Directors’ Vote 2021 Results


Directors’ Vote: The Results Are In! The Most Popular 2021–2022 Editors’ Choice Selections

For years, music directors and performers have relied on Editors’ Choice—our annual list of the best-of-the-best new selections for the season—to narrow down their search for new performance repertoire. This year, we wanted to hear from you, the directors, about your favorites.

In addition to the titles of your top picks, we asked for a short statement speaking to why each selection got your vote: what excites you about the piece, how you intend to use it with your ensemble, what concepts the piece taught, why you like the artist’s composition style, and so on. While this is truly a “popular vote,” we hope that the lists of winners and honorable mentions along with the insightful comments provided will help directors everywhere with their repertoire selections.

We want to thank everyone who took the time to vote and provide feedback for this year’s campaign. We received nearly 400 submissions!

Here are the results of our 2021 vote, listed by ensemble:


Winner: You Are My Refuge—Michael John Trotta

“The piece inspired these high school students when hope was small, they were scared, and on lockdown during COVID. It also stole my heart—the melody lifted my spirits and still does today.”­—Carol, California

“Moving message that my choirs loved. Easy to learn without sounding easy.”

“Great setting of a moving text that was written during the pandemic but super appropriate for any time.”Nicole, New Jersey

“It’s a gorgeous work by Michael Trotta, easy to learn and a piece that brings hope and comfort in these troubling times.”

Honorable Mentions:

Lift Your Voice and Rejoice!—Victor C. Johnson

“The harmonies in this song accompanied with the rhythmic antics always make for a fun experience with the choir to learn and for the congregation to enjoy.”—Derrada, Texas

Shenandoah—arr. Andrew Parr

“The accompaniment is really supportive and, without overshadowing the singers, provides great encouragement to them. It’s the setting I did this year and will be doing again!”—Andrew, Minnesota

Hurry Now to Bethlehem—Ruth Morris Gray

“Interesting take on a Christmas song. Catchy rhythms.”—Kathy, New York

TaReKiTaReena Esmail

“Multicultural fun!”Kathy, New York

Concert Band

Winner: Semper Gratus—Patrick Glenn Harper

“It is a touching tribute to a music teacher, something which many performers and teachers will relate to. Not to mention, it is a great piece which exhibits a contrast of styles to challenge a young group’s lyrical and technical prowess, yet it is still attainable.”Chase, Alabama

“Solid construction and challenging rhythms. Expanded percussion is also a great asset to many band programs looking to keep their percussionists engaged!”Keith, Alabama

“Beautiful melody that is calming and peaceful.”

“Nice lyrical section in the middle. Fantastic Grade 3!”

Honorable Mentions:

The Brave Warrior—Aaron McMichael

“This piece has great transitions and its dynamics give it great variety.”—Ryan, Mississippi

Monsters, Unite!—Kelly Dugger

“Great fun for kids. Especially for Halloween.”

The Ankh of Eternity—Kelly Dugger

“So many great teaching opportunities! The rhythmic variations are fun and educational.”—James, Nevada

A Builder’s Dream—Adrian B. Sims

“This is a powerful piece great for teaching eighth notes. Collaboration could easily take place with the art teacher and art students.”

String Orchestra

Winner: Just So in the North—Ignatius Sancho, arr. Dion Morales

“This song is perfect for beginning orchestra students for string crossings and variations of eighth note rhythms. Plus, it highlights a formerly little-known Black composer, which is wonderful for my students.”—Devon, Illinois

“Great for string crossings! Every section gets the melody. Great for rehearsals where you want to switch between unison and multipart playing. Stays in first position for all instrument while avoiding high 3s and still uses all the strings. Up-and-coming arranger focusing on the music of composers of color.”

“A wonderful piece of music that brings to mind a walk through the countryside.”Richard, Texas

“Has multiple techniques but gives time to transition between them. Overall great piece that provides excellent focus on of color.”—Merrick, North Carolina

Honorable Mentions:

Brave Fires—Caryn Neidhold

“A fresh, energetic piece appealing to teenagers. Provides equally good chances to learn through all sections of the strings. Cleverly written with high educational value.”

The Road to Andalusia—Eric B. Davis

“Wonderful and complex rhythms and motives. Provides many learning objectives and areas of study. Adventurous and exciting tempo and themes. Perfect for an advanced orchestra in middle or high school.”

Temple Raider—Mark Hillegass Jr.

“It’s a clever piece that is well put together, explores the use of modes, uses special effects, and is very appealing to young orchestras.”—Mark, Texas

Spy Rock—Eric B. Davis

“Serves as a great simple beginner piece given the unison and D-string notes. The addition of percussion increases the level of interest in the performers and audience. Cute title, too!”

