A Little Wind Ensemble History

The concept of the modern wind ensemble was born when Frederick Fennell created the Eastman Wind Ensemble in 1952. Fennell’s new instrumentation used the instruments generally found in symphonic or concert bands, but reduced the size of certain sections to feature one player on each part. This allowed players who often got buried in large sections in the concert band to rise to the challenges of playing as soloists in an ensemble context. Fennell also encouraged contemporary composers to write for this new instrumentation, which was similar to an expanded orchestral winds/percussion section but included characteristic color instruments from the concert band, such as saxophones and euphonium.

At that time, few original band pieces existed, and band concerts usually included numerous transcriptions from orchestral repertoire, with notable exceptions from Sousa and other march composers. Fennell began programming works for groups of any size that followed the one-on-a-part guideline, such as Mozart Serenades for wind octet and works for brass groups by Gabrieli. This allowed wind ensemble members to perform music from all eras of written wind music, including the small but excellent repertoire for military and symphonic bands by composers such as Holst and Vaughan Williams. The wind ensemble concept is now standard in most colleges and universities and has found a home in many community organizations throughout the world. Despite the relative youth of the wind ensemble in comparison to other musical media, numerous contemporary composers have responded to the idea of writing for this collection of 40 individual wind artists.

CWEonStageThe Colorado Wind Ensemble follows this tradition of performing great works for bands and wind groups of all sizes from all eras, including Renaissance motets, Baroque organ works, Classical chamber wind works, marches, military and symphonic band pieces, and compositions for the modern wind ensemble inspired by Frederick Fennell.