Scenes from "Billy the Kid"

From Wind Repertory Project
Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (arr. Hilliard)

General Info

Year: 1941 / 2000
Duration: c. 9:40
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Two Pianos
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Cost: Score and Parts - $95.00   |   Score Only - $12.95


1. The open prairie
2. Street in a frontier town
3. Cowboys with lassos
4. Mexican dance and finale
5. Gun battle
6. Celebration (after Billy's capture)
7. Billy's death
8. The open prairie again


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Gourd
  • Slapstick
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Triangle
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Following the success of his El Salón México, Aaron Copland was called upon by ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein to compose the music to a ballet based on the legend of Billy the Kid, drawn from the 1925 best seller by Walter Noble Burns. Premiered by Ballet Caravan in 1938 in a two-piano version, a full orchestral score was completed in May 1939. The ballet was a great success and Copland began getting royalty checks of $40 for each performance. He related “It was after Billy, when I was almost forty years old, that my mother finally said that the money spent on piano lessons for me was not wasted.”

The Suite from the ballet music was completed by Copland in the summer of 1939. As arranged for wind ensemble by Quincy C. Hilliard, the Suite is programmatic. Beginning with The Open Prairie, Copland’s conveys the space and isolation of the New Mexico prairie. He depicts the life in a frontier town with cowboys demonstrating their skill with lassos and follows with a Mexican dance. A brawl breaks out and gun shots are heard. Billy’s mother is accidentally killed and Billy takes revenge by stabbing those guilty, necessitating his flight into the night. A posse is successful in capturing him and the town rejoices. Billy’s demise is noted in a short, solemn passage. The Suite concludes with an adoption of the opening theme to convey a new dawn opening over the prairie.

- Program Note by Foothill Symphonic Winds


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

  • Florida: VI
  • Georgia: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Golden State Wind Orchestra (Sacramento, Calif.) (Marlon A. Ramirez, conductor) – 11 June 2016
  • Los Angeles Symphonic Winds (Stephen Piazza, conductor) - 29 May 2016
  • Foothill Symphonic Winds (Palo Alto, Calif.) (David Bruce Adams, conductor) - 8 March 2015

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Copland, A.; Hilliard, Q. (2000). Scenes from Billy the Kid: Ballet Suite [score]. Boosey & Hawkes: New York.