Choosing music for bands, choirs, and orchestras is a big responsibility and can be a real struggle. Here is some of what Rune Hannisdal and Birgitte Grong have to say about the matter, retrieved from their article Conducting Amateur Ensembles published in the previous chapter.
The repertoire is an important tool. Through the repertoire, you are supposed to teach the musicians what they need to learn, make great concerts and interesting rehearsals whilst making room to create meaningful musical experiences that will motivate the musicians to continue to play and sing for the rest of their life. Searching for the perfect pieces can be very time-consuming, but you should remind yourself that it is well worth the hours spent.
You may need to find pieces that suit the different engagements throughout the year, pieces that are suitable for the level and setup of your ensemble, and pieces that give every single player the chance to improve. It is important to make sure that the pieces selected fall into different categories: pieces that the musicians can easily manage quickly, and pieces that challenge them. Music in the first category will encourage a focus on music-making and allow the musicians to play a lot more to reinforce their skill and stamina. In the second category, musicians will probably need a lot of repetitions. Therefore, having a variety of pieces from both categories might be useful.
Generally speaking, we often prefer to program music we already know. It is important to challenge yourself and your ensemble with a new repertoire. There is a strong connection between how well we know and manage to play the music, and how much we like it. Quite often, the more we know and master the music, the more we like it. For example, most band members would not have experienced authentic band music before they started playing in a band. You have a lot of power in which music you choose and how you present it. You can help nurture the young musicians’ approach towards new pieces with curiosity and have a major impact in developing their musical tastes. As a conductor, you are responsible for introducing inexperienced musicians to new repertoire as well as understanding that “it is our responsibility to rehearse all music as the best piece ever written.”*
* McCauley, Thomas. (2016). Adventures in Band Building. GIA Publications.