Educated at the University of Michigan, composer Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) has become one of the biggest names in new wind band repertoire.  Since 1991 he has been a Professor of Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music and, until 1998, Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony.  He is the recipient of many awards, including first prize in the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2, and a 2012 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Sun Dance was written in 1997 on a commission from the Austin Independent School District to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their All-City Honor Band Festival, and it was premiered by that group on March 18 of that year.  Amidst a detailed thematic and structural analysis (he reveals a hybrid arch/sonata form for the piece), Ticheli provides a concise program note in the score:

While composing Sun Dance, I was consciously attempting to evoke a feeling: bright joy.  After completing the work, I found that the music began to suggest a more concrete image – a town festival on a warm, sunwashed day.  I imagined townspeople gathered in the park, some in small groups, some walking hand in hand, others dancing to the music played by a small band under a red gazebo.  Throughout the composition process, I carefully balanced the songlike and dancelike components of “bright joy.”  The oboe’s gentle statement of the main melody establishes the work’s songlike characteristics, while in the work’s middle section, a lyrical theme of even greater passion appears.  Several recurring themes are indeed more vocal than instrumental in nature.

The work’s dancelike qualities are enhanced by a syncopated rhythmic figure. … The figure is used not only in the main melody, but also as a structural building block for virtually everything in the piece, including other melodies, accompaniment figures, and episodes.

An anonymous band plays Sun Dance:

See more about Sun Dance at Manhattan Beach Music, this Prezi, and GIA Music. As for Frank Ticheli, here are some great resources:

Frank Ticheli’s personal website,

Ticheli bio on Wikipedia.

Frank Ticheli’s Facebook fanclub.

A video interview with Ticheli in which he talks about composing.