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Coda Connections
Columbia Band Fans' Quarterly Newsletter
Spring 2009

News & Calendar - Spring 2009
Feature - Orchestra vs. Concert Band
Behind the Baton - Director's Thoughts
Fun Stuff - A few words about...
Official CCB/CJB Positions - People in Charge
Contact Information


This edition of Coda Connections features an explanation of some instruments and plenty of educational school-level performances.

For anyone who does not wish to be on the newsletter list, simple use the SafeUnsubscribe link at the bottom of the window to opt out.

I encourage all CCB/CJB fans and members to speak up if there's a particular music-related subject that you would like to see featured in Coda Connections; please remember that your feedback is important to the growth and success of this publication.

Please send me a message if:
- Your email changes and you'd like to keep getting this newsletter, OR
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- You wish to submit your own writing/comments.


- Len Morse, Editor

News & Calendar

Spring News

Both the concert band and the jazz band continue to work on new music for their loyal fans and new folks.

Spring Calendar - Concert Band

  Sun, 5/17, 3:00-4:00PM, Oakland Mills High School, Columbia, MD

  Sun, 8/9, 6:30-8:30PM, Lake Kittamaqundi, Columbia, MD
  Sun, 8/23, 6:00-8:00PM, Lurman Woodland Theatre, Catonsville, MD

Spring Calendar - Jazz Band

  Sun, 8/28, 9:00PM, The 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.

As a big "Thank You" to Joe for hosting us at River Hill High School for the past handful of years, we offer the following:

Spring Calendar - River Hill High School Music Performances

  Wed, 3/18, 7:30PM, "Annie Get Your Gun"
  Thur, 3/19, 7:30PM, "Annie Get Your Gun"
  Fri, 3/20, 7:30PM, "Annie Get Your Gun"
  Sat, 3/21, 7:30PM, "Annie Get Your Gun"
  Sun, 3/22, 2:00PM, "Annie Get Your Gun"
  Sat, 3/28, 7:00PM, Jazz Band Concert

  Thur, 4/30, 7:30PM, Orchestra Concert

  Tues, 5/5, 7:00PM, Choir Concert
  Thur, 5/7, 7:00PM, Band / Percussion Ensemble Concert
  Sat, 5/9, 7:00PM, Jazz Band Concert

For more information, please contact Joe Fischer.

by Len Morse (Percussion)     Musical notes on staff
Orchestra vs. Concert Band: Different Instruments

When you hear the word "orchestra," you probably think of names like "New York Philharmonic," "London Symphony," or maybe "Boston Pops." No problem. But when you hear "concert band," what enters your mind? For most people, most likely just a big question mark. This article strives to explain one very basic difference (out of many) between these two types of musical ensembles: Instrumentation. Let's dive in.

Cellos and Tubas and Snare Drums, Oh My!

Sometimes it looks like such a mess when you see a large musical group sitting on stage. All sorts of wood and brass stick out, and who knows what kind of exotic drumheads they have to beat on, way in back. Here's a cheat sheet approximating traditional orchestral instrumentation:

* Strings - violins, violas, cellos, double basses, harps, and piano.
* Woodwinds - flutes, piccolo, oboes, English horn, clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoons, and contrabassoon.
* Brass - horns, trumpets, trombones, bass trombone, and tuba.
* Percussion - timpani (kettle drums), snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel (bells), xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, chimes, and auxiliary percussion.

(There have been many heated discussions about how to classify a piano. The strings inside make the sound, so it's a string instrument, but the hammers hitting the strings are what cause the sound in the first place, so it's also a percussion instrument. The debate rages on, but for purposes of this article, it will be with the strings.)

A full symphony or philharmonic orchestra usually contains between 80-100 musicians, strings being the largest group by far, with the violins most often playing the melody. An orchestra of less than about 40 musicians is called a chamber orchestra, but you'll almost never hear about these unless you seek them out on your own.

A concert band has the same instruments as an orchestra, except without the huge string section. The number of players is about the same, though, which means expanded brass, woodwind, and percussion sections. There is more opportunity for a wider variety of band musicians to play the melody, therefore allowing many different instrument combinations to be heard.

Most modern concert bands do not use a harp or piano. However, these instruments are sometimes included at the discretion of the conductor, depending on how prominent their parts are. (i.e. The piano is a featured instrument in many George Gershwin pieces, and you will almost never hear an orchestra play a Gershwin tune without one. However, a band could probably get away with omitting the piano, since the main melodies will most likely have been written into the wind instrument parts.)

Instrument Popularity

When kids take wind instrument lessons, they usually start on trumpet, trombone, clarinet, or flute. When they grow older, unless they decide to branch out and learn a similar or additional instrument, they continue with what they know. Therefore, many school and community band directors must be on their guard to keep these sections to a manageable number. They must also keep in mind that if they want their band to have full instrumentation, looking out for players of the more unique instruments (i.e. oboe, bassoon, tuba, French Horn, E-flat clarinet, etc.) is a necessity.