Sacred Choral

Winner: The Chorister’s Prayer (Bless, O Lord)—Jacob Dishman

“Otherworldly.”—Tracey, Virginia

Honorable Mentions:

Rise, Shine!—arr. Marques L.A. Garrett & Tom Trenney

“I simply love this song, especially with its presentation of ultimate spiritual positivity amidst the dawning of a new day. Also, the polyphony that happens near the end of this anthem gives opportunity for the voice parts to “shine” in their own way. This song has a wonderful balance for a church choir to understand the overall musical theme while throwing in moments of a learning experience when it comes to rhythm.”—Derrada, Texas

Death Be Never Last—David Sims

“Beautiful melody, deep text; love the idea of repeating the middle section as names are read.”—David, Minnesota

A Prayer for All Who Serve—arr. Gerald Custer

“Hands down, one of the best arrangements of this hymn that I have heard! This anthem has the feel of the old sing-along while making some small tweaks for each of the parts and still keeping it harmonically pleasing to the ear. The last part of this song gave me goosebumps and felt as if God touched my heart with His hand!”—Derrada, Texas

Good Trouble—Thomas Keesecker

“This moving spiritual has that old march-like and very meaningful feel. Mix that with the words inspired by John Lewis, and any church will not be prepared for how much good this “good trouble” can bring!”—Derrada, Texas

Jazz Ensemble

We had a tie in our jazz ensemble category!

Winner: My Groove, Your Move—Hank Mobley, arr. Terry White

“Sounds great. Looks very playable.”—George, Illinois

Winner: Running on Nitro—Brad Ciechomski

“Great groove, easy to play, kids will love it.”

Solo & Ensemble

Winner: Spiral—Percussion Quartet—Alex Stopa

“This piece featuring the marimba is complete with energy and drama. The marimba, such an expressive instrument, is cleverly punctuated with contrasting and colourful percussion instruments. The composition has drama, forward driving rhythms, dynamics, and splashes of syncopation. A well-crafted and creative composition.”

“I love the blending of jazz and pop. And the odd time signature keeps everyone on their toes!”

“Even though this is advanced chamber music, it’s the sort of thing anyone could listen to without letting the medium dictate. It’s just great music!”—James, Oregon

“It’s very fun to play. It’s groovy and the right amount of challenging!”—Marie, Wisconsin

Honorable Mentions:

Friends—Marimba Duet—Colin Bell

“Good for introducing four-mallet technique to middle school/high school players.”—Pamela, New Jersey

Palm Reader—Percussion Duet—Benjamin Holmes

“This piece shows a clear demonstration of mixing cultural instruments with new style grooves. Exciting to the audience and not too difficult for the percussionists while providing a clear challenge.”—Hunter, Oklahoma

Crazy Dance—Percussion Ensemble—Josh Walker

“Lively piece, with scale-wise melody, good after-beat part, and use of the snare. The ‘breaks’ keep all players alert and involved. Easy to incorporate other percussion instruments!”—Jerry, North Carolina

Whirlygig—Percussion Ensemble—Josh Walker

“There isn’t much middle school literature that has a good melody AND is doable for a young middle school ensemble.”—Jim, North Carolina

Bonus: Older Editors’ Choice Selections that Received Votes

Changes—Audrey Snyder

“Powerful message. Best to do a cappella with stomping and clapping.”

All Star (as an English Madrigal)—Greg Camp, arr. Nathan Howe

“Love the re-creating of a madrigal with a pop melody!”

Epic Venture—Tyler S. Grant

“Amazingly catchy composition for our middle school band. Engages all sections and has a lot of rhythmic and tonal maturity to help our kids grow musically.”

Exhale—Sean O’Loughlin

“Nice harmonies at the beginning. Typical Sean O’Loughlin (not a bad thing)!”

Momentum—Robert Longfield

“Great piece. Gorgeous contrasting middle section. Fun to play and lots to work on!”

Viola Rampage—Timothy Isham

“It’s a favorite among my orchestra members, but a real treat for the viola section. Just the ticket for making my violas feel appreciated and valued. It was an audience favorite as well.”

Silver and Shadows—Brad Nix

Veranda—Marimba Solo—Jesse Monkman

“I love the melody and would love to hear this one performed live.”

Be sure to browse the complete list of titles that received votes this year!

Pepper has served musicians since 1876. We hope you find our blog posts informative and a wonderful gateway to news in the world of music.


  1. I am not a music producer or instructor-writing as an amateur bass player in a local community orchestra, may I suggest a work we play for our patriotic concert (have played!)- “Flight of Valor” (2002) by James Swearingen. Composed to honor Flight 93 on 9/11, it evokes great passion, and might be appropriate for a more advanced high school orchestra. PS- I so enjoy your e-mails and suggestions for playing. Thank you.

    • Hi Kathryn, thank you for your comment and your kind words! Flight of Valor was given our Editors’ Choice designation when it came out – it’s a wonderful piece. Great recommendation!

  2. Hello! Are you a provider of music videos? I first became aware of “The Pilgrim Song” on the online service of Christchurch New York City. It was an absolutely inspiring video accompanied by the vocal selection.

    • Hi Susan, thank you for your comment! We do carry some videos, mostly instructional materials. I’m finding two arrangements of The Pilgrim Song in our database but neither of them have a video available. Do you know who publishes the edition you’re looking for?

  3. What about Donald Lawrence’s “He Rebuked the Red Sea?” It’s a powerful piece that I would like to use for an acapella SATB youth choir with kids from all over the United States. Having it as a digital download will allow me to teach and rehearse virtually. Can you have it sold in this format? Thanks.

    • Hi Rhea, I’m not seeing this in our database. If you know who the publisher is we can see if they have it available for digital download. You can contact our customer service department at for help with special orders. Thank you for your comment!

  4. It’s very nice to see the top two jazz charts are by Terry White and Brad Ciechomski, composers & arrangers from Southern Maine!


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