Letter from Sado is an exciting new piece for young band based on a Japanese haiku of the same name. Sado refers to Sado Island in Japan in which various artists, religious and military leaders were sent in exile many years ago. The island has historically had a strong community of taiko drummers and as such, the piece incorporates optional homemade taiko drums.

Blackshaw writes: “To capture the idea of interpretation and the concept of “reading between the lines,” the students are invited to become decision makers about particular sections in the music. For example, the opening and closing sections of the piece use the same material, which is a selection of repeated melodic figures. The students themselves decide how to play these figures as individuals, in small teams and then as a whole band. Their decisions include ideas regarding tempo (how fast?), dynamics (how loud?), and articulation (smooth, short, or hard?). To inspire them, we use the haiku poem; i.e., the opening section invites the students to play the material as if it were a “stormy, wild sea” and the closing section invites the students to play the same melodic figures but this time, draw their inspiration from “Heaven’s River,” or as we know it, the Milky Way.

In-between, there is an elaborate, heavily textured section that becomes increasingly powerful. The music doesn’t rest harmonically until the whole band plays in unison. These multiple layers of sound represent the many thoughts and ideas that would have surrounded those individuals sent to Sado Island in exile, the final unison is representative of their own breakthrough experience sending them on a pathway to inner peace and acceptance.”

Embrace your players’ creativity, offer them your trust, and see how far Letter from Sado can take your band! And, read Jodie Blackshaw’s 2018 blog post ‘Compose with music concepts in rehearsal using Letter from Sado‘ to learn about all of the wonderful teaching opportunities found in the piece.


1- Conductor

2- Flute
2- Oboe
2- B-flat Clarinet

2- Flute
2- B-flat Clarinet
2- E-flat Alto Saxophone

2- E-flat Alto Saxophone
2- B-flat Trumpet

2- B-flat Trumpet
2- F Horn

2-B-flat Clarinet (optional)
2- B-flat Tenor Saxophone
2- Bassoon
2- Trombone

2- Trombone
2- Baritone B.C.
2- Baritone T.C.

2- B-flat Bass Clarinet
2- E-flat Baritone Saxophone
2- Baritone or Trombone
2- Tuba
1- Keyboard (optional)

2- Mallet Percussion 1
2- Mallet Percussion 2
Tubular Bells
2- Auxilliary Percussion 1
Ocean Drum, Finger Symbals
2- Auxilliary Percussion 2
Ocean Drum, Suspended Cymbal

2- Percussion 1
Homemade PVC Drum or Medium Tom-tom
2- Percussion 2
Homemade Taiko Tire Drum or Low Tom-ton

Meet The Composer

Jodie Blackshaw studied a Bachelor of Music in Composition with Larry Sitsky at the Canberra School of Music, graduating in 1992. Since then, she has worked in several different settings, from outback Australia to inner-city Sydney, teaching music to students of all ages and conducting a variety of concert bands.

Through her teaching, conducting and composing, Blackshaw has passionately searched for a new approach to young band that offers band directors with a product that centres on musical elements other than melody and harmony. In 2001 Jodie completed her Graduate Diploma in Education and during this time, she discovered the Orff-Schulwerk methodology for music education. This approach was the answer she had been searching for and consequently, it has been a significant influence in her works for young musicians.

In 2006 Jodie won the inaugural Frank Ticheli Composition Contest that earned publication of her Grade 1 piece ‘Whirlwind’ with Manhattan Beach Music (MBM). A second work, ‘Terpsichorean Dances’ that also won a prize in the same competition is also published with MBM.
In April 2009 Blackshaw travelled to the University of North Texas to work with the UNT Symphonic Wind Band under the baton of Professor Dennis Fisher. This experience culminated in the world premiere of her emotionally compelling Grade 5-6 work, Soulström.

Through 2009-2012 Blackshaw developed an original concept for beginning band repertoire known as the ‘Project Piece’. In early 2012 the Australian Band and Orchestra Director’s Association, Queensland commissioned Blackshaw for two works for the Australian National Band and Orchestra Conference. Due to the short lead-time, she agreed to a post-commission of her freshly completed, foundational ‘Project Piece’ entitled Belah Sun Woman. ‘Twist’, a work for high school band was also completed and both were premiered at the conference.
In December 2012 Jodie presented the clinic ‘Get off the Podium’ alongside Dr. Mark Fonder of Ithaca College and esteemed conductor Professor Craig Kirchhoff at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, Illinois.

Jodie is fanatical about producing quality, meaningful works for band and appears as a guest clinician and adjudicator for band festivals throughout Australia. She desires that her music not just be “another piece, but an educational and spiritual journey for both the players and the director”.

About The Premiere

This piece was premiered by the Rosemount Middle School Band on May 19, 2014 under the direction of John Zschunke.