1966: Variations on a Korean Folk Song

John Barnes Chance (1932–1972) studied composition with Clifton Williams, Kent Kennan, and Paul Pisk at the University of Texas, Austin, where he received a bachelor of music and master of music and was honored with the Carl Owens Award for student composition. He served on the faculty of the University of Kentucky in 1966 and taught there until his death in 1972.

After college he played timpani for the Austin Symphony Orchestra before becoming an arranger for the Fourth and Eighth United States Army Bands. Chance was also a composer-in-residence for the Ford Foundation Young Composers Project in Greensboro, North Carolina, from 1960 to 1962.

John Barnes Chance

Chance won the 1966 ABA Ostwald Award for Variations on a Korean Folk Song, now a standard of the symphonic band repertoire. The piece is based on the song "Arirang," a melody the composer discovered while stationed in Korea with the Eighth U.S. Army Band.


Chance adapts the pentatonic tune to Western tonal harmony but maintains the Eastern character of the source material through the use of irregular phrases in the winds and prominent parts for temple blocks and other percussion, particularly in the final variation. The variations feature a number of contrasting styles, including broad wind chorales, expressive solos for oboe and trumpet, brisk march sections, and imitative contrapuntal passages.