Rising Star

Samuel R. Hazo
MusicWorksm , 2006


Rising Star (2006) is written in a Cantabile style for very young bands.  It begins with a suspended cymbal roll into a four measure introduction and then continues into a long, sustained melody in the flute consisting entirely of quarter, half, and whole notes.  As with much of Hazo’s writing, the piece is driven by tone colors and beautiful passing lines more than by a specific melody.  While the simplified instrument ranges and rhythmic values lend this piece to a very young band, the performance will be very musically taxing for young players to maintain a beautiful blend and appropriate balance through the very dense and rich chords existing throughout the work.

Performance Notes

Rising Star (2006) was commissioned by Mr. Steven Tyndall, band director at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayetteville, GA.  Although the Rising Starr Band is a true benchmark among music programs, having performed at the Midwest Clinic and the National Band Festival, the purpose of this commission was as an offering to young and growing bands. The composition Rising Star uses only the first 6 notes in each instrument’s beginning lessons.  Additionally, rhythms consist of only quarter, half, and whole notes.  Yet, the goal was to create something that did not sound like a six note composition.

Musical Challenges

The instrumentation, range, and rhythms in this piece are designed very specifically for a very young band, using only the first six notes taught on each instrument.  This may, however, be one of the more challenging pieces on the Grade 1 list to perform well in concert or festival.  There are many places throughout the piece where it is difficult to tell which instrument should be most prominent in the musical texture.  Because every instrument is playing very similar rhythmic elements, many at the same time, the very young student will find it a challenge to listen for moving voices and maintain the discipline required to allow the moving voice to be heard. In measure 6, for example, the flute has the melody, but the saxophones, horn, and clarinet all have sustained notes that could easily overpower the flute section.

Being a chorale, this piece will already be a challenge to a younger player.  In my experience, young musicians need to be taught to appreciate the harmonies and textures in chorale playing.  It seems students naturally enjoy the energy and exuberance a faster piece provides, but sometimes find a chorale like  Rising Star “boring”.  Mr. Hazo does an excellent job in this chorale of using every possible combination of the six notes available to him to create tonal harmonies that are very interesting in students are taught to listen for them.  This active listening then needs to extend to tone and intonation.  While this piece will be very challenging to the students from the perspective of intonation, balance, and blend, performing this and pieces like it will build a much more mature, disciplined, and focused musician into your young band program.

About the Composer

Samuel R. Hazo (b. 1966) resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children. In 2003, Mr. Hazo became the first composer in history to be awarded the winner of both composition contests sponsored by the National Band Association. He has composed for the professional, university and public school levels in addition to writing original scores for television, radio and the stage. His original symphonic compositions include performances with actors Brooke Shields, James Earl Jones, David Conrad and Richard Kiley. He has also written symphonic arrangements for three-time Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams. Mr. Hazo’s compositions have been performed and recorded world-wide, including performances by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (national tour), the Birmingham Symphonic Winds (UK) and the Klavier Wind Project’s recordings with Eugene Migliaro Corporon. Additionally, his music is included in the series "Teaching Music Through Performance in Band." Mr. Hazo's works have been premiered and performed at the Music Educators’ National Conference, Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles Convention, National Honor Band of America, National Band Association/TBA Convention, College Band Directors’ National Association Convention and also aired in full-length programs on National Public Radio. He has served as composer-in-residence at Craig Kirchhoff’s University of Minnesota Conducting Symposium and has also lectured on music and music education at universities and high schools internationally. In 2004, Mr. Hazo's compositions were listed in a published national survey of the "Top Twenty Compositions of  All Time" for wind band.

Mr. Hazo has been a music teacher at every educational grade level from kindergarten through college, including tenure as a high school and university director. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Duquesne University where he served on the Board of Governors and was awarded as Duquesne’s Outstanding Graduate in Music Education. Mr. Hazo serves as a guest conductor and is a clinician for Hal Leonard Corporation. Recordings of his
compositions appear on Klavier Records and Mark Records.