Ybor Sketches

Grade 6

Wind Ensemble



Preview score and audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4Nr3tEbe3E


Premiered and recorded by Dr. John LaCognata and the University of South Dakota Symphonic Band. 




Ybor City is a small neighborhood located just outside the City of Tampa, FL. Founded at the end of the nineteenth century, it was inhabited by immigrants from Spain, Italy, and Cuba, most of whom worked in Ybor’s many cigar factories. Nowadays, Ybor is known for its nightlife, attracting people from all walks of life. Hints of the past, including an Italian Heritage Society, a Spanish restaurant founded in 1905, and several cigar cafes are now mixed with modern commercialism and gentrification. These, with diverse clientele (including free roaming chickens) makes Ybor’s identity enigmatic and flamboyant. It's never the same place twice!


This piece is an impression of Ybor City and the people that live, work, and play there. With hints of tango, rock-and-roll, jazz, and flamenco, it isn’t defined by a singular style, but rather, like Ybor, it’s many contrasting parts. It began as an exercise in scoring a piece for band in the tango style using the octatonic scales for melodic and harmonic content, and grew to inspire the completion of this piece, parts of which remain mainly in the third movement.


The first movement, Evening Prelude, sets the scene at the end of regular business hours as people begin arriving in Ybor City to decompress from their day. Themes and motives introduced here are later expanded upon including the horn solo, a mirrored harmonic progression, and redouble´ rhythms. A hymn-like Religioso section is representative of the inner piece that the composer finds in the uniqueness of Ybor City, as well as its ability to renew one’s spirit.


A playful piano solo brings the piece via attacca into the second movement, entitled Shenanigans. Ybor City is a place to cut loose. It’s a playground of sorts for those of age. The percussion feature beginning this movement is reminiscent of the homemade bucket drum sets one might experience while walking to dinner or passing between establishments. A grunge rock groove recalls Ybor City’s many alternative music venues including The Castle, a multilevel club frequented by Tampa’s Goth population. The melodies used in this section remain stubbornly Spanish, staying true to Ybor City’s roots.


By the time the third movement appears it’s late in the evening, and the bar hoppers have had their fill. Or have they? The Tipsy Tango reintroduces thematic elements from the first movement, only now with a bit less sobriety. Dynamic changes are sudden, and ornamentation is at times purposefully excessive.


At the end of a night in Ybor City, it’s customary to visit one of the neighborhoods many cigar cafes (at least when socializing with the composer). The composer's favorite spot, King Corona, offers a large selection of cigars (including his favorite, the Padrón Anniversario 1926 Series No. 1 Maduro), as well as several local and imported libations. These cafes are a great place to observe the impact a night in Ybor City can have on its guests while you enjoy the company of friends as well as that of your vices. 


The title of the fourth movement, Straight Cut and Cedar refers to one of the ways a cigar can be cut, and a method by which it can be lit. Here, all thematic elements of the piece begin to collide towards the climax, a culmination of the night’s events.




The drum set part (Percussion 3) uses standard notation, and an abundance of instructions can be found throughout the score and part. In addition to the kit, the conductor may opt to utilize a concert snare and bass drum. Otherwise, a full kit should be used at all times. The drum set, piano, and double bass should be located near each other like that of a jazz rhythm section.


In movement four all members of the ensemble should take part in the clapping / snapping part (scored in the percussion). The conductor should create a balance between the two timbres, and the number of performers should be lessened with each passing phrase so as not to cover up the melodic lines. 


Cues have been provided for moments where the E-flat Clarinet and English Horn have independent lines, and the Contrabassoon and Contrabass Clarinet parts are almost always doubled. These instruments may therefore be omitted, but should be used if at all possible as their colors are integral to the moods of the piece.


Performers should be generous with their interpretations of the composer’s stylistic markings as therein lies the piece’s dramatic effect. The band should play with a variety of tone colors depending on the emotional intent of the music. For example, the rock riffs in movement two will require a brighter tone quality with a bit more edge than the warm lyrical lines of movement one. Performers can cut loose and exaggerate the articulations and ornaments of the blues section at the beginning of movement four, etc.


Finally, the metronome markings in the score should be used as a guide, but are up for interpretation by the conductor. The piece should last approximately between 10-11 minutes including a brief pause between the inner movements.





2 Flutes


English Horn

2 Bassoons


Eb Clarinet

3 Bb Clarinets

Bass Clarinet

Contrabass Clarinet

Soprano Sax

Alto Sax

Tenor Sax

Baritone Sax


4 Bb Trumpets

4 Horns in F

3 Trombones



6 Percussionists

YBOR SKETCHES Oversized Score (Digital Download)

  • Score 11x17