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Symphonic Suite from "On the Waterfront"

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Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein (arr. Jay Bocook)

General Info

Year: 1954 / 2011
Duration: c. 18:30
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Cost: Score and Parts - $495.00   |   Score Only - $50.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II (II doubling English Horn)
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
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
Timpani I-II
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Chimes
  • Glockenspiel
  • Piatti
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam (2: small and large)
  • Triangle
  • Tuned Drums (3)
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Block


In Parts:

  • Euphonium BC, m.190: "(Hns.)" indication should be on m.192, not 190.

Program Notes

The acclaimed 1954 film On the Waterfront starred Marlon Brando and garnered multiple Academy Awards, as well as a nomination for Bernstein's poignant and evocative music (his only film score). Using music from the film, Bernstein created this 20-minute suite which consists of six continuously flowing movements. Juxtaposing moments of tenderness with elements of cold savagery as depicted in the film, this is a monumental and distinctive addition to the symphonic wind ensemble repertoire.

- Program Note from publisher

Edie Doyle: Shouldn’t everybody care about everybody else?
Teriy Malloy: Boy, what a fruitcake you are!
Edie Doyle: I mean, isn’t everybody a part of everybody else?

Leonard Bernstein composed his only film-specific score for the crime drama On the Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan and starring MarIon Brando, while living in Los Angeles in 1954. The setting is Hoboken, N.J., a gritty port city run by the mob and corrupt union boss Johnny Friendly. Brando’s character, Terry Malloy, is a longshoreman and former boxer who gets mixed up in Friendly’s effort to keep the dockworkers from testifying against him. Terry begins to consider speaking out after he unwittingly aids Friendly’s henchmen, who murder Joey, a well-loved worker, by throwing him off a roof. Joey’s sister, Edie Doyle, is devastated, and convinces the waterfront priest to take action. Violence breaks out when the priest’s meeting is interrupted by the mob, and Terry helps Edie to safety. Terry is enamored, and Edie gradually falls for him while trying to convince him to take a stand against corruption. A conflicted Terry finally talks her into a date, and the couple visits a lively pub for a beer, some dancing, and a near-kiss.

The budding romance is interrupted by a subpoena that requires Terry to testify. As he battles his conscience, Terry confesses his role in Joey’s murder to the priest and to Edie, prompting her to break up with him. With the court date drawing near, Friendly decides to silence Terry. After Friendly’s sidekick (and Terry’s brother) Chanley is unable to coerce Terry into lying on the mob’s behalf, Terry flees to Edie while Friendly has Charley killed. Terry and Edie, now reunited, discover Charley’s body on display, which turns out to be a trap that they narrowly escape. Terry sets out to avenge Joey and Charley by shooting Friendly, but the priest prevents him from pulling the trigger and convinces him to testify instead. After indicting Friendly and his mob, Terry returns to work on the waterfront but is shut out while all other longshoremen are hired. He confronts Friendly in front of his fellow dockworkers, and is beaten and left for dead in the ensuing lopsided brawl with the mobsters. While Terry lies bloodied and injured, the dockworkers band together on account of his bravery, refusing to return to work unless Terry does. As the entire union stands up to Friendly, Terry rises slowly and leads everybody back to an honest day’s work on the docks.

[The UMKC performance was staged as a 24-minute dramatic ballet, with the wind ensemble serving as house band and individual musical spokespeople, as well as actors, in the drama.]

Program Note by Corey Seapy for the University of Missouri at Kansas City Conservatory Wind Symphony concert program, 17 March 2017

Between his work on the movie versions of the Broadway musicals On the Town (1949) and West Side Story (1961), Leonard Bernstein was asked by film producer Sam Siegel to provide the original film score for On the Waterfront, the 1954 movie directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando as an up-and-coming boxer who is persuaded by a local mob boss to throw a fight and subsequently finds himself tangled up with the mob. Bernstein initially declined due to overcommitments, but was impressed by Brando’s acting in a rough cut of the film and agreed to compose the score.

He later wrote, “I heard music as I watched: that was enough. And the atmosphere of talent that this film gave off was exactly the atmosphere in which I love to work and collaborate. Day after day I sat at a Moviola, running the print back and forth, measuring in feet the sequences I had chosen for the music, converting feet into seconds by mathematical formula, making homemade cue sheets.” Bernstein’s score won great critical acclaim and was nominated for -- but did not win -- an Academy Award. The composer himself arranged the symphonic suite for use in concert settings in 1955.

- Program Note from University of Texas Wind Ensemble concert program, 7 April 2019


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Wind Orchestra (Jennifer Martin, conductor) – 28 October 2022
  • San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Wind Orchestra (Jennifer Martin, conductor) – 25 September 2022
  • University of Oregon (Eugene) Wind Ensemble (Dennis Llanás, conductor) - 19 May 2022
  • California State University, Stanislaus, Wind Ensemble (Stuart Sims, conductor) – 5 December 2019
  • James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.) Wind Symphony (Stephen Bolstad, conductor) – 25 April 2019
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor) – 7 April 2019
  • Dallas Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor) – 26 March 2019
  • Butler University (Indianapolis, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Michael Colburn, conductor) – 15 November 2018
  • University of Florida (Gainesville) Wind Symphony (David Waybright, conductor) – 8 November 2018
  • Little Rock (Ark.) Wind Symphony (Israel Getzov, conductor) – 11 October 2018
  • University of Nebraska (Lincoln) Symphonic Band (Anthony Falcone, conductor) – 9 October 2018
  • United States Military Academy Band (West Point, N.Y.) (Tod Addison, conductor) – 20 May 2018
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Michelle Rakers, conductor) – 29 April 2018
  • Northeastern University (Tahlequah, Oka.) Wind Ensemble (James Adams, conductor) – 9 March 2018
  • Texas All-State Symphonic Band (Jason Fettig, conductor) - 17 February 2018 (2018 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City) Wind Ensemble (Eric LaPrade, conductor) – 6 February 2018
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Wind Ensemble (Damon Talley, conductor) – 29 November 2017
  • Lamont School of Music (University of Denver, Colo.) Wind Ensemble (Joseph Martin, conductor) – 6 October 2017
  • University of Missouri at Kansas City Conservatory Wind Symphony (Steve Davis, conductor; UMKC Conservatory Dancers) – 17 March 2017 (CBDNA 2017 National Conference, Kansas City, Mo.)
  • Penn State University (University Park) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Dennis Glocke, conductor) – 16 November 2016
  • University of Colorado, Boulder, Wind Symphony (Donald J. McKinney, conductor) – 14 April 2016

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

  • Cool (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Murtha) (1957/2018)
  • West Side Story (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Sweeney) (1957/2015)

All Wind Works


  • On the Waterfront, Wikipedia Accessed 30 May 2016
  • Spurlin, Corey. "On the Waterfront." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 9, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 962-975. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2013.