Sapphire Overture

2003 Band Consortium Commission

Sapphire Overture was commissioned by a consortium of 21 university and high school bands as a concurrent premiere project for the 2003-2004 academic year. Scored for concert band, Sapphire Overture is a nine-minute frolic into the world of the Lydian mode and related environs. The work is in three parts – fast slow fast - with the central section a bittersweet lullaby featuring solo horn, flute and oboe in a chamber-like setting.


click here to download MIDI realization (8MB)

Program Notes

Sapphire Overture, scored for concert band, is a nine-minute frolic into the worlds of the Lydian mode and related environs. The work is in three parts: fast-slow-fast with the central section a bittersweet lullaby featuring solo horn, flute and oboe in a chamber-like setting. Modalities are explored and relationships examined as if they were characters in an opera – each taking on a different persona.

The first section, marked Allegro con fuoco has special significance for me - “con fuoco”, (with fire), was one of the first Italian terms I learned as a child from my teacher and mentor, Daral F. Rauscher. I did not just learn the term - Daral taught the expressive implications and its potential through his own playing. He demonstrated an incisive and insistent precision, always in time, while feeling on the edge, as the music surged forward… like a flame racing along a line of petrol. Powerful …unstoppable. This is the mood and emotional content of the first and last sections.

The center of the work is a tripartite lullaby, simply stated and varied. As this piece was being written, I was expecting my third child, Hana. This section is directly related to that event.

The second and final parts of this lullaby are separated by a brief interlude (brass and timpani) which reappears and slowly develops two simple melodic fragments from the first section only to be interrupted by the primitive dance music which originally concluded the first section. The final section begins at this point and the primitive dance turns out to be a transition itself to the opening theme of the overture. All of the original material returns and works through a final development of the “soaring” theme to F major for a grand conclusion – the brass intoning reminders of the darker modalities.

I wish to express my deepest appreciation to my friend and colleague Gary Green for his encouragement and faith in my music and for the deep passion and rich musical palate he brings to his performances. I also thank Dan Belongia for his thorough preparation and sensitive conducting of the initial readings of Sapphire Overture.

Thomas Sleeper
October 10, 2003


PDF parts $250.

Printed Score parts $600.


Sapphire Overture was commissioned by a consortium of twenty one university and high school band programs chaired by Gary Green and the University of Miami.

Appalachian State University Wind Ensemble
William A. Gora, Conductor

Central Washington University Wind Ensemble
Larry Gookin, Conductor

Fairfax Wind Symphony
Stanley Schoonover, conductor

Illinois State University Wind Symphony
Stephen K. Steele, Director of Bands

James Madison University Wind Symphony
Dr. John Patrick Rooney, Conductor - February 28, 2004

Lincoln Way East High School Wind Symphony
T. Clifton Smith, Conductor

Michigan State University
Dr. Wesley J. Broadnax

Robinson Secondary School

Denny Stokes, Director of Bands
May 20, 2004

Spruce Creek High School Wind Ensemble
Victor Hornilla and Andrew Kidd, Directors

Texas Christian University Wind Symphony
Bobby R. Francis, Conductor

The Florida State University
Richard Clary

The Hartt School
Glen Adsit

The Tennessee Tech University Symphony Band
Joseph Hermann, Conductor

The University of Miami Symphonic Band

Daniel A Belongia, Conductor - November 12, 2003

The University of Tennessee at Martin
Gregg Gausline, Conductor - March 1, 2004

Towson University (MD) Symphonic Band
Dr. Dana Rothlisberger, Director
Eastern Division CBDNA: February 24, 2004

University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Dr. John R. Locke, Director of Bands

University of South Carolina
James K. Copenhaver, Director of Bands

Charleston, SC (All-State)

University of South Florida
Michael C. Robinson - February 24, 2004

University of Texas at Arlington

Ray C. Lichtenwalter, Conductor - March 2, 2004

VanderCook College of Music
Charles T. Menghini, Director of Bands

Youngstown State University
Stephen L. Gage, Director of Bands