Pete BarenBregge“What can I do for a holiday concert for my jazz ensemble?” The goal is to put together a performance that will offer effective programming, provide sound educational music, and be fun for the band to play, enjoyable for the audience, and fairly easy to rehearse? That’s a tall order!


  • How many charts to perform?
  • What tempos and styles will be most effective?
  • How much rehearsal time will I have to assemble the holiday program?
  • Do I go for the musical chestnuts—well-known holiday titles, or step out of the box?

Educational music:

  • How difficult should the music be—my time is limited, both rehearsal time and concert duration?
  • Do I strive to improve the skill/ability of the jazz ensemble and introduce new music or rehash music from the holiday concert two years ago?
  • Ample rehearsal time—do I have the luxury of more challenging music?
  • What is “quality” holiday music?

Selecting music:

  • What will the students consider “fun” to play?
  • What’s my budget?
  • What will the audience enjoy…or tolerate?
  • Will my principal/administration like the music?
  • The “same old same old” holiday music or clever variations of holiday melodies?

Here are a few suggestions:

1)      Listen to music publisher catalog demo tracks for holiday music and narrow down your selections to something appropriate for your band’s skill level and ability.

2)      Look and listen for arrangements that have a hook and that are interesting yet familiar—perhaps a fresh approach to a well-known holiday title.

3)      Try to find music that is new or different to broaden the holiday music experience—but not too complicated or far-out.

4)      Determine if your selections are fun to play and accessible?

5)      Can you rehearse the music quickly and effectively in the limited time you may have available? Look for danger zones of complex or unfamiliar rhythms, difficult range issues, instrumentation challenges and key signatures. To minimize rehearsal time, are there any jazz solos that are not written out that may create an additional challenge based on the rehearsal time you have?

Hopefully these suggestions will assist you in creating an enjoyable yet accessible holiday jazz band concert—you’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. I wish you the best of luck on another successful holiday season.

Pete BarenBregge

Alfred Music/Belwin Jazz Editor