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Suite of Old American Dances

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Robert Russell Bennett

Robert Russell Bennett

General Info

Year: 1949 / 1952
Duration: 15:25
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Chappell & Co. distributed by Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts - $85.00   |   Deluxe Score and Parts - $125.00   |   Full Score Only - $40.00


1. Cakewalk - 4:05
2. Schottische - 3:00
3. Western One-Step - 3:35
4. Wallflower Waltz - 3:40
5. Rag - 3:55


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
Eb Soprano Clarinet
Bb Soprano Clarinet Solo-I-II-III
Eb Alto Clarinet
Bb Bass Clarinet
Alto Saxophone I-II
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone
Bb Cornet I-II-III
Bb Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass (ad lib)
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Cymbals (crash and with brush)
  • Glockenspiel
  • Sandpaper
  • Snare Drum
  • Timpani
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Blocks (2)
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Suite of Old American Dances was inspired after the composer heard a performance by the Goldman Band in 1948. The original title was Electric Park, an amusement park Bennett went to while growing up in Kansas City. Each movement of the work is based on a dance from the beginning of the 20th Century.

Suite of Old American Dances demonstrates that folk music can be both entertaining for listeners and musically substantive for performers. This rhythmically challenging piece is suitable for both high school and university ensembles, and select movements can work well for strong honor bands. Extended syncopated lines, frequently disjunct melodies, and parallel ninth and eleventh chords give this piece a ragtime sensibility that audiences generally enjoy.

- Program Note from Great Music for Wind Band

The Cakewalk dance originated on the Southern plantations, where slaves often imitated their plantation owners. The dance of “strut” was danced to jig-like banjo/fiddle music, usually done by a couple who, with a backward sway, strutted in a medium high step or low kicking fashion. Plantation owners would encourage their workers by presenting prizes for the best couples. The prize was often a cake, usually shared with the other participants. The men would often dress in long coats with high collars and the women in frilly gowns, to mimic their owners.

Although the title of this dance suggests that its roots lie in Scotland, the Schottische is actually a German variant of several Bohemian dances that later developed into the polka. The schottische features quick shifts from foot to foot and striking of the heel. These movements resemble the Scottish reel and may have inspired the name. Because the polka was at one time called the “Scottish Waltz,” it is also possible that this earlier dance inspired its namesake. Either way, the dance came to the United States by way of England when polka dancing became the rage among continental society in the 1840s. The music for the early schottische was usually written in 2/4 time, and many describe the dance as simply a slow polka.

The Western One Step included in the Suite of Old American Dances, is a somewhat misleading title. As Frederick Fennell points out, “The composer informed me that this is also a dance known as the Texas Tommy, an obviously bright-eyed tune with an equally bright-eyed tempo.” Little is known about the Texas Tommy, one of the obsolete forms of the one-step. This dance, from the early 20th century, is believed to have originated in brothels and saloons, where ladies of the evening were known as “tommies.” There is a record of the Texas Tommy appearing in the New York Lafayette Theatre production of Darktown Follies in 1913.

Although the beginning of the 20th century represented a new cultural era, replete with new dance steps, the time-honored tradition of the Wallflower Waltz still reigned as king of the ballroom dance scene.

It seems fitting that Bennett chose to end his suite with a Rag. Although there is no one specific dance that can be associated with the rag style, Bennett’s choice of music is representative of the era as a whole. The ragtime era coincided with the beginning of the century, and with a new generation which was harshly criticized by its elders for embracing novel ideas.

- Program Note by Edward Higgins

Commercial Discography

Audio Links

State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class AA
  • Arkansas: III
  • California: V Class A
  • Florida: V
  • Maryland: VI (Any three mvts.)
  • Massachusetts: V
  • Minnesota: Category 1
  • New York: VI
  • North Carolina: VI
  • Oklahoma: V-A
  • South Carolina: VI
  • Tennessee: VI
  • Wisconsin: Event 3000 Concert Band.Class A Std Rep


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Kent State University (Ohio) Wind Ensemble (Mason Smith, conductor) – 15 March 2020
  • University of Oregon (Eugene) Wind Symphony (Jason Silveira, conductor) – 12 March 2020
  • Atascadero (Calif.) Community Band (Randy Schwabe, conductor) – 8 March 2020
  • Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro) Symphonic Band (Craig Cornish, conductor) – 5 March 2020
  • Texas A&M University (Lubbock) Symphonic Winds (Travis Almany, conductor) – 1 March 2020
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert Band (Corey Pompey, conductor) – 18 February 2020
  • La Sierra University (Riverside, Calif.) Wind Ensemble (David Brennan, conductor) – 15 February 2020
  • Bob Jones University (Greenville, S.C.) Symphonic Wind Band (Bruce Cox, conductor) – 14 February 2020
  • University of Nebraska Kearney Wind Ensemble (Duane Bierman, conductor) – 5 February 2020
  • Hanover Wind Symphony (Whippany, N.J.) (Peter Boor, conductor) – 12 February 2020
  • Westmount Secondary School (Hamilton, ON) Wind Orchestra (Chad Benning, conductor) - 12 December 2019
  • University of Nebraska Kearney Wind Ensemble (Duane Bierman, conductor) – 5 December 2019
  • Marietta (Ohio) College Wind Ensemble (Christopher Schletter, conductor) – 20 November 2919
  • State College Area (Penn.) Municipal Band (Darrin Thornton, conductor) – 10 November 2019
  • Western Illinois University (Macomb) Wind Ensemble (Mike Fansler, conductor) – 9 November 2019
  • North Carolina State University (Raleigh) Wind Ensemble (Paul Garcia, conductor) – 5 November 2019
  • San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Wind Orchestra (Jennifer Martin, conductor) – June 2, 2019
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Concert Band (Daniel J. Farris, conductor) – 19 May 2019
  • El Camino College (Torrence, Calif.) Concert Band (Dane Teter, conductor) – 18 May 2019
  • University of Southern California Thornton Wind Ensemble (H. Robert Reynolds, conductor) - 28 October 2016 
  • Eastman Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Frederick Fennell, conductor) – 17 December 1954

Works for Winds by this Composer