Depending on what pieces they'd like to program, band directors should also make sure they can rely on a certain number of dedicated percussionists. Just like the wind instruments, there are generally more percussion parts in a band than in an orchestra.

At the very least, a band should have one player for each of the following: timpani, mallets, drum set, and auxiliary percussion. If a drum set is not available, plan on securing two more percussionists so that three players will be on snare, bass, and cymbals, in place of the set. In this same vein, having two mallet players and two auxiliary players allows even more freedom when choosing repertoire.

Remember: Every percussion part is a solo. This means 4-8 players ideally, but if you absolutely insist on limiting the number of percussionists in your concert band, well, you'd better hire an octopus.

A Word About Movie Soundtracks

Next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the soundtrack - most likely you will hear an orchestra, not a band. In this way, pop culture is receiving its share of orchestral music, but with mixed results.

Movie soundtracks are being played in both orchestra and band concerts all over the world, but if asked to compare the two ensembles, the average listener would probably say that the orchestra sounded better because they played the original music from the movie. That is what their ear knows, what they are used to hearing.

Since there are very few original soundtracks featuring concert bands, transcriptions or arrangements of the original orchestral pieces must suffice. While there exist numerous high caliber bands, and many good arrangements, the average listener may still come away from a performance thinking, "It was good, but it didn't sound quite right," or possibly, "It was good, but the band doesn't play it like in the movie." That's because the instrumentation of the band is different, and will produce an inherently different sound than an orchestra. Not worse, not better - just different.

Behind the Baton
by Mike Blackman (Director)     Conductor
Dear Friends of the Columbia Concert Band,

The CCB is hard at work preparing a terrific concert featuring the works of David Gillingham, Andrew Boysen, Mark Camphouse, Gustav Holst, and our good friend, Brian Balmages. If you're craving some great band music before May, however, here's an idea for you: stop by the Howard County High School Band Festival.

On Friday, March 13th (3:00 - 9:00), and Saturday, March 14th (noon - 6:30), the Glenelg High School auditorium will be open to the public while each of our fine high school bands performs for their annual county assessment.

These performances are free, and audience members can arrive and leave at any point (except when there is music being played, of course). A detailed schedule can be viewed at In case you've never attended a festival like this, here's what you can expect:

When the bands are performing, it will look pretty much like it would for a normal concert - the auditorium will be darkened, and the students on stage will be dressed in formal concert attire. What you will undoubtedly notice is the three "judges" seated at tables in the back of the hall. They will each have a lamp and a microphone so that they can write and record comments for each performing group.

After a band is introduced by the announcer, you will hear three selections. The first is considered a "warm- up," and is not officially evaluated by the judges. The second and third pieces are indeed graded, and are usually longer and more difficult.

Following the stage performance, each ensemble will proceed to another room for "sight reading." There, the students will perform a piece that they have never seen before in front of a single judge. Unfortunately, the sight reading room is not open to the public.

I hope that you will consider taking advantage of this free musical marathon. The students love to see a large and enthusiastic audience, and it is always very enjoyable. I also hope that you will continue to support the Columbia Concert Band, because we love a large and enthusiastic audience as well! Thanks so much!


Mike Blackman,
CCB Director

Fun Stuff
Quarterly Word: "Carnival of the Animals" - A "Grand Zoological Fantasy" for two pianos and orchestra by Camille Saint-Saëns. Each of the 14 movements depicts a different animal, usually portrayed by a particular instrument. The composer never allowed public performance of this piece.

Quarterly Quote: "An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger." ~ Dan Rather

Official CCB/CJB Positions

Elected Executive Board

Director - Mike Blackman
President - Jeanette Donald
Vice President - Len Morse
Secretary - Carolyn Hipkins
Treasurer - Beth Jubinski
Historian - Melinda Frisch
Publicity Chair - Kathleen Shoemaker
Fundraising Chair - Linda Baker
Equipment Manager - Scott Lipcon
Grants, Programs - Jeanette Donald
HCAC Liason - Tanya Hoegh-Allan
Members-at- Large - Linda Baker, Bob Frantz, Tanya Hoegh-Allan, Russell Perkins, Sam Stern

Appointees and Volunteers

Librarian - Marilyn Kelsey
Curator - TBA
Uniforms - Bill DeVuono
Insurance Liason - Jenn Ambrosiano-Reedholm
CCB-CJB Liason - Bob Frantz
CCB Webmaster - Suzanne Hassell
CJB Director - Pete Barenbregge
CJB Webmaster - Matt Williams


Contact Information

phone: 301-598-4587
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Columbia Concert Band | PO Box 2713 | Columbia | MD | 21045-1713