MSHSAA “A” Flute Solos

Looking for a Solo & Ensemble Festival selection? I’ve collected some of my favorites – all of them are approved on the MSHSAA prescribed graded music list, and yet they’re not the same ones that everyone plays in this book and this book (so the judges aren’t sick of hearing them!).

What follows are lesser-known gems on the “A” list – you might also want to check out the B list and the C list while you’re here.

Gary Schocker: Regrets & Resolutions

(MSHSAA #: 16088 | Buy online at JW Pepper or Flute World)

Why You’ll Love It: Schocker (1959-) is a flutist, pianist, and composer known for being the most prolific living composer of flute music today, with over 200 works in print. Regrets and Resolutions was commissioned in 1986 and has since been arranged for flute and orchestra. This challenging piece has two movements: the first is flowing and lyrical, while the second is lively. Put together, they illustrate the title (a person looking back and then deciding to press onward).

Aaron Copland: Duo

(MSHSAA #: 5525 | Buy online at JW Pepper or Flute World)

Why You’ll Love It: Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was a composer known for creating a uniquely American sound. Some of his most famous orchestral pieces include Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, and Fanfare for the Common Man. This piece was commissioned in 1971 in memory of William Kincaid (famous for being the principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra) – no less than 70 students and friends contributed to make this memorial happen. The piece has three movements, marked “flowing,” “poetic, somewhat mournful,” and “lively, with bounce” – each one will give you different opportunities to show your personality as you play.

Béla Bartók: Suite Paysanne Hongroise

(MSHSAA #: 4259 | Buy online at JW Pepper or Flute World)

Why You’ll Love It: Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was a Hungarian composer not only considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century, but also known for essentially founding the field of comparative musicology (now called ethnomusicology) via his study of folk tunes. His mother said that he could distinguish different dance rhythms she played on the piano before he could even speak in complete sentences. The Suite Paysanne Hongroise (literally “Hungarian Peasant Suite”) is based on melodies he collected in Eastern Europe and arranged for piano; the version we flutists use was later arranged by Paul Arma. These songs fit Bartók’s own description of folk music as a “concept of ideal simplicity devoid of trashiness” (!) – watch the video below and you’ll see what he means.

David Marlatt: Variations on Blue Bells of Scotland

(MSHSAA #: 15627 | Buy online at JW Pepper)

Why You’ll Love It: The original song for this piece exists in many versions, from a publication in the Scots Musical Museum to an anonymous early 19th-century broadside – if you want to get technical, its Roud Folk Song Index number is 13849. The lyrics vary, but generally describe a young Scotsman who has left to fight the French (probably in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars of 1972-1815). This version, which pairs the melodic theme with multiple variations, is so well-loved that arrangements exist for many instruments – hence the great youth wind ensemble version below. If you’d like to master technical challenges while exploring multiple takes on the same melody, this might be the piece for you!

Franz Doppler: Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise

(MSHSAA #: 6069 | Buy online at JW Pepper or Flute World)

Why You’ll Love It: Franz Doppler (1821-1883) was a flute virtuoso who enjoyed composing flashy pieces to show off his (ahem, our) technique. The melodies he used as the basis for these pieces often showed their roots in Russian and Hungarian folk music. That’s the case with the Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise (Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy), which makes use of ornamentation that imitates the playing of Romani musicians. Expect to develop your technical flourishes and expressive phrasing if you choose this one!

A small disclaimer: While I’ve done my best to be accurate here, please remember MSHSAA is the expert on its own festival and might update their rules at any time. So be sure to check their website and verify your plan with your band teacher!