Program Notes

Catapult was commissioned by the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble and its conductor, Dr. Mallory Thompson. Dr. Thompson asked for an energetic, forward-driving, and flashy opener-type that would celebrate the return of large ensembles after the Covid interruption. The title, Catapult, signals the energy in the piece, as well as hinting at the nickname for Northwestern University, which is Wildcats.

Being a graduate of Northwestern sparked the idea to use its alma mater as the impetus for the piece. Northwestern’s alma mater is based on the Chorale St. Antoni, a piece historically attributed to Joseph Haydn and popularized in Variations on a Theme by Haydn by Johannes Brahms. In the Brahms opus, and typical of the theme and variations form, the theme is stated at the beginning and followed by variations. The structure for Catapult is the opposite – variations of alma mater phrases are presented first using an array of melodic approaches, including being compressed, expanded, truncated, and inverted. Alma mater motives appear, but the full tune is not heard in its entirety until near the end.

Catapult propels forward from its opening fanfare that uses compressed snippets of the alma mater phrases. It settles into a lower intensity transition that sets up the primary theme. That theme takes precedence in the first portion of the piece, as the alma mater appears in a supportive role with hints of its motives acting as responses to the primary theme. It progresses through a series of variations, one of which is driven by the snare drum quoting Northwestern’s marching band field entry cadence. Weaving through a series of variations, the direction in the score is to “Push On.” Catapult’s primary theme gradually gives way and the NU alma mater is presented in its entirety as the piece flourishes its way to the finish.

Performance by the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble.


Flute 1 & 2
Oboe 1 & 2
Bassoon 1 & 2
Bb Clarinet 1, 2, 3
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Alto Saxophone 1 & 2
Bb Tenor Saxophone
Eb Baritone Saxophone
Bb Trumpet 1, 2, 3
F Horn 1, 2, 3, 4
Trombone 1, 2, 3

6 Percussion:


Percussion 1:
Bells, Xylophone, Suspended Cymbal, Chimes (share w/Perc. 3)


Percussion 2:
Vibraphone, 2 Suspended Cymbals (one needs to be a small Splash Cymbal)


Percussion 3:
Chimes (share w/Perc. 1), Crotales, Marimba, Triangle, Tambourine, Suspended Cymbal, Crash Cymbals



Percussion 4:
Triangle (suspended from stand), Suspended Cymbal, Snare Drum, Bongos, Tambourine, 4 Tom toms


Percussion 5:
Bass Drum, 2 Suspended Cymbals, 4 Tom toms & Small Concert Bass Drum (turned horizontally), Small Bongo, Hi hat

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  • Concert Band

Other pieces by Jay Kennedy