One of the greatest rewards we can offer our highest achieving student musicians is the opportunity to perform a solo with our band. The BandMusic PDF Library www.bandmusicpdf.org (introduced in Bandworld Magazine, Fall 2010) has a number of classic solos with band available for use. The solos in the library cover lead instruments and easy to high difficulty levels. Some of them are in the “theme and variations” style where a simple melody is played first and each following movement provides an increase in difficulty. Featured here are the “song solo” style where the piece melody is the solo part, these are the easier solos.
One of the truly important questions to ask ourselves is - what difficulty level solo should you have your student attempt? My suggestion is for you to assign/choose a solo at the ability level of the student or slightly below. This may sound obvious, but even with an otherwise confident student musician performing a solo with the band in concert with a live audience can be a great deal to expect of a student musician, even a good to great one. Assigning too difficult a solo to push the student’s level can set the student up for seeming failure when they miss notes here or there, or worse yet, lose an entire phrase and need to restart a movement. Although these students are achieving much just by attempting the solo performance, we must show even more judicious a choice in assigning a solo than when we choose literature for our performance groups. Among our responsibilities as educators is to provide not only opportunity for success to our students in various settings (concert, marching, jazz, small ensembles, etc.), but to insure that these settings are opportunities to build musical confidence and just as important - personal confidence. Choose your solos with much positive, practical care and thought. It is also perfectly fine to have the student perform the main melody section and just one or two of the variations. Base your choice on the endurance level and maturity of the student in the solo setting. Heartbeat faster, not breathing fully, etc. (remember your first solo?). Again, they are achieving much by performing a solo with your band!
Suggestions for use of these solos with band include:
- Develop and feature your outstanding student musicians!
- Promote local professional musicians, community players and talented private teachers by having them rehearse and solo with your band. This is a great opportunity to have professionals perform and speak with your group about their love and drive to improve and perform music. This is also a further way of getting your students to think about taking private lessons and a professional musical life when they hear a good musician live!
- You, the director be the soloist. Yes, show off your musicianship to your community! Have your students and community appreciate you as a musician as well as a Music Director! Invite a colleague to guest conduct or your drum major/student director conduct, etc. Conducting a solo is not difficult, simply follow the soloist’s tempo and project that tempo to the band!
- Although not a school student use, perform these solos with your local Community or Educator Band and have your students attend the concert. The concert could be at your school and draw area middle and high school students. Or perform at a local Community or State College and show students where they could eventually be attending and studying music. Or have that higher level performing group perform these works at your or a central site. One of our goals is to encourage continuing musicianship beyond the years we have our students, hopefully as a Music Major. Or possibly as a Music Minor or at minimum performing with the college band as part of their Humanities requirements for college graduation should they major in another subject. And then Community Band participation in their years ahead.
This is article one of a four-part series. This article featured the easiest solos, articles two and three will feature the middle to fairly difficult solos and the fourth article will feature the most difficult/professional level solos.