Tried and True Middle School Gems

Karla McClain, Middle School/Junior High R & R Chair

I constantly get emails and texts asking for repertoire ideas, so I thought it would be helpful to make a list of some of my tried and true gems. Many of these are available in multiple voicings, but I’m going to include the voicing that I have either done successfully or love the best. This month, I will focus on 2 part arrangements. Look out for more recommendations in the future!


Blue Skies, arr. Roger Emerson  Great opportunities to introduce students to scat singing. A good mix of unison and harmony singing. 

Wau Bulan arr. Tracy Wong I can not stop telling people about this song. It is a beautiful and simple to teach musically– but the visual effect is what makes this work so stunning! There is a video on Tracy’s website that I used to teach the movements to my students. 

On Wind, On Wing by Amy Bernon A fabulous spring piece. Always popular with my students, and as always, Amy does such a fantastic job with the text that is appealing and paints a beautiful picture for students to imagine. A few spots of 3 part. 

And She Sings, by Rob Hugh  I love this tune so much! My students love it, and again, it has a great scat section in the middle and some beautiful harmonies. I love using it to talk about lyrics and how composers set lyrics and paint pictures with words. 

The Water is Wide, arr. Rollo Diworth This partners The Water is Wide with Bring Me Little Water Sylvie. It is lovely for teaching phrasing, and for getting students to work on 2 part singing because each melody is introduced separately before the partner song starts. Lovely accompaniment with some unexpected harmonies that add so much to this piece. 

Welcome Spring, by Andy Beck This is such a great way to work on 6/8 meter with singers. It is also a great way to introduce them to a few moments of SSA in the middle section. My students always love singing this. 

Cantate Domino, Nancy Hill Cobb This is a challenging piece for students– mostly in 6/8, but goes in and out of different meters which is usually the trickiest part for my singers. Need a great accompanist for this piece! 

Aeyaya Balano Sakkad, arr. John Higgins and Dean Crocker  It can often be challenging to find folk songs from India that are accessible to middle school choirs, and this is a great, very doable arrangement. I chose to have students sing it with a sitar app instead of using the accompaniment as written and it was very effective. It is a Diwali song, so a great  vehicle for conversation about this tradition in India. 

I Remember, by Sarah Quartel I can’t say enough about Sarah Quartel as a composer– she just writes the most beautiful melodies!! I have done several of her pieces and my students absolutely love her music. 

First Snow, by Reginald Unterseher  This is a STUNNING piece for a winter concert. It just paints such a beautiful picture of a winter scene, and is wonderful for really working on mixed meter and expression. 

Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia by David Brunner Beautiful dissonant harmonies and challenging rhythms in this piece. A killer piano part that can be tricky to put together but a really fantastic piece if you have an advanced group of treble singers. 

Five Sided S’vivon arr. Robert Applebaum  S-vivon meets Take 5. This is definitely a more challenging arrangement but it is so effective! My students are always so proud of themselves once they really get the hang of it. 

Klee Wyck by Brian Tate This piece is a great chance for collaboration with your art teachers! It is a homage to artist Emily Carr. It features a hand drum part that is very easy for a student in your ensemble to learn. It is dramatic and my students couldn’t get enough of it.