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We Choose to Go to the Moon
Commissioned by the Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project
For wind ensemble OR saxophone ensemble

Full Orchestra
String Orchestra
Wind Ensemble
Solo Instrumental

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

--President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

In the fall of 2019 when I was asked to write a new wind ensemble work to accompany Mare Tranquillitatis, a piece I had written eleven years prior, I was both thrilled to revisit an older work that has meant a lot to me personally and nervous to try to find a way to bring ideas from that piece into the present and the future. As I write these program notes, we have not sent a person to the Moon in 47 years, but our drive to return there and go beyond is as strong as it has been in recent memory. For generations, we dreamed of traveling to the stars, and during the 1960s, competition with the Soviet Union finally pushed us to achieve manned space flight and travel to our nearest celestial neighbor. As President Kennedy said in his famous 1962 speech, we choose to do difficult things because they are hard, and because the reward is so much greater for achieving them. Putting people on the Moon and returning them to Earth safely was not without many trials and setbacks, such as the Apollo 1 tragedy; succeeding at this monumental task was a testament to perseverance. This composition is a celebration of the achievements of the intrepid astronauts, scientists, and engineers who made what seemed impossible a reality in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and also a reflection of the excitement surrounding the possibility of returning to the Moon and going beyond to Mars in the near future.

We Choose to Go to the Moon opens with the same floating A-flat major chord as Mare Tranquillitatis, but a sudden shift in harmony led by pitch-bending trombones and horns immediately returns us back to the Earth. After a few attempts to get going, a continuous flow of notes helps push the music forward while fragmented melodies interject. This music is restless and complex, reflecting the difficulty and dangers of sending people outside the comforts of our planet. A calm middle section features euphonium and bass clarinet solos, with rich harmonies that help the music become warmer and more stable. As the stream of quick notes returns, a contrasting chorale emerges that culminates in a celebratory explosion of sound.

    Wind Ensemble Instrumentation:
  • 1 Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons
  • 3 Clarinets in B flat, 1 Bass Clarinet in B flat
  • 2 Alto Saxophones, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
  • 3 Trumpets in Bb, 4 Horns in F, 3 Trombones, 1 Euphonium, 1 Tuba
  • Timpani, 5 Percussion (Glockenspiel, Marimba, Xylophone, Triangle, Suspended Cymbals, Crash Cymbals, Tam-tam, Snare Drum, Bass Drum)
  • Piano, Double Bass
    Saxophone Ensemble Instrumentation:
  • 2 Soprano Saxophones
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • 2 Tenor Saxophones
  • 2 Baritone Saxophones
  • Bass Saxophone
To purchase this piece, please use the PayPal buttons at the bottom of this page or visit Murphy Music Press.

Watch a performance by the Illinois State University Symphonic Winds, conducted by Dr. Mack Wood, from March 28, 2022:

Watch a performance of the saxophone ensemble version by the Columbus State University Saxophone Ensemble, directed by Dr. Joe Girard:

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Commissioned by the
Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project
for the 12th Annual Colorado State University-Pueblo Festival of Winds, February 2020

Consortium Members

Brandon Houghtalen, Abilene, TX
Charlie Goodson, Agua Dulce high school, TX
Leo Sakomoto, Bakersfield, CA
Leo Sakomoto, California State University, Bakersfield
Jim Struyk, Central High School, Burlington, IL
Neil Guy, Cherokee Trail High School, CO
Dan Bell & Kari Bell, Colorado Springs, CO
Alan W. Mills, Colorado State University-Pueblo
Matthew P. Bufis, Evanston Township High School, IL
Bert Johnson, Frankfort, IL
Justin C. Davis, In honor of Sgt. Charles F. Davis, Galesburg, IL
Anthony C. Marinello, Illinois State University
Nikk Pilato, Indiana State University
Demosthenes Dimitrakoulakos, International School of Luxembourg
Isaac Brinberg, Kansas City, MO
Carl T. Rowles, Kansas Wesleyan University
Michael Berning, Kettering Fairmont High School, OH
Bryan Miller, Leyden High School Bands, IL
Kelley Gossler, Lincoln Park High School, IL
Ted Ferrucci, Los Altos High School, CA
David Kish, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Matthew Sisia, Oyster Bay High School, NY
Raleigh "Butch" Eversole IV, Palmer Ridge High School, CO
Jerrod Cook, Plainfield South High School, IL
Christopher Render, Richwoods High School, IL
Matthew McInturf, Sam Houston State University
Jim Kull & Gil Wukitsch, St. Charles East High School, IL
Robert Pippin, St. Joseph, MO
Timothy Mahr, St. Olaf College
Micah Ewing & James A. Blankenship, Jr., Sycamore High School, OH
Sarah McKoin, Texas Tech University
Curran Prendergast, Truman State University
Nicholas J. Carlson, University of Illinois at Chicago
Amy M. Knopps, University of Missouri
Justin C. Davis, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Derek Shapiro, Virginia Tech
Jim Tallman & Lisa Parrott, Washington Community High School, IL
Curt Ebersole, Westchester Symphonic Winds
Michael Zens, Whitnall High School, WI
Mark P. Johnson, Wilkes Barre, PA
Mark P. Johnson, Wilkes University
Langston Hemenway, William Jewell College
Brandon D. Jones, Wittenberg University
Bradley Faryniarz, Woodhaven High School, MI

Premiere Performance
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Hoag Recital Hall
Saturday February 15, 2020
CSU-Pueblo Wind Ensemble
Alan W. Mills, Conductor

We Choose to Go to the Moon is published by Murphy Music Press and Roger Zare Music. To purchase printed wind ensemble scores and sets of parts, please visit Murphy Music Press. To purchase pdfs of the wind ensemble and saxophone ensemble versions, you may use the PayPal buttons below. If you need a quote for a purchase order, please contact me

We Choose to Go to the Moon
Performing ensemble
Date(s) of performance

Copyright © by Roger Zare Music, ASCAP. All Rights Reserved.