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American Labor Songs

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Kimberly Archer

Kimberly Archer

General Info

Year: 2018
Duration: c. 20:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Murphy Music Press
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $200.00   |   Score Only (print) - $40.00


1. Medley (Bread and Roses, You Gotta Go Down and Join the Union, Put It on the Ground, Casey Jones)
2. Joe Hill
3. Which Side Are You On?
4. Medley (Step By Step, One Day More, Hold the Fort, We Shall Not Be Moved)


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
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
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Brake Drum
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Drum Set
  • Hi-Hat
  • Maracas
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tom-Tom, muffled
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The work came about due to [Kimberly Archer's] founding of a union chapter at her institution with the financial help of Nicholls [State University] and a consortium of ten university bands and musical groups from throughout the country. Her music has been performed at international conferences as well as by some of the best college bands in the United States.

- Program Note from Nicholls State University Wind Ensemble concert program, 15 March 2018

Since joining the Illinois Education Association (IEA, an affiliate of the National Education Association) and becoming active in advocacy and organizing, I’ve become fascinated with the history of American labor and especially its music.

We live in a world today that’s remarkably like the early 1900s. Then, like now, a small group of wealthy elite controlled the vast majority of our country’s wealth and power and exerted tremendous influence on our national government. They amassed their wealth by taking advantage of taxpayer-supported public infrastructure and by exploiting workers who were desperate for employment. Today, we call this small group the “1%” and they go even further, by stripping pensions and Social Security (which were long ago won by unions), rigging healthcare and prescription medication to bankrupt families, and awarding tax cuts to those who no longer honor the social contract of philanthropy as a moral obligation of the wealthy. Our culture was then, as it is now, steeped in anger and frustration. The mechanism for change is protest.

Some of the most effective protests in American history occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as unionized workers stood in solidarity -- despite the real threat of murder or starvation -- to demand fair pay, safe working conditions, and a minimal quality of life. They were met with resistance by the wealthy, who often used law enforcement and even the National Guard to violently put down even peaceful protests. Despite this, workers persisted and won. Thanks to their courage, we now have an eight-hour day, weekends, sick leave, pensions, child labor laws, etc.

Another effective era of protest occurred 60 years later, ending the Vietnam War and launching the Civil Rights movement. These two eras shared powerful music. In the 1900s, activists wrote or adapted songs to rally and invigorate their people. In the 1960s, artists like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Peter, Paul, and Mary revived those songs and introduced them to a new generation. We call this music “folk” or “traditional,” having forgotten that its purpose was to inspire ordinary Americans to reclaim their hope and their power, and to exercise their rights as citizens of a democracy in the face of monumental injustices.

Today, another 60 years have turned and we need that music again! We need to empower our children to stand up and protest injustice, racism, and oligarchy. Perhaps this time we do not have to relive the violence of the 1900s and 1960s to accomplish the change our society and, indeed, our economy desperately need. After all, this music is of resolve, justice, courage, togetherness, and most of all, of optimism and hope that change is possible.

I love this music. I hope these settings will inspire you to learn more about the full scope of our American history and find the places where you can stand and make a difference.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Nicholls State University (Thibodaux, La.) Wind Ensemble (Jason Ladd, conductor) – 25 February 2022 (CBDNA 2022 Southern Conference, Columbia, S.C.)
  • Denison University (Granville, Ohio) Wind Ensemble (Chris David Westover-Muñez, conductor) - 16 November 2021
  • Henderson State University (Arkadelphia, Ark.) Symphony Band (Steven M. Knight, conductor) – 2 May 2018
  • Nicholls State University (Thibodaux, La.) Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble (Jason S. Ladd, conductor) – 15 March 2018 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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