Aaron Copland - Rodeo – Hoe-Down

Lemn Sissay explores Copland's music from Rodeo with beautiful animation.

Originally composed in 1942 for a ballet called Rodeo, the Hoe-Down features two American square dance tunes and fuses evocative music and dance.

Rodeo takes us to the exciting, dramatic world of cowboys, cowgirls and the American West. A hoedown is a dance competition that is often described as noisy and riotous. The music is full of vigour and energy as the cowgirls and boys pair off.

This is music about real people and their folk tunes and customs; it's full of open plains, a sense of adventure and the American pioneering spirit.

Listen out for: The main theme of the Hoe-Down. It's actually taken from a traditional folk song called 'Bonaparte’s Retreat' by William H. Step.

Watch the full performance of Copland's piece by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Aaron Copland

BORN: 1900 / DIED: 1990 / NATIONALITY: American

Aaron Copland (pronounced AIR-uhn KOHP-luhnd) was possibly the most famous American composer of the 20th century. He was one of the first 'serious' American composers to carve out his own path amongst the much more famous songwriters and jazz musicians of the 1920s. His music is said to 'sound like America' and often features a large, open sound (like the vast American prairies), and complex rhythms (like cowboys on horseback). Copland was born and brought up in Brooklyn, the youngest of 5 children all living above their father's grocery shop. Copland learned piano with his sister and started writing down ideas at the age of 8.

By the age of 15 he had decided to be a composer and his love of European music led him to Paris and to study with famous music teacher Nadia Boulanger. When he returned home he began writing music in many different styles including three symphonies, four ballets and several film scores. He also became a great teacher and supporter of younger composers. After his death from Alzheimer's disease he left most of his fortune to the Aaron Copland Fund for Composers which supports young composers and performing groups. The fund is so large that it will continue to support young musicians for decades.

MP3: Listen to or download the music

Download the Hoe-Down MP3

To save to your computer: PC - right-click and save, Mac - ctrl-click and save.

Aaron Copland

Lesson Plans

Six weeks of learning and activities Download lesson plans for six weeks of learning and activities for Rodeo - Hoe-Down, as Powerpoint presentations or PDFs. These lesson plans are ideal for music lessons, but you can of course use the Ten Pieces in many other subjects and activities. Take a look at our video masterclasses for inspiration.

To enable all images to work in the Powerpoint files please save the file to your computer. To save to your computer: PC - right-click and save, Mac - ctrl-click and save.

Primary lesson plans:

Suitable for:
Key Stage 2 in England and Wales
Second Level, P5-P7 in Scotland
*Key Stage 1/Key Stage 2 in Northern Ireland

Secondary lesson plans:

Suitable for:
Key Stage 3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Third and Fourth Level, S1-S3 in Scotland

Lesson plans by Rachel Leach

Arrangements: Play the piece with simplified parts

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together. See more information about the parts below.

Notes from the arranger:

By Iain Farrington

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together. A certain amount of simplification has been required to adapt the pieces for mixed-ability. Some pieces have been cut to allow a 3-5 minute general duration and to remove especially difficult passages of music. A successful rendering of each piece would require the essential melodic material and bass line which are often in the Grades 4/5 parts, especially in the piano.

There are scores for each difficulty level plus three other scores for each piece:

  1. Grouped according to ability
  2. Grouped according to instrument type
  3. 'Short score' in C, grouped according to ability

There are three ability levels – beginner, intermediate (Grades 1-3) and Grades 4-5.

  • Flute parts can be played by the violins
  • Oboe parts can be played by the flutes and violins -Trumpet parts (in B♭) can be played by the clarinets
  • Violin parts can be played by the flutes (except when in the lowest register)
  • The 'percussion' part is a beginner part and can be played on any drum. It adds a simple rhythm layer to each piece. Timpani and full percussion parts are for intermediate or Grades 4/5