Celebration for Winds & Percussion

James Swearingen
Birch Island Music Press, 1999


Celebration for Winds & Percussion (1999) begins with a majestic chorale style (QN=80) introductory fanfare in the key of Eb Major.  This section stays full, with a musical dialogue passing from the flute/oboe/clarinet/trumpet to the alto saxophone/horn sections.  Through the opening thirty-six measures, this style continues, with the different voices providing constant majestic counter-point.

Measure 37 begins the main theme of the piece, a driving allegro con brio (QN=160) section with light eight note accompaniment figures throughout the texture accompanying a typically lyrical quarter and eighth note melodic line.  In this section there is unison line for solo trumpet and trombone. The tempo suddenly broadens at 78 as band approaches a 3/4 lyrical andante middle section of the piece.

Measure 82 features an alto saxophone solo in a more lilting, “romantic” section of the composition.  This legato style section also has interludes where the brass choir and woodwind choir are separated and featured in contrast to each other. 
The piece returns to the allegro tempo at 119 as it revisits the main theme, transposes that theme into the key of F Major from measure 139 until the end of the piece.  In typical Swearingen fashion, the band ends in a powerful rhythmic

Performance Notes

Celebration for Winds & Percussion (1999) was commissioned by the South Woods Middle School PTSA, Syosset, New York, and dedicated to the South Woods 8thGrade Band under the direction of Karen White and Michael Salzman.

Musical Challenges

This piece has several tempo changes, each accompanied by a style change.  Students should be aware of exactly what mood each transition is moving toward, and care should be taken that every instrument play articulations, note values, and harmonic emphases consistently.  Swearingen doesn’t change meter often, but he does manipulate feel through the use of very specific articulation markings.

Key manipulations in this piece are small at best – notes are not likely to be the challenge in this piece.  Technical facility may be an issue, however.  There are many sections where it would be a good idea to start slow and speed up.  This is especially important considering how dense the instrumental texture is though most of the work.  As more and more instruments are layered, technical facility (or lack thereof) cannot be allowed to interfere with the audience’s opportunity to hear the interplay between the lines of the melody and countermelody.

Finally, this piece requires a level of individual virtuosity from several key players.  Solos in the trumpet, trombone, and alto saxophone require players with good characteristic tone and musical phrasing.

About the Composer

James Swearingen's talents as a performer, composer/arranger and educator include a background of extensive training and experience. He has earned degrees from Bowling Green State University and The Ohio State University. Mr. Swearingen is currently Professor of Music, Department Chair of Music Education and one of several resident composers at Capital University located in Columbus, Ohio. He also serves as a staff arranger for the famed Ohio State University Marching Band. Prior to his appointment at Capital in 1987, he spent eighteen years teaching instrumental music in the public schools of central Ohio. His first teaching assignment took him to the community of Sunbury, Ohio. He then spent fourteen years as Director of Instrumental Music at Grove City High School where his marching, concert and jazz bands all received acclaim for their high standards of performing excellence.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mr. Swearingen manages to be very active as a guest conductor, adjudicator and educational clinician. Appearances have included trips throughout the United States, as well as Japan, Australia, Europe, Canada and The Republic of China.

Mr. Swearingen's numerous contributions for band have been enthusiastically received by school directors, student performers and audiences worldwide. With over 500 published works, he has written band compositions and arrangements that reflect a variety of musical forms and styles. Many of his pieces, including 86 commissioned works, have been chosen for contest and festival lists. He is a recipient of several ASCAP awards for published compositions and in 1992 was selected as an Accomplished Graduate of the Fine and Performing Arts from Bowling Green State University. In March of 2000, he was invited to join The American Bandmasters Association, considered to be the most prestigious bandmaster organization in the world. Mr. Swearingen received the 2002 Community Music Educator Award given annually by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. In that same year, he became conductor of the Grove City Community Winds. This highly talented ensemble consists of many fine musicians from the central Ohio area. He is a member of numerous professional and honorary organizations including OMEA, MENC, ASBDA, Phi Beta Mu and Pi Kappa Lambda.

On June 20, 2009, The American School Band Directors Association, Inc., presented Mr. Swearingen with the A. Austin Harding Award.  This prestigious award is presented annually by the organization and is reflective of valuable and dedicated service to the school bands of America.