The Adventures of Jesse Owens for symphonic band | Michael Daugherty, composer

The Adventures of Jesse Owens
for symphonic band (2023)

1. Cotton
2. Berlin (1936 Olympics)
3. Gold

Instrumentation: Piccolo; 2 Flutes (minimum 2 players per part preferred); 2 Oboes English Horn; 4 Bb Clarinets (minimum 3 to 4 players per part preferred); Bb Bass Clarinet; 2 Bassoons; Contrabassoon (and/or optional Eb Contralto or Bb Contrabass Clarinet); Bb Soprano Saxophone; Eb Alto Saxophone; Bb Tenor Saxophone; Eb Baritone Saxophone; Bb Bass Saxophone (optional, but preferred); 4 C or Bb Trumpets; 4 F Horns; 2 Tenor Trombones; Bass Trombone; 2 Euphoniums; Tuba; Timpani (five drums); Contrabass (optional, but preferred; 2 players preferred); Percussion (five players): Percussion 1: Glockenspiel, Triangle, Chimes (shared with Perc. 3); Percussion 2: Vibraphone, Xylophone; Percussion 3: Chimes (shared with Perc. 1), Crash Cymbals (large), Suspended Cymbal, Claves, Whip (very large); Percussion 4: Anvil, Piccolo Snare Drum, Bongos (on stand), Wood Block, Gong (large); Percussion 5: Concert Bass Drum (dampened)

Publisher: Michael Daugherty Music

Duration:  12 minutes

World Premiere: July 11, 2023 / National Intercollegiate Band, Orlando, Florida / Rodney Dorsey, conductor


Program Note:

The Adventures of Jesse Owens for Symphonic Band was commissioned by Kappa Kappa Psi, National Band Fraternity, and Tau Beta Sigma, National Band Sorority for the National Intercollegiate Band. The world premiere will be given by the National Intercollegiate Band, conducted by Rodney Dorsey, in Orlando, Florida on July 11, 2023.

1. Cotton
Jesse Owens (1913-1980) was the youngest of ten children, the son of a sharecropper, and the grandson of enslaved people. The family lived in a small shack in rural Oakville, Alabama and everyone picked cotton for a living, including Jesse beginning at age seven. The first movement is a “work song” composed of pulsating, multi-layered ostinatos accompanied by a rhythmically relentless anvil.

2. Berlin (1936 Olympics)
As a student athlete on the track and field team at Ohio State University, Jesse Owens set five world records in 1935. He was subsequently invited to join the United States Olympic team for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. The German Nazi Party hoped that hosting the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin would provide an international showcase for the Third Reich and give legitimacy to its racist policies of Aryan supremacy. The participation of American Jewish and Black athletes subsequently caused great controversy. In the second movement, I allude to three different musical works associated with the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Berlin Olympics: Richard Strauss: Olympische Hymne (1936); My Country, ‘Tis of Thee (also known as America, 1831); Deutschlandlied (German National Anthem, 1922). As these melodies are interrupted by rolling drums, the ominous mood of the music anticipates World War II, started by Germany in 1939.

3. Gold
By winning four gold medals and setting world records in the 100 meter, 200 meter, 400 meter relay and long-jump, Jesse Owens became the most successful athlete of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. His victories made international headlines as “the fastest man in the world,” challenging the German Nazi doctrine of Aryan supremacy. Inspired by the superhuman feats of Jesse Owens at the Olympics, the brightly orchestrated final movement, marked “Presto,” moves at breakneck speed to a triumphant finish line.

–Michael Daugherty