The Waiting Game


Grade 2.5

For Middle School Band

SKU: The Waiting Game Category:


The Waiting Game by James M. Stephenson

for concert band – grade 2.5

Commissioned for and Premiered by Derek Stratton, director, and the Pella Middle School Band on March 30, 2021.

duration: 4 minutes

flute, oboe, Bb clarinet 1-2, bass clarinet
alto/tenor/baritone saxophone
Bb trumpet 1-2, french horn, trombone, baritone, bassoon, tuba timpani + (min.) 5 percussion

percussion instruments needed:
mallets: marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel
percussion: bass drum, snare drum, sus. cymb., hi-hat, triangle, tambourine

Program Notes:

In the fall of 2019, I was contacted by Derk Stratton about the idea of writing a new piece for his middle school band. I had known Derek from my days as a trumpeter in the Des Moines Metro Opera, where our paths had crossed. Of particular note was a July 4th parade, which we celebrated on his front lawn (if memory serves). Regarding this new piece, he mentioned several things – instruments available, their strengths/weaknesses, ranges – but it was his final request that I write a “good tune that they might leave the room whistling” that proved most compelling to me.

Of course, back in 2019, neither of us would have ever guessed that a year later, when it was time for me to write the piece, we’d be in the middle of a terrible worldwide pandemic. All of us have, of course, been deeply affected by the pandemic. I’ve thought about it endlessly, and how it has affected us musicians, and what we might look forward to when it finally subsides. Much of that thought-process has been injected into this piece: “The Waiting Game”. The world had a similar pandemic 100 years ago, and my guess is that the “Roaring 20s” was, in part, a worldwide reaction to finally being free from that oppressive worry about the disease. I have a hunch that we might be having a similar cathartic release in the years ahead, upon the end of the current lock-down. It is my hope anyway. Therefore, the “Waiting” music herein begins with that of a ticking clock, per se, interspersed with jazzy chords looking to resolve. I thought that the Charleston rhythm, so popular 100 years ago, would be a good one for middle-school musicians to get acquainted with; therefore, the main melody of the up-tempo part of the piece is in that style. Ultimately, the unresolved chords from the beginning do resolve at the end. The Charleston music returns, and “all is well” with the world. For now, however, the waiting game continues.

Jim Stephenson; November, 2020

Additional information

Band Category



Type of Purchase


Type of Work