Editor, McLerran Journal
Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX
Although we have not yet met in person, I had the most enjoyable conversation with Mr. Standridge a few months ago. He is personable, passionate, and absolutely hilarious!
Randall Standridge, originally from Little Rock, AR, is currently an internationally-recognized composer, music editor, drill designer, music arranger, colorguard designer, and clinician. Seventy-two of his works have been featured on the J.W. Pepper Editor’s Choice list, many of which have been performed at the Midwest Clinic (Chicago, IL), and multiple works have made it into the Teaching Music Through Performance in Middle School Band series. Standridge’s music is published by several companies including Grand Mesa Music Publishers, Alfred Music, FJH Music, Wingert-Jones Music, Band Works Publications, Twin Towers Music, and Northeastern Music Publications.
Although he did not originally plan on becoming a composer, Standridge’s early childhood was filled with music and there was, in his mind, no doubt that it would be an important part of his life. Music was commonplace in the Standridge household with the majority of the family members possessing some level of performance ability, either on an instrument or voice. “It was just part of our family culture,” Standridge explained. At the age of only 8, he began to pick out short melodies on a synthesizer and began officially studying music when he joined band at school in seventh grade. Completely enamored with music and its ability to move people, Standridge decided to try writing his own music and “was very fortunate to get a lot of encouragement from [his] teachers.” In 2001, Standridge received his Bachelor’s of Music Education and then later, his Master’s in Music Composition (2009) from Arkansas State University, where he had the pleasure of studying with Dr. Tom O’Connor and Dr. Tim Crist. From 2001-2013, he served as the Director of Bands at Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, AR, before becoming a full-time freelance composer and being hired as the marching band editor for Grand Mesa Music Publishers. About the decision to leave his career as an educator, Standridge shared that he was hesitant to exit a job with regular hours and a steady income but that his family, particularly his husband, were completely in his corner and encouraged him to take the leap.
Standridge admits that he definitely misses getting to work with students on a daily basis, but enjoys conducting multiple honor bands and giving a handful of music education clinics each year. He primarily speaks about topics like the importance of music literacy in the classroom and provides training for educators over newer programs like Pyware and Finale. Standridge shared that his favorite part of getting to travel, however, is getting to experience a new place and potentially a new perspective on music. He was recently invited to present at the British Columbia Music Educators Association Clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was his first time to visit Canada and also his first international conference to participate in. Standridge marveled at the difference in Canadian and American music education culture given the fact that the two countries share a border.
Despite being internationally-recognized and consistently successful, Standridge refers to his own career as mundane, saying, “It’s so surreal that my music has proved as popular as it is; I’m just a guy from Arkansas.” For inspiration, Standridge looks to the world around him and is constantly experimenting with new styles and a variety of genres. This contrast is perfectly exemplified by two of his recent works, The Nine (2018) and Frogs (2017). Frogs is a grade 1+ work that employs a variety of musical nods to the famous composer Percy Grainger with “unexpected harmonic movement, chromaticism, and pastoral sensibility.” About the work, Standridge shared that he enjoyed writing it and infusing the music with his “smart-alec personality.” On the opposite end of the spectrum is The Nine, a Grade 4+ work commissioned by the Little Rock Central High School Wind Ensemble, the Little Rock Central Historic Parks System, and conductor Brice Evans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of integration in Little Rock public schools. “Commissions,” Standridge shared, “are an honor because people are trusting you completely with their music.” He referred to this particular piece as “more intellectual” and “one of the best things [he’s] written.”
Other notable works by Standridge include Snake Charmer and Gently Blows the Summer Wind, which have both been included in the Teaching Music Through Performance in Band series. Several of his pieces, including Steel, The Rowan Tree, Aggressivo, and When the Spring Rain Began to Fall, have been performed at the annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago, IL; an enormous honor. In 2010, his work Art(isms) was premiered at the College Band Directors National Association convention by the Arkansas State University Wind Ensemble. In addition to these accomplishments, Mr. Standridge is also a contributing composer for Alfred Music's Sound Innovations: Ensemble Development series.
Currently, Mr. Standridge is working on approximately twelve different commissions from organizations around the country, in addition to his position as a marching band drill designer and music editor. At a completion rate of 2-3 concert band pieces a month, Standridge is set to become one of the most prolific composers of this era. He shared that he accomplishes this speed through a commitment to the job (8-9 hours a day) and a high level of mastery with various computer programs like Finale. To aspiring composers, Standridge advises writing every day, studying as many scores as possible, and “finding your own voice.” “Keeping a schedule helps,” he says, “get up early and get to work.” He also reminds composers that “not everything has to be 100% original” and that many of the most revered composers of music history would borrow and learn techniques from other people. “If you hear something you like,” he says, “buy the score and pour over every detail.” Finally, Standridge urges composers and music editors to “put every piece through a rigorous editing process,” saying, “a lot of music is longer than it needs to be.” He shared that he personally cuts 30-60 measures from finished works to “boil it down to only the quality material.”
About his professional goals for the future, Standridge shared that he plans to continue composing and would like to get even more involved in athletic bands at the college level. “There is no concrete plan,” he said, “I’m just taking it day by day and exploring opportunities as they come.” He also advises musicians of all categories to make time for loved ones and to have other hobbies, saying, “Don’t let this be the only thing that you do.” In addition to his musical accomplishments, Standridge is also a freelance photographer, writer, and video game enthusiast.
Learn more or follow Randall Standridge at his website.
Book/recording suggestions from Mr. Standridge:
Interview on October 14, 2018.
Standridge, Randall. (2017). About Randall. Randall Standridge. Web. 4 November, 2018.