In its 20 years, BandQuest® has connected middle-level learners with living composers in meaningful ways. For those who may be new to it, BandQuest is a series of new music written by a group of leading American composers from many life experiences for young band musicians. No BandQuest piece is created in solitude– leading up to each published work is a residency that values the direct connection between composer and student. From conversations to workshopping to co-creating, each BandQuest composer builds a relationship with the students that brings about a piece that wouldn’t have been possible without their shared understanding. What results is a relevant, challenging piece that is a true departure from standard middle school repertoire. What also results is young musicians seeing that composers are complex, living people and that their young voices are worthy of creative expression. Thanks to our distribution partner, Hal Leonard Corporation, BandQuest music has reached millions of young musicians. Along with the music, our integrated curricula gives students tools with which to create, encouraging them to explore and to appreciate historical and cultural contexts.

I have had the pleasure of working with our BandQuest® series for seven years, and that time has been filled with countless conversations with educators across the US, building relationships with composers, diving head-first into publishing and distribution, and collaborating with seasoned curriculum creators. It has been enriching in every way imaginable! Many past ACF staffers made BandQuest what it is today, and I’m grateful to play a small part in the legacy.

In our 20th year of the program, all of us at ACF wanted to take a moment to celebrate BandQuest and all of the people that have made it possible. Let’s start off by hearing what Thomas C Duffy, our tireless Series Editor has to say:

We’d also like to share with you reflections from some of our BandQuest composers!

The 20th Anniversary of BandQuest – Congratulations! It’s wonderful that nearly seven generations of Middle School musicians have been working with us (American composers) inspiring us and inviting us into their musical lives as, together, we make music. No marble busts here!

Libby Larsen
ACF Co-Founder

It has been such an honor to be a small part of BandQuest. Wherever I travel for concerts, frequently a band director will show up to tell me about how much fun the kids had playing Rhythm Stand. The smile on their faces says it all. Thank you, ACF, for making new music so cool for the kids!

Jennifer Higdon
Rock Chair in Composition, The Curtis Institute of Music

The BandQuest collaboration I was involved in with Betsy Ross Middle School in New Haven, CT, was one of the happiest experiences I have had as a composer. There is something wonderful about reconnecting with music through the lens of a 12 year old that puts joy back front and center in the music creating. And it was great fun taking requests from the students- can we have a drum set, can I have a tuba solo, can the flutes play piccolo, can we use mutes here- so many good ideas from budding creative minds!

Christopher Theofanidis
Chair of Composition and Professor in the Practice, Yale School of Music

I feel honored to have been asked to write a piece for BandQuest. In every way it was an enjoyable learning experience.

Adolphus Hailstork
Professor and Eminent Scholar, Old Dominion University

One of the myriad goals of ACF’s BandQuest program includes inviting composers who have had little or no experience in the wind band genre to create a mid-level difficulty work for the repertoire. In 2010, I was exactly such a composer, having written only one work for wind band, and none yet for younger players. I had no idea that the gift of ACF’s commission would open the portal to an entirely new focus in my career.

Notably, it was the openness with which the BandQuest team accepted my highly non-traditional ideas that gave me permission to explore, and which set me on the path that has become my voice in the field: electroacoustic music for large ensembles. For my BandQuest piece, PAPER CUT, this involved not only having the students perform with a prerecorded audio track, but having them all play paper as a percussion instrument, as well.

Nearly 20 electroacoustic wind band works later, I look back to the magical opportunity BandQuest offered me. It not only ushered in my passion for multimedia band music, but for my keen desire to be a part of music education, and to encourage our future composers to take risks, surround themselves with supportive colleagues, and have a great time.

Alex Shapiro

The BandQuest Project has connected me with our young musicians closely, and brought me into our society widely. I have enjoyed so much the excellent performances of my Spring Festival played by middle school bands, university bands, and other bands around the world. I am proud to be a part of the innovative project BandQuest created by the ACF, and feel grateful to have such opportunity to share my voice with our enthusiastic audiences since 2000. 

Chen Yi
Lorena Searcy Cravens/ Millsap/ Missouri Distinguished Professor of Composition, University of Missouri-Kansas City

We’ve also gathered a ‘Top 20’ Tips for Composer/Educator Collaborations from many more of our BandQuest composers.


Enjoy some images from our 20 years in the business!

