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Variations on "America"

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Charles Ives

Charles Ives (orch. William Schuman; trans. William E Rhoads)

General Info

Year: 1891 / 1968
Duration: c. 6:45
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Organ
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Cost: Score and Parts - $135.00   |   Full Score Only - $45.00   |   Condensed Score Only - $7.50


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
Eb Soprano Clarinet
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
Eb Alto Clarinet
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Alto Saxophone I-II
Bb Tenor Saxophone
Eb Baritone Saxophone
Bb Cornets or Trumpets I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombones I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Castanets
  • Cymbal (suspended)
  • Glockenspiel (2 players)
  • Snare Drum
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle
  • Xylophone (2 players)


An extensive list of errata appears in the Barry Kopetz article in The Instrumentalist (Kopetz, Barry E. "Charles Ives's Variations on 'America." Instrumentalist 45, no. 9 (April 1991): 20-28, 75-79.)

Program Notes

This remarkable set, composed when he was about 18, Ives later described as "but a boy's work, partly serious and partly in fun." These variations serve, however, as perhaps the most comprehensive illustration of Ives's youthful sweep of style.

After a snappy figural variation, we hear a sinuous barbershop setting, a jaunty European cavalry march, a "midway" polonaise, and a scherzo. As importantly, the set shows his already prodigious ability as a soloist: note, for instance, the pedal passages in the requisitely virtuosic finale, in which is heard too the telltale cross-rhythm of the new ragtime.

- Program Note by Jonathan Elkus

Variations on "America" was originally a composition for organ. Composed in 1891 when Ives was seventeen, it is an arrangement of a traditional tune, known as My Country, 'Tis of Thee, and was at the time the de facto anthem of the United States. The tune is also widely recognized in Thomas Arne's orchestration as the British National Anthem, God Save the Queen, and in the former anthems of Russia, Switzerland, and Germany, as well as being the current national anthem of Liechtenstein and royal anthem of Norway.

The variations are a witty, irreverent piece for organ, probably typical of a “silly” teenage phenom like Ives. According to his biographers, the piece was played by Ives in organ recitals in Danbury and Brewster, New York, during the same year. At the Brewster concert, his father would not let him play the pages which included canons in two or three keys at once, because they were “unsuitable for church performance – They upset the elderly ladies and made the little boys laugh and get noisy!”

This work was transcribed for orchestra in 1964 by William Schuman and for band in 1968 by William Rhodes.

- Program Note by David Holsinger

Commercial Discography

State Ratings

  • Florida: VI --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • Minnesota: Category I
  • New York: VI
  • North Carolina: VI
  • South Carolina: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Manhattan (N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Sarah Fernandez, conductor) – 7 March 2020
  • Chicago (Ill.) College of Performing Arts Wind Ensemble (Stephen Squires, conductor) – 4 March 2020
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) Symphonic Winds (Colin MacKenzie, conductor) – 2 March 2020
  • Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) Wind Symphony (Caroline Hand, conductor) – 8 February 2020
  • Rowan University (Glassboro, N.J.) Wind Ensemble (Joseph Higgins, conductor) – 23 November 2019
  • South Dakota State University (Brookings) Wind Symphony (Jacob Wallace, conductor) – 14 November 2019
  • Philadelphia (Penn.) Wind Symphony (Paul Bryan, conductor) – 26 October 2019
  • Texas A&M University (Lubbock) Wind Symphony (Timothy Rhea, conductor) – 13 October 2019
  • Encore Wind Ensemble (Saint Paul, Minn.) (Jerry Luckhardt, conductor) – 6 October 2019
  • University of South Alabama (Mobile) Wind Ensemble (William Petersen, conductor) -– 26 September 2019
  • Shenandoah Conservatory Wind Ensemble (Winchester, Va.) (Timothy J. Robblee, conductor)– 21 September 2019
  • New Hammer Band (Stockton, Calif.) (Emily Threinen, conductor) – 8 September 2019
  • Strafford Wind Symphony (Sanford, Me.) (Bruce Gatchell, conductor) – 25 May 2019
  • California State University, Stanislaus, Wind Ensemble (Stuart Sims, conductor) – 9 May 2019
  • North Dakota State University (Fargo) Wind Symphony (Warren Olfert, conductor) – 4 May 2019
  • University of Virginia (Charlottesville) Wind Ensemble (William Pease, conductor) – 28 April 2019
  • University of South Florida (Tampa) Symphonic Band (Trevor Butts, conductor) – 18 April 2019
  • Northwest Wind Symphony (Centralia, Wash.) (John Welsh, conductor) – 13 April 2019

Works for Winds by this Composer

This composer primarily wrote orchestral music. Other transcriptions of his works include:


  • Kopetz, Barry E. "Charles Ives's Variations on 'America." Instrumentalist 45, no. 9 (April 1991): 20-28, 75-79.
  • Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. (2010). Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 1. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 771-782.
  • Rudgers, Gregory B. Variations on 'America'. MBM Times, Issue 6 (2012), 68.