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State College, PA

(814) 867-9935

Rick Hirsch is a nationally-known composer, arranger and jazz educator living in State College, PA. Check out his music, book a live jazz band in Central Pennsylvania.



Small Town, Big Dreams premier

Rick Hirsch

One week from tonight the Hollidaysburg Area HS Music Department will be premiering Small Town, Big Dreams. This brand-new 7-movement suite was the result of a 3-year commission/residency.

Read this nice article about this project in the Altoona Mirror.

Here's the program:

  1. The Old Chief's Lookout—jazz ensemble
  2. Flying (from the Land of Bondage)—choir
  3. The Water Road—jazz ensemble
  4. New Dog in Town—jazz ensemble
  5. Paranormal Paso Doble—flute + rhythm section
  6. Industry in Motion—string orchestra
  7. Dream Big—all ensembles together!

The concert is free and open to the public:

Thursday, March 8, 2018 • 7pm • Hollidaysburg Area HS • Hollidaysburg, PA

Stretching myself

Rick Hirsch

I recently completed a 7-movement commission for Hollidaysburg Area High School's music department. This suite is anchored by 4 jazz ensemble pieces, with 3 pieces for other ensembles between the jazz band movements.

These three other ensembles are (1) chamber string orchestra (2) SATB chamber choir and (3) flute + rhythm section a la Claude Bolling jazz suites.

This was my first opportunity to write for SATB choir. And only my second opportunity to write for string orchestra. Where to begin?

I've been at this long enough to have learned a couple things:

  • Make sure the music is playable by the musicians for whom I'm writing.
  • Music that is idiomatic for the instruments is more likely to be played better.
  • Know the cash register of each instrument or voice, and use it.

But, there were many things I didn't know about writing for a choir, because (1) I had never done it before and (2) I had never sung in one.

So I called up a couple friends who are choir teachers and picked their brains, asking questions like:

  • What makes a choir piece really singable?
  • What are common stumbling blocks and should be avoided?
  • What are some of the things that make a good choir piece sound good?
  • What are your favorite choir pieces written at this grade level? Why?

I did similar research for the strings, though I didn't have to ask quite as many questions since I had been through this before.

I borrowed a couple scores, reread the germane part of Don Sebesky's great book, and hoped for the best. And, I think they turned out pretty well.

If you'd like to listen to these pieces, you can download the scores and listen to the Finale All-Stars' performances below.


Choir:  Flying (from the Land of Bondage)


Orchestra:  Blair County Hoedown


Flute + Rhythm Section:  Paranormal Paso Doble

Hirsch down under

Rick Hirsch

I just received these videos from the fantastic Sydney Jazz Orchestra (Australia). The SJO is fronted by the wonderful saxophonist Tim Oram, who is also an exceptional writer in his own right.

Here are their recent performances of my arrangements of Silent Night and Christmas Time is Here.

By the way, I get a kick out of seeing band members playing a Christmastime gig in short sleeve shirts. ;-)

Silent Night

Christmas Time is Here


And while we're at it, here's a performance of Catch Me if You Can! from a few months ago. How about that for sight-reading? Great band.

Catch Me if You Can!

Half-off-Hanukkah sale

Rick Hirsch

2017 has been a challenging year for my family, but there were many bright spots as well, not the least of which was our youngest daughter's bat mitzvah. (Another bright spot is that this year is almost over!)

I am writing this post to thank you for your continued support and interest in the music I write. It really means a lot to me when I find other musicians getting a kick out of performing this music. And the significant growth I have seen in sales from my sheet music catalog (HirschMusic Publications) has also been comforting in a more tangible sense.

So, to mark the end of 2017 and offer a gesture of thanks, I am holding a Half-Off-Hanukkah (or, Chalf-off-Chanukkahsale. (info here)

For each of the next 8 days I will offer something different from my catalog for 1/2 price. It could be a single chart one day, perhaps an entire category of music the next. Basically, 8 consecutive 1-day sales.

Check out the sale(s) here

I wish you good health, peace, and prosperity.

Honorable Mention: "Long Haul"

Rick Hirsch

This is cool: my two-part jazz ensemble composition "The Long Haul" received Honorable Mention in the 2017 Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble Composition Contest.

The excellent Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble will performed it on December 8, 2017, featuring guest drummer Matt Wilson. The concert will be live-streamed, then archived here: http://www.ithaca.edu/music/live/#.WfNTBYZryV4.  Full results of the contest are here.

In 2015 my composition Mirage was the winning entry. In 2016 Metroliner received honorable mention.


"The Long Haul" is actually the middle half of a four-movement suite in progress, to be premiered in March by the Hollidaysburg HS music department. The two movements of "The Long Haul" are "The Water Road" and "New Dog in Town." (New Dog is discussed in this article).

PSU Halftime 9-2-17

Rick Hirsch

The Penn State Blue Band's first halftime show of the year had a dance theme. Opened with Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody, followed by Kenny Loggin's Footloose, closed with Walk the Moon's Shut Up and Dance.

I wrote the arrangements for Footloose and Shut Up. Both were fun tunes to arrange!

Dig it:

Glenn Miller opening

Rick Hirsch

I just received notice of this road-gig vacancy...thought I'd share the news:

The Glenn Miller Orchestra is hiring a bassist.

  • hiring date of Thursday September 28th 2017.
  • All applicants must be a US citizen with a current/ valid passport.
  • Applicants should include several excerpts in various styles (swing, ballad, etc), a few solos, and use of the bow.
  • These excerpts are at the discretion of the candidate, should each be no more than a minute in length, and must be submitted in (individual) MP3 format.
  • Concise YouTube clips are encouraged but not required.
  • The firm deadline for audition submissions is Thursday August 24th 2017.

All auditions and inquiries should be submitted to:

Mr. Ashley Hall / road manager




Big Ol' concert report

Rick Hirsch

Last month Rick Hirsch's Big Ol' Band had its CD release concert. It was held at the wonderful State Theatre in downtown State College on June 16. There was a wonderful audience that included guests from elementary school to retirement age.

All but 5 of the original band members were able to make the concert, with equally amazing musicians covering those vacancies. And we had the special treat of presenting guest vocalist Eric Ian Farmer who, as usual, brought the house down.

Here is a pair of bootleg concert vids:

Blue Band time

Rick Hirsch

I'm now in my 16th season as a staff arranger for the Penn State Blue Band (marching band). This is one of my favorite writing gigs, especially when I drop by their rehearsal before game day and get to hear my chart(s) played by 300 strong musicians!

I've already begun writing for this season, but the assignment—as always—is top secret!

Here's the arrangement I did last season (fall, 2016) of Journey's Open Arms.


Road-testing new tunes

Rick Hirsch

I finished two new original jazz ensemble pieces in the past month or so. Here are the videos of the first time they were read by humans.

This is always an important part of the writing process for me, as it reveals instantly what works and what doesn't. In the case of the first tune ("New Dog..."), I think it was just how I wanted it. The second tune, though, revealed that there were a few voicings I wanted to tweak (to achieve a different intensity) and that I needed to clarify an instruction in a trumpet part. Nothing major, but good to know about before sending off to the client who commissioned these.

There's a New Dog in Town
(sightread by the Zeropoint Big Band in State College, PA)

p.s. You may enjoy this other blog post in which I show the evolution of "New Dog" from blank paper to finished chart.



Dream Big 
(sightread by the River City Big Band in Harrisburg, PA)