  • The BandQuest Series
  • ACF Co-Founder Libby Larsen in rehearsals with students at the Blake School in Hopkins, MN.
  • A note from Libby Larsen on the published score of 'Hambone.'
  • Michael Colgrass in residence with students at Winona Drive Public School Band in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (2000).
  • Michael Colgrass in residence with students at Winona Drive Public School Band in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (2000).
  • Michael Colgrass' signed score of 'Old Churches' which was premiered in 2000 with the Winona Drive Public School Band in Toronto, Ontario, Canada under the direction of Louis Papachristos.
  • Before it was 'BandQuest,' it was 'New Band Horizons!'
  • Chen Yi in rehearsal with students at Smith-Hale Junior High School in Kansas City, MO (2000).
  • A thank you from Chen Yi on her published score of 'Spring Festival'
  • Students at Apollo Junior High School Wind Ensemble in Richardson, TX rehearsing Robert Xavier Rodriguez's 'Smash the Windows' (2001).
  • A sample of Robert Xavier Rodriguez's 'Smash the Windows' that adorns our ACF office walls.
  • Early marketing material...
  • Rehearsal of 'Grandmother Song' by Brent Michael Davids (2002)
  • The original manuscript of Brent Michael Davids' 'Grandmother Song'
  • A thank you from Brent Michael Davids on his published score of 'Grandmother Song'
  • CD demo of Series Editor Thomas C. Duffy's 'A+'
  • July 2002 BandQuest feature in The Instrumentalist by Frank Battisti
  • Back in the CD-Rom curriculum days...
  • The score for 'Ridgeview Centrum' by Alvin Singleton.
  • ACF Co-Founder Libby Larsen talks to educators at the Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago, IL.
  • Adolphus Hailstork In Residence (2003)
  • The score for 'City Rain' by Judith Lang Zaimont.
  • Michael Daugherty rehearsing 'Alligator Alley' with students at Slausen Middle School in Ann Arbor, MI (2003).
  • Tania Leon in rehearsals for 'Alegre' (2003).
  • CD Rom Curriculum sample of Tania Leon's 'Alegre'
  • Original parts to Adolphus Hailstork's 'New Wade 'N Water' (2003).
  • ACF Co-Founder Stephen Paulus talking with students at DeLasalle High School in Cordord, CA (2003).
  • Original manuscript of Stephen Paulus' 'Mosaic' which was premiered in December 2003 at DeLasalle High School in Cordord, California under the direction of John Christian.
  • Jennifer Higdon talking with band students at Baldi Middle School Band in Philadelphia, PA (2004).
  • Krystal Banfield, Carey Nadeau, and former ACF CEO John Nuechterlein at the Midwest Band Clinic.
  • Jennifer Higdon and Thomas C Duffy reconnect at the Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago, IL.
  • Gunther Schuller rehearsing 'Nature's Way' with the Lexington High School Band of Massachusetts at the Mass. Music Educator’s Association Convention (2006).
  • Dana Wilson talking with Boynton Middle School Concert Band students and director Michael Allen in Ithaca, NY (2008).
  • The University of MN Wind Ensemble's recording session for Chris Brubeck's 'Ghost Walk' with director Craig Kirchhoff (2009).
  • Some early BandQuest marketing...
  • Alex Shapiro in residence with the Friday Harbor Middle School Band in Friday Harbor, WA (2010).
  • The University of MN Wind Ensemble recording session of Alex Shapiro's 'Paper Cut' (2010).
  • Christopher Theofanidis and Matthew Fried talk about their residency experience at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet Middle School Band in New Haven, CT (2011).
  • Christopher Theofanidis chatting with students at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet Middle School Band in New Haven, CT (2011).
  • Kevin Puts workshopping 'Charm' with the Scarsdale Middle School Band in Scarsdale, NY (2012).
  • Trumpeter practicing his Klezmer solo for Hankus Netsky's 'Nonantum Bulgar' with the Newton All City Band in Newton, MA (2013).
  • Band students at Rosemount Middle School Band in Rosemount, MN show off their homemade taiko drums for Jodie Blackshaw's 'Letter from Sado' (2014).
  • Jodie Blackshaw and ACF staffer Suzanna Altman at Midwest Clinic with the 'Letter from Sado' new release.
  • Jodie Blackshaw and Thomas C Duffy signing the 'ColourFULL Music' pledge at the Midwest Band Clinic.
  • Susan Botti and the students at Linden Avenue Middle School Band, Red Hook, NY make wind chimes for 'Eye of the Hawk' (2015).
  • Alex Shapiro, Michael Daugherty, and ACF staffer Laura Krider at the Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago, IL.
  • James M Stephenson experimenting with kitchen utensils as percussion with students from the McCracken Middle School Band in Skokie, IL (2016).
  • James M Stephenson with the titular Deep Dish at a Midwest Band Clinic Composer Hang.
  • James M Stephenson and Chip de Stefano celebrate the release of 'Deep Dish' at the Midwest Band Clinic (2017).
  • ACF staffers Kris Kautzman, Billy Lackey, Laura Krider, and Patrick Marschke show off their new BandQuest swag.
  • Michael Gandolfi's 'Steps Ahead' was written in residence with the Roland Hayes School of Music Band in Roxbury Crossing, MA under the direction of Laura Bouix (2017).
  • Tawnie Olson, director Susan Oakley, and the students at EC Adams Middle School in Guilford, CT on the premiere day of 'Pop!' (2018).
  • Highlights from the 2019 Midwest Band Clinic Conference in Chicago, IL.
  • Paul Kile, Scott Jones, and friends celebrating BandQuest with ACF's President and CEO Vanessa Rose.


