What is a Wind Orchestra?

Today’s wind orchestra is also called a wind band, symphonic band, symphonic winds, wind symphony, wind ensemble, concert band, symphonic wind ensemble. All of these are performing ensembles consisting of several members of the woodwind, brass, and percussion families of instruments. Today there are community bands, school bands, military bands, professional bands and industrial bands throughout the world.

The wind orchestra of today has its roots in the wind ensemble music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His three incomparable serenades for wind instruments, K. 361, K. 375, and K. 388, did more for the development of a true repertoire for wind instruments than any of the composers before or after him. In a letter to his father on December 3, 1778, Mozart said “Ah, if only we had clarinets too! You cannot imagine the glorious effect of a symphony with flutes, oboes, and clarinets. I shall have much that is new to tell the Archbishop at my first audience, and I shall make some suggestions as well.” Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E-Flat and his Second Suite in F are works that brought the large wind orchestra into the 20th Century as a serious and distinctive medium of musical expression. With their major works for small wind ensemble and large wind orchestra during the past 75 years, composers such as Hindemith, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Persichetti, Husa, Grainger, Jacob, Sousa, Reed, Mackey, de Meij, Daugherty, Dahl, Sparke, and Corigliano have unleashed a force for music making that is unparalleled in the whole history of musical art.