The Trace

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The Trace, op. 252
Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Mu (Mississippi)
2023 – grade 4 – 5:30


The Natchez Trace is a historic forest trail that begins near Nashville, Tennessee and winds its way for 440 miles through Alabama and Mississippi, ending at Natchez on the Mississippi River. Used for centuries by the indigenous people living in this area of the country, it later became a vital trade link in the 18th and 19th centuries. Although parts of the original footpath are still accessible, this beautiful area is now traversed by the Natchez Trace Parkway allowing visitors to enjoy a leisurely drive without  commercial vehicles, and take part in hiking, biking and camping activities.

When asked to write a piece for the Mississippi chapter of the international bandmasters fraternity, Phi Beta Mu, the Natchez Trace, this well-known feature of the state of Mississippi, seemed an obvious choice from which to draw inspiration. The piece is dedicated to John Gary Cook, an exceptional and much-loved band director and mentor to many. When I was approached about writing this piece, I was told that Mr. Cook had often said, "That Robert Sheldon... he sure can write a beautiful melody." With that in mind I have endeavored to write a piece worthy of his memory, using as much of my melody-making skills as possible while also attempting to honor him by referencing a beautiful and historic part of the state he so loved.