Since the beginning of the program, it’s been important for us to not only connect composers with young musicians, but to also do everything we could to help teachers program BandQuest pieces and provide fully integrated curricula for students to learn about all facets of the music beyond the notes. It started with CD-Roms, but don’t worry, we’ve moved into the 21st century. Our every-growing library of resources is available for free download here. Here are some thoughts from our curriculum writers:

BandQuest is an amazing project that not only puts new musical scores in front of a band, but also gives the director and the students the stories behind the music. The lessons and resources are a window into the composer’s story, and the ideas and events that inspire new music. It also never sells young musicians short. It provides musical challenges and the satisfaction of tackling something new. It’s 21st century music for 21st century school bands.

Joanna Cortright
Curriculum Writer and Advisor

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have served as a curriculum writer for BandQuest since the program’s inception. As a school band director, I am grateful to the American Composers Forum for their commitment to introducing high quality music that represents the creative voices of today’s internationally recognized composers to middle level instrumentalists. It has been a pleasure to partner with Joanna Cortright in creating lesson plans, inspired by the work of Claire W. McCoy, Janet R. Barrett, and Kari K. Veblen (Sound Ways of Knowing: Music in the Interdisciplinary Classroom, 1997), that provide opportunities for students and teachers to develop a deeper understanding of the music, connections of the music to other areas of learning, and inspirations for students to express their own personal creativity. Personal relationships that were nurtured with the BandQuest program directors, composers, colleagues, and fellow band directors through my affiliation with the program are something I will cherish for a lifetime. Congratulations on this milestone anniversary!

Herb Dick
Curriculum Writer and Advisor

Special Release

In honor of the 20th anniversary of BandQuest, we’ve also released a new piece by Thomas C Duffy called Scalin’ and Wailin.’ It is a flexible, fun piece written with a differentiated instruction model, and was premiered by the Yale University Concert Band and the Fair Haven K-8 School band with Daniel Kinsman in New Haven, CT. Thank you, Tom, for this incredible gift!

We’d also like to share some kind words from those who have been with BandQuest since Day One:

For 20 years the American Composers’ Forum BandQuest® series has stayed true to its philosophy by commissioning new works written by a diverse group of leading American composers. These pieces have created a new canon of repertoire representative of our time while meeting music educators at the intersection of project and performance-based curriculum. I am grateful to be associated with these composers and the American Composers Forum.

Jerry Luckhardt
Associate Director of Bands, University of Minnesota School of Music

The vision behind BandQuest is just as relevant and challenging today as it was twenty years ago – namely to bring great composers to the band repertoire for young students.  The composers and band directors who participated over the past two decades have succeeded brilliantly in making the series a reality.  With deep gratitude to Frank Battisti, Tom Duffy and Craig Kirchhoff, I am immensely proud that so much wonderful music has been created to inspire and encourage young students as they explore the art of making music.  It will be a valuable resource for decades to come. 

John Nuechterlein
Former ACF President & CEO

For the past 20 years the American Composers Forum has commissioned both emerging and established composers to write music for intermediate level school bands. Hundreds of students and band directors have enjoyed the excitement of performing these contemporary BandQuest works which are diverse in style and performance practices. “Bravo” to ACF for their valuable contribution to Music Education!

Frank L. Battisti
Emeritus Conductor, New England Conservatory of Music

BandQuest Video Archives

We have a robust library of videos from 20 years of BandQuest activity. Browse through rehearsal footage, interviews, teaching guidance, perusal scores with audio, and a lot of other good stuff.

So much to celebrate! We have exciting things planned for the future of BandQuest that will be announced later this season. Until then, spend a little time with our 20 years of new music for young learners and raise a glass to BandQuest!

BandQuest has been supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts since its founding year and by matching grant support from the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation.