Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
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
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!
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
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.