Our Favorite Contest and Festival Repertoire for Concert Band, Choir, and Orchestra


Contest and festival season is coming soon! Prepare for coming performances with seven well-written and educationally valuable titles for concert band, 10 for treble choir, and seven for orchestra. 

All the pieces on these lists are Editors’ Choice selections, and most are relatively new. We’ve included a wide range of styles and grade levels, so you’re sure to find a few that work for your ensembles.

Concert Band Fanfares

Grab listeners’ attention with seven top-selling concert band fanfares! Exciting, uplifting, and relatively short, fanfares are effective openers for any performance.

Starsplitter Fanfare by Brian Balmages
Pepper #10070374

Brian Balmages is a mainstay on our lists of recommended concert band repertoire, and for good reason: he is a composer with a great understanding of how to write for students of all ages. His scores are both educational and musically effective, covering key foundational elements for young musicians while providing them with an enjoyable playing experience. The explosive beginner piece Starsplitter Fanfare incorporates all the wind instruments while using only six notes, harnessing your youngest musicians’ full sound potential. There are even countermelodies to provide an appropriate challenge and boost their confidence!

Above and Beyond by James Swearingen
Pepper #10280771

Opening with timpani, James Swearingen’s Above and Beyond is an exciting selection with all the characteristics of a traditional fanfare. With dramatic and creatively scored melodies against a backdrop of bold rhythms and contemporary harmonies, this selection from C.L. Barnhouse’s Rising Band series is an excellent foundation builder for beginning ensembles.

A Jubilant Spirit by Carol Brittin Chambers
Pepper #11392844

Expand your younger students’ musicianship with this uplifting and educational work by Carol Brittin Chambers! A Jubilant Spirit features meter changes, harmonies, and a wide range of dynamics and articulations while reinforcing concert E-flat. The percussion scoring is very good, and there’s even a bell solo included. It’s a great choice for challenging younger students.

Choose Joy by Randall Standridge
Pepper #11400065

Moving up in difficulty, Choose Joy was inspired by a high school student who found happy moments even while battling cancer. Randall Standridge, an outstanding composer with many titles on the J.W. Pepper Editors’ Choice and Basic Library lists, combines engaging rhythms, energetic melodies, and hints of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy to create a message of positivity. Challenging yet very accessible, this piece is sure to be a program favorite.

Into the Clouds! by Richard Saucedo
Pepper #1033519

From band composition and education legend Richard Saucedo, Into the Clouds! is a thrilling fanfare with great educational value. There are elements in this piece to challenge every section of your band, from powerful brass statements to woodwind flourishes and well-written percussion lines. Stay tuned for an in-depth conversation with Richard Saucedo at his home in Indiana—coming soon to the J.W. Pepper YouTube channel!

Carnegie Anthem by William Owens
Pepper #10312685

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! Carnegie Anthem is an homage to the city of New York and to the iconic Carnegie Hall, one of the world’s most prestigious performance venues. The opening statement is as bold and brilliant as the New York City skyline, and engaging melodies throughout evoke the city’s characteristic vibrancy and excitement.

Fanfare for a New Era by Pinkzebra
Pepper #11392541

Fanfare for a New Era is a fitting choice to close our list of fanfares for band: with a hopeful feel and a title that looks to the future, it can work well as either an opener or a finale for any concert. From extremely popular composer Pinkzebra, this fanfare gives every section of your band a chance to shine. Directors can choose between a full version and a modified flexible instrumentation version, and practice track bundles with a split-track MP3 for each instrument allow players to hear the full ensemble in one ear of their headphones and only their part in the other.

Favorites for Treble Choir

We’re featuring the very best new music for treble choir, including options for SSAA, SSA, and SA groups.

The Bouquet by Kara Stacy Bedwell
Pepper #11393054

First on our list of recommended choral music, new composer Kara Stacy Bedwell’s mischievous and cheeky The Bouquet turns a traditional romantic story on its ear. Suitor Jack has met his match: he gets much more than he bargained for when the object of his affection presents him with an unexpected bouquet in return! Choirs may perform The Bouquet a cappella or with an optional piano accompaniment. Light, madrigal-like, and lots of fun, this title offers your singers the chance to incorporate some comedy into their performance.

By Night by Elaine Hagenberg
Pepper #11397314

By Night, a dark and dramatic piece for SSAA choirs of high school age and older, is Elaine Hagenberg’s musical setting of Harriet Prescott Spofford’s poem about self-exploration and discovery. The music features moments of both placid calm and pounding, frenetic energy, offering a welcome challenge to more advanced singers. 

This Sky Falls by Jocelyn Hagen
Pepper #11415361

This Sky Falls by Jocelyn Hagen, a beautiful contemporary setting of Julia Klatt Singer’s descriptive poetry, is perfect for SA choirs of any age. Featuring unexpected melodic and harmonic twists and turns that are sure to appeal, Hagen’s piece has a modern feel while remaining solidly in the world of concert music—and it’s accessible without compromising on artistry.

Music of Life by B.E. Boykin
Pepper #11384778

Music of Life, B.E. Boykin’s inspiring and vibrant setting of the poem by George Parsons Lathrop, is about the ways in which music brings all of life together. Opening with all voice parts in unison before splitting into two and then three parts, this popular and singable title is a great choice for treble choirs of all ages.

Orion by Susan LaBarr
Pepper #11415507

Susan LaBarr’s golden touch is on full display in Orion, a beautiful work for SSAA choirs featuring text by Faith Zimmer. Contemporary touches and brilliant, singable harmonies combine to magnificent effect in this piece about looking to the stars, specifically the constellation Orion, to find strength in difficult times. High school and community choirs will love Orion!

Day of Fire and Sun by Kate Crellin
Pepper #

Another newcomer to the choral world, Kate Crellin brings us this exciting a cappella piece for treble choir that incorporates contemporary pop techniques within a concert music setting. Featuring outstanding text from Sara Teasdale, Day of Fire and Sun is a fun selection that’s sure to appeal to your treble singers.

Does the World Say? by Kyle Pederson
Pepper #11392436

This concert work for treble choir is both beautiful and meaningful: the text discusses the pressures of life in a way that will resonate with adolescent and adult singers alike. For added educational value, Does the World Say? comes with a free SEL (social-emotional learning) guide. Flexible, emotive, and effective, this title has all the makings of a treble classic.

Bring Me Little Water, Silvy arr. Adam Podd
Pepper #11397098

Once you hear Bring Me Little Water, Silvy, you won’t be able to get it out of your head! Adam Podd’s fun, groovy arrangement of the American folk song features upright bass, multiple percussion options including body percussion, space for soloists, and harmony lines your choir will love. Directors in search of SSA choral music should be sure to consider this appealing and memorable selection.

After the Rain by Sarah Quartel
Pepper #11415038

Sarah Quartel has created a strong catalog of music for treble choirs, and her newest offering is both tranquil and beautiful. Featuring the simple yet profound text from Chief Dan George’s “Words to a Grandchild,” After the Rain is about facing life’s challenges with a spirit of hope and acceptance. It closes: “Your heart will beat out a new gladness, if you let it happen.” 

A Choice to Change the World by Kevin Phillip Johnson
Pepper #11410886

Kevin Phillip Johnson’s empowering A Choice to Change the Change the World is a transformative work for SSA choirs. This gospel-style concert work has several solos, offering directors the opportunity to showcase several singers, and features strong statements of purpose and intentionality. Optional bass and drums add to the excitement of the piece.

String Orchestra Selections from Katie O’Hara LaBrie

The string orchestra pieces for contests and festivals on this list are all by Katie O’Hara LaBrie, a composer, conductor, cellist, and clinician who taught orchestra for 15 years and has worked with many prominent publishers.

Sky Suite by Katie O’Hara LaBrie
Pepper #11001453

The creative and charming Sky Suite from Alfred Music features four movements: Clouds; Rain; Thunder; and Sun, and focuses on music literacy by introducing string notes A, D, and G one movement at a time. As they play each movement, students will explore different time signatures, tempos, and bow techniques, then get a chance to put all their knowledge together in the finale. This piece works well as an introduction to music reading for beginners or as a review for intermediate players!

Midnight Howl by Katie O’Hara LaBrie
Pepper #10739947

Midnight Howl is from Alfred’s Blue Cover series, which contains bowing appropriate for experienced high school players and has fingerings and positioning marked throughout. This dark tango with themes from Dies Irae allows students to explore fun features including glissando, tremolos, syncopation, and hand clapping.  It is written primarily in the G harmonic minor scale to promote flexibility around the finger board. While the dark themes in Midnight Howl make it a great Halloween piece, it can also work well at a spring festival or concert!

Jurassic Rock by Katie O’Hara LaBrie
Pepper #11393521

Rock music and dinosaurs go a long way towards making orchestra fun! From the Achievement String Orchestra series from Wingert-Jones, Jurassic Rock is a prehistoric party for everyone. Low strings drive the piece with a hip bass line, and every section gets to enjoy the melody and groove while reinforcing low second fingers and light chromatics. Add the optional but highly recommended drum set or have students and audience members clap and stomp along!

Academic Festival March by Katie O’Hara LaBrie
Pepper #11401182

Academic Festival March, a classical-sounding original work from Carl Fischer, features a range of textures, dynamics, and articulation while highlighting a stately dotted motif using hooked bowing patterns throughout. While this title is written primarily in G major, making it very approachable, it does contain a short minor modulation that explores different finger patterns. Academic Festival March is a great option for festivals and contests and, as the name states, would be an excellent choice for a graduation or any type of ceremony.

Skeleton Waltz by Katie O’Hara LaBrie
Pepper #11339422

Educationally sound and offering plenty of spooky fun, Skeleton Waltz incorporates chromatic harmony and special effects while offering an excellent opportunity to teach several bowing techniques. Increase the tempo to challenge a more advanced ensemble! This title is highly programmable, either for a Halloween theme or as part of any concert or festival performance.

With Gratitude by Katie O’Hara LaBrie
Pepper #11202712

With Gratitude is a touching tribute to one of Katie’s students, a bright violinist named Sadie who sadly passed away in September 2017. The piece, which features sections representing Sadie’s life, family, death, and spirit living on, does an outstanding job of expressing emotion while offering sound educational value. With soaring melodies, rhythmic independence, higher position work and exploration of the C major and A major keys, this is a great piece for any concert and a beautiful tribute from Katie to Sadie.

Play that Swing by Katie O’Hara LaBrie
Pepper #11392964

Yes, the string orchestra can swing! This challenging title with a hip, swinging melody showcases Katie’s creativity and attention to educational fundamentals. Play that Swing features a cello solo, a violin duet, and great jazz harmonies. We highly recommend expanding your ensemble with the optional piano and drum set parts!

We hope you found a few titles on these lists to perform this year and beyond! If you did—or if you have any questions or requests for future content—we’d love to hear from you in the comments.


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