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Compositions to Wow Your Audience for a Year-End Concert

The year-end concert is both a celebration as well as a bookend to the final days of the school year. This concert is especially poignant for senior students, who will be graduating and heading off to their new lives as college students or fully-fledged working adults. Thus, it makes sense to put special care into your concert program, selecting music that fits the level of your players’ musicianship and makes a lasting impression on the audience.

Ride the Wave of Bohemian Rhapsody’s Academy Award Success

The film, Bohemian Rhapsody, an homage to Queen’s lead singer, Freddy Mercury, took the box office and the Academy by storm this spring. Queen’s songs are unique, innovative and fun – and playing them honors a band willing to go against the grain and compose outside the box.

Teens and young adults will enjoy learning something new, once-again-relevant and yet classically inspired by a musical and artistic genius. Queen’s music is especially applicable for orchestras or marching bands that play together during the sports season. Click Here to access orchestral arrangements of some of Queen’s most popular songs.

Celebrate India’s Holi (The Festival of Colors) and Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar was a brilliant Indian musician and composer, celebrated for his ability to merge East and West. His Symphony is an example of that, and while your orchestra may not have the time to play Ravi Shankar’s symphony in its entirety, it’s worth seeking a sitar player in the area and performing a movement or two in honor of India’s spring festival, Holi. Click Here to access a score of Ravi Shankar’s Symphony.

Revel in the Cheerful Tempo of Spring’s Sunshine & the Melancholy of Her Storms

Spring isn’t all that unlike teenage experience – rich with bright, sunshiny days as well as dark and dramatic storms. With that in mind, your orchestra members and audience alike will enjoy Appalachian Spring, written by classical composer Aaron Copeland.

Should you choose Spring as your concert’s theme, visit Sacred Music for the Spring Holidays, which includes other, inspiring pieces that are suited to more intermediate orchestras but are impressive nonetheless.

Make it a Multi-Musical Department Effort with Aida

Aida is one of Guiseppe Verdi’s most famous works. In 1999, Elton John and Tim Rice created a modern version of the opera in musical theatre form. It’s Orchestral Finale incorporates both orchestral and band instruments. Your music department could take it a step further, and engage more students and audience members by including one of the musical’s other pieces, spotlighting star choir members.

Click Here to learn more about accessing the School Edition version of the Aida School Edition.

Classical & Hip Hop Mashups

Oh, yes – string music abounds in multiple hip-hop and rap songs. For example, Lupe Fiasco’s Daydreamin’. In fact, in 2008, Lupe Fiasco won a Grammy Award for this song, in the category of Best Urban/Alternative Performance. That’s just one of many examples of hip-hop and rap songs that utilize orchestra and string music as a foundation for their art. Reddit poster, u/Smultronstallet, shares numerous others.

Songs like this create an opportunity for your best and brightest students to improvise and recreate these pieces by ear. Make sure to print lyrics, and have your best writers or rappers in the room re-write anything that might be inappropriate for a school concert venue. Read, How to Create Classical and Popular Music Mash-ups for Performances, for more examples of musical mash-ups that inspire younger string players.

Choose a Classical Piece That Sounds Professional

Often, classical pieces are too unapproachable for the barely-intermediate or barely-advanced orchestra. Any off-notes and rushed or dragging measures sound embarrassing to the students – leaving them deflated, rather than inspired at the end of the concert.

Thank you, Oscar Rieding, for composing the Concerto in B Minor for Violin and Orchestra Op. 35. This piece is gorgeous – and entirely approachable for orchestral musicians who’ve played their instrument for two or three years. Consider dividing up the violin solo amongst your top violinists.

Our post, How to Pick Violin Compositions That Set Your Students on Fire, contains other examples of professional-worthy pieces your students can play.

Collaborating with students and gaining their input, integrating songs both old and new and honoring the contemporary music students love for them, are all ways to perform compositions and arrangements that wow the audience (and your orchestra students) at the year-end concert.

Classroom resources for teachers