Cowboys, The (arr Bocook) (Grade V)

From Wind Repertory Project
John Williams

John Williams (arr. Jay Bocook)

General Info

Year: 1972 / 1980 / 1988
Duration: c. 9:30
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts - $275.00   |   Score Only - $40.00


Full Score
C Piccolo/Flute III
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
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
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Hi-hat
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle
  • Xylophone


In Score:

Meas. 1: tempo indication above woodwinds should read "quarter note = 144"

Program Notes

The Cowboys ... is a typical example of John Williams’s capacity to enrich a film story with an almost narrative musical score. Through music, we are transported to the Old West and experience the joys and hardships of cowboy life.

Taken from the 1972 motion picture The Cowboys starring John Wayne and Roscoe Lee Browne, the music complements the story of a 60-year-old Montana cattleman who enlists (and ultimately mentors) ten schoolboys as cowboys after the regular ranch hands have left with Gold Rush fever. The 400-mile cattle drive provides the boys with a different and harsher schooling as they learn the rigors of the job and have to deal with rustlers. The music conveys the high spirit of wild horses and their taming. Jollity around the campfire is contrasted against the loneliness of the open range. The plains have a beauty, though, which is reflected in the song of a lark. The hard work of the cattle drive, including the fording of the wide, muddy river and dealing with many fears and threats, succeeds in maturing the boys into men.

- Program Notes by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Ensemble

Williams describes the motivation to create a concert piece from this music in these words from the program notes in the score:

The movie required a vigorous musical score to accompany virtuoso horseback riding and calf roping, and when my friend André Previn heard fragments of the score, he suggested that a concert overture lay hidden within the film's music. Several years slipped by, and each time I saw the indefatigable Previn he would ask, "Have you made n overture of Cowboys yet?" He kept this up until 1980, when I finally worked out the piece and played it at a Boston pops concert. Both the orchestra and audience seemed to enjoy the music to such an extent that it has been part of our repertoire ever since.

- Program Note from Teaching Music through Performance in Band


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

  • Virginia: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) - 16 July 2023
  • University of Georgia (Athens) Hodgson Wind Ensemble (Jaclyn Hartenberger, conductor) - 11 October 2022
  • Southeastern Louisiana University (Hammond) Wind Symphony (Robert Schwartz, conductor) - 29 September 2022
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) Wind Symphony (James Spinazzola, conductor) – 18 February 2022 (CBDNA 2022 Eastern Conference, Baltimore, Md.)
  • Aledo (Tx.) High School Wind Ensemble (Joey Paul, conductor) – 10 February 2022 (2022 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • The Southern Tier (Binghamton, N.Y.) Concert Band (Robin Linaberry, conductor) - 6 December 2021
  • United States Air Force Band (Washington, D.C.) (Andrew Esch, conductor) - 6 March 2020 (86th Annual ABA National Convention)
  • Sacramento (Calif.) State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Matthew Morse, conductor) – 1 March 2020
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (JoAnn Falletta, conductor) – 17 February 2020
  • Claudia Taylor Johnson High School (San Antonio, Tx.) Wind Ensemble (Thomas Bennett, conductor) - 19 December 2019 (2019 Midwest Clinic)
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 18 October 2019 (Salinas, Calif.)
  • Wind Symphony of Clovis (Calif.) (Gary Gilroy, conductor) – 31 March 2019
  • Texas All-State Symphonic Band (Steven Davis, conductor) - 16 February 2019 (2019 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • University of North Texas (Denton) Symphonic Band (Dennis W. Fisher, conductor) – 29 November 2018
  • Texas Tech University (Lubbock) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Sarah McKoin, conductor) – 24 September 2018
  • United States Coast Guard Band (New London, Conn.) (Kenneth W. Megan, conductor) – 6 May 2018
  • Penn State University (University Park) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Dennis Glocke, conductor) – 26 March 2018
  • Truman State University (Kirksville, Mo.) Wind Symphony (Curran Prendergast, conductor) – 4 October 2015

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Morse, Matthew C. "The Cowboys Overture." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 10, Compiled and edited by Richard Miles. GIA Publications, 2015, pp. 826-837.
  • Williams, John.; Bocook, Jay. The Cowboys [score]. Warner-Tamerlane, 1988.