Toby, WA

“This is an excellent grade 1.5 for strings that checks all my boxes. There is a great variety of music in a well-organized use of easy techniques. Even when the A section returns at the end, it is transformed in an interesting way that forwards the drama of the “easy” piece.”—Stuart, WA

Alley Cat Struttin’—David Samuel, arr. Caryn Wiegand Neidhold

“Great piece to use with jazz strings. Very well-written, so that all sections get something interesting to play.”—Amanda, IN

“Variety in string orchestra rep is important, thus, getting string students to learn some simple jazz styles carries a lot of weight. This setting is quality!”—David, TX

Jazz Ensemble

Voting in our jazz ensemble category resulted in a seven-way tie!

Winner: 13 O’Clock Jump—Zachary Smith

“A clever take on One O’Clock Jump. It has a 13-bar blues chord progression, which reinforces counting along with feeling and hearing the changes. A great introduction to plunger mute work for brass players. There are solos that can easily be opened up, including a small drum break that can be expanded. The ranges are excellent, and the saxophone lines are so much fun to play. Great chart.”—George, IL

Winner: Follow the Gig Bags—Greg Yasinitsky

“Fun, swinging tune and catchy melody, approachable solo section, and strong ensemble writing.”—Greg, WA

Winner: Ace of Hearts—Ryan Erik Adamsons

“Well written contrafact on a jazz standard (Latin style) made very accessible for a middle school or high school band. The scoring is excellent, and the rhythm section parts are written very clearly. Any band will sound great programming this piece. We will be performing this at the Midwest Clinic in December!”—George, IL

Winner: Bossa Doce—Greg Yasinitsky

“Attractive bossa nova with interesting harmonies, a lyrical melody, an approachable solo section, and fine ensemble scoring.”—Greg, WA

Winner: Our Man Dan—Mike Tomaro

“So great to get new originals from Mike Tomaro! His tunes never disappoint!”—Michael, NC

Winner: Pass the Hot Sauce—Brad Ciechomski

“This chart grooves so hard but is still easy enough for students. Love the spicy licks.”—Kal, NY

Winner: Ulterior Motive—Doug Beach

“Hard-swinging minor tune. Straight ahead. Great scoring with clear rhythm section parts. The chart has an easily accessible solo section and is in a friendly key. Doug always writes well, and there are very thoughtful unisons within families and across families of instruments. We will be performing this at the Midwest Clinic in December!”—George, IL


We had a tie in our handbell category.

Winner: Transitions of the Heart—Matthew Compton

“This is a beautiful piece with a beautiful meaning. It will certainly be in many handbell programs in the future!”—Aidan, NY

Winner: On Wings Like Eagles—Caleb Onstead

“Just gorgeous music…through and through!”—Aidan, NY

Full Orchestra

Winner: (Up)Lifted—Brian Balmages

“It’s hard not to love this piece which sounds like it belongs in a Hollywood motion picture or an attraction in Disneyland. Simply breathtaking!”—Brian, PA

Sacred Choral

Winner: Veni, Emmanuel!—Zachary Steele

“Such cool and lush harmonies in this a cappella piece. The drum adds a nice driving rhythm!”—Emily, TX

Browse the complete list of 2023–2024 Editors’ Choice selections that received votes for even more inspiration!


  1. I had literally the exact same quote about “Our Man Dan”…. wondering if it’s Michael from NC instead of Michael from NV?

    • Our apologies, Michael! We have made the correction in the blog. Thank you for your comment—we appreciate your participation in Directors’ Vote!


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