Commando March

From Wind Repertory Project
Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber

General Info

Year: 1943
Duration: c. 3:30
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: G. Schirmer, Inc.
Cost: Score & Parts - $75.00   |   Score Only - $10.00


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
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 Cornet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Tuba I-II
String Bass
Percussion (4–5 players), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Triangle
  • Wood block
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

When famed composer Samuel Barber joined the United States Army in 1942, he quickly went to work writing music for the war effort.  Though not officially commissioned to do so by the US government, Barber’s first work after his military induction was Commando March, and it was premiered by the Army Air Forces Technical Command Training Band in early 1943.  Commando March enjoyed immediate success as the Goldman Band played the work throughout the summer of 1943, leading to a request by Serge Koussevitzky for Barber to adapt it for orchestra.  The orchestral adaptation received its premiere with the Boston Symphony under the baton of Koussevitzky in October of 1943. The rapid pace of composition, premiere, achieving popular success and orchestral adaptation in the same calendar year can be attributed to Barber’s high status as one of the most widely-accepted American composers of his time.  Barber’s music gathered broad acclaim not just among his American colleagues, but throughout Europe as well, solidifying him as one of the titans of twentieth-century American music.  Commando March endures as a cornerstone work for wind band, standing as the singular, yet beloved contribution to the band genre from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning icon of American music.

-Program note by Chris Nelson, adapted from score notes by R. Anderson Collinsworth

Barber wrote his Commando March shortly after being enlisted in the United States Army during the Second World War. The work was completed in February 1943 and was premiered on May 23 of that year by the Army Air Force Tactical Training Command Band in Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, most likely with the composer conducting. The critic Fredric V. Grunfeld writing in High Fidelity magazine described the march as "an old-fashioned quickstep sporting a crew cut," and the work received many performances in the final years of the war. Barber made a transcription of the march for full orchestra, which was premiered by Serge Koussevitzky leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston on October 29, 1943.

- Program Note by Russ Girsberger

Samuel Barber established himself as an accomplished composer early in his career by winning the prestigious American Prix de Rome while studying at the Curtis Institute. Born in West Chester, Penn., Barber enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943. His compositional approach may be best described in the words of famed conductor Arturo Toscanini: "... simple and beautiful.” Such qualities are exemplified in his most famous work, Adagio for Strings.

While on active duty, Barber composed notable pieces for the war effort including his second symphony, the Flight Symphony, as well as his only composition for wind band, Commando March. The work was premiered on May 23, 1943, by the Army Air Forces Tactical Training Command Band in Convention Hall, Atlantic City, N.J. The work received many performances in the final years of the war, solidifying its place as a classic centerpiece in wind band literature.

- Program Note by David Balandrin and Ricky Parrell

Commando March holds the distinction of being Samuel Barber’s only work for winds, and it was premiered in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1943. Barber spent a short time in a branch of the armed forces that became an Air Force unit and was commissioned to write this music. Barber’s Second Symphony, written for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, made use of an electronic instrument that imitated radio signals. Despite his commander’s directive to compose a march in quarter-tones to symbolize what the commander saw as the progressive nature of the air unit, Barber’s ingenuity took a different tack in this impressive concert march.

- Program Note by Brian Casey and David Holsinger

Samuel Barber is one of the great American composers of the 20th century. The Commando March is utterly original with a great march theme and a weirdly orchestrated, gesture-developing middle section that makes one forget that the piece is supposed to be a march.

- Program Note by David Branter for the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble concert program, 16 July 2015

Commando March (1943) was not only Barber’s first work for wind band, but his first work subsequent to entering the Army. There is no extant documentation regarding a formal commission or a direct military order; rather it appears Barber was inspired to compose for the military bands he must have come in contact with during his basic training. In spite of its large instrumentation, Barber often referred to the work in letters as his “little march.” Barber at one time described the music as representing “a new kind of soldier, one who did not march in straight lines” but “struck in stealth with speed, disappearing as quickly as he came.”

The premiere performance was given by the Army Air Forces Technical Command Training Band, Warrant Officer Robert L. Landers conductor, on May 23, 1943 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As was the case with many of Barber’s earlier works, Commando March was immediately well-received by audiences. Following its premiere, Barber himself led the Goldman Band in several performances in July 1943. He even adapted the work for orchestra at the request of Serge Koussevitzky, who led this score’s first performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on October 29, 1943.

- Program Note from University of North Texas University Band concert program, 2 October 2019



State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Indiana University Concert Band (Christopher Nelson, conductor) - 9 February 2024
  • University of Central Missouri (Warrensburg) Alumni Band (Scott Lubaroff, conductor) – 20 January 2024
  • Keystone Wind Ensemble (Indiana, Penn.) (Jack Stamp, conductor) - 5 November 2023
  • Pinnacle Winds (Grandview, Mo.) (John C. Carmichael, conductor) - 12 February 2023
  • The Naperville (Ill.) Winds (Sean Kelley, conductor) - 6 October 2022
  • National Concert Band of America (Alexandria, Va.) (William Terry, conductor) - 11 May 2022
  • California State University Northridge Wind Ensemble (Lawrence Stoffel, conductor) - 28 April 2022
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Orchestra (Luke Camarillo, conductor) - 28 February 2022
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Symphony (Detrich Morrison-Jones, conductor) - 18 February 2022
  • Dripping Springs (Tx.) High School Band (Derek Woods, conductor) - 12 February 2021 (2021 TMEA Conference, San Antonio) (Virtual)
  • West Chester University (Penn.) Wind Symphony (M. Gregory Martin, conductor) – 1 March 2020
  • University of Illinois (Champaign) Hindsley Symphonic Band (Anthony Messina, conductor) – 28 February 2020
  • University of South Alabama (Mobile) Wind Ensemble (William Petersen, conductor) – 27 February 2020
  • Houghton (N.Y.) College Wind Ensemble (Marissa Perez, conductor) – 21 February 2020
  • West Chester (Penn.) University Wind Symphony (Gregory Martin, conductor) – 21 February 2020 (CBDNA 2020 Eastern Division Conference, Philadelphia, Penn.)
  • Texas Community College Band Directors Association (TCCBDA) Symphonic Band - 15 February 2020 (2020 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • Peabody (Baltimore, Md.) Preparatory Wind Orchestra (Elijah Wirth, conductor) - 15 February 2020
  • University of Georgia (Athens) Hodgson Wind Symphony (Emily Mariko Eng, conductor) – 10 February 2020
  • Orquestra de Sopros da Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa (Portugal) (Alberto Roque, conductor) - 18 December 2019 (2019 Midwest Clinic)
  • Rowan University (Glassboro, N.J.) Symphonic Band (Joseph Higgins, conductor) – 9 December 2019
  • Nazareth College (Rochester, N.Y.) Symphonic Band (Steven Zugelder, conductor) – 20 November 2019
  • High School Symphonic Band [Interlochen, Mich.] (Frederick Fennell, conductor) - 14 August 2004

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Barber, S. (1943). Commando March [score]. Schirmer: New York.
  • Heyman, Barbara B. (1992). Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 213–215.
  • Smith, Norman E. (1986). March Music Notes. Lake Charles, La.: Program Note Press, pp. 25.