Alex Shapiro, composer


PAPER CUT: Materials page




for wind band,
recycled printer paper,
and prerecorded audio track.

Composed by Alex Shapiro (ASCAP).
2010; Duration 5:00.
Published by The American Composers Forum/Hal Leonard.

Grade 3 and beyond.
This piece is adaptable, and well suited for ensembles needing flexible instrumentation.

Click here to order purchase PAPER CUT

score cover

Quick links on this page






Alex Shapiro


Welcome! Here's a page filled with helpful information and materials for Alex Shapiro's electroacoustic band piece, PAPER CUT.

If you have purchased the piece and need the audio accompaniment tracks, please click here to email Alexis Lamb at the American Composers Forum BandQuest offices, and you will receive an email with the information.

Enjoy exploring this page, and email Alex to let her know if you perform the piece!





Kirchhoff and Shapiro
Paper Cut conductor Craig Kirchhoff and Alex, crumpled ball of paper in hand, at recording session, October 2010.


Alex is proud to have been the 2010 commissioned composer for the longstanding American Composers Forum BandQuest series made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. PAPER CUT, Alex's ground-breaking electroacoustic work for middle school band, sounds like an action film and has students performing on printer paper as well as on their instruments. The piece was premiered May 25th 2010 by the Friday Harbor High School Concert Band on San Juan Island, WA, with Janet Olsen, director.

Launched into its second printing in less than a year, PAPER CUT rapidly became one of the top selling pieces in BandQuest's distinctive decades-long history, and has been performed thousands of times all over the world.

Read the entertaining article Alex wrote about the experience for the Sounding Board magazine, titled Shredding With the 7th Grade: the Making of Paper Cut, here Sounding Board article

Sounding Board






Commissioned by The American Composers Forum for its BandQuest series.



Hal Leonard


Published by American Composers Forum
and distributed by Hal Leonard LLC.






PAPER CUT is distributed by the Hal Leonard Corporation.


U.S. Ordering information:

Score and parts: HL04003021 $60
Conductor score: HL04003022 $10

Please click on the logo to easily place an online order for the score, audio tracks and parts set.





You are welcome to share the digital PDF parts with your musicians, but for copyright reasons you may only give them access to the audio track that contains the click, and NOT the performance track.

Written permission from Ms. Shapiro is REQUIRED before posting a virtual (recorded, uploaded online) concert or performance. For non-profit schools or community ensembles, Alex Shapiro and Activist Music LLC are happy to grant the necessary synchronization and mechanical rights at no cost, with the explicit condition that PRIOR to posting, the Director will contact Ms. Shapiro to show her the audio and/or video files so that if necessary, she may offer easy (we promise!) recommendations for improving the final product before it is made public.

In most cases this involves (yup, this is a helpful checklist):

-- Assuring that the track is loud enough-- it is designed to be AT THE SAME VOLUME as the instrumentalists;

-- Assuring that the instruments are not dry-sounding and have enough ro om presence (reverb) to match that of the accompaniment track;

-- Assuring that the relative levels of the instruments are balanced, and that significantly problematic passages within individual tracks are muted for the duration of the distracting notes, in order to achieve a better overall recording and make everyone proud.

On this page, you will find a very helpful downloadable guide to creating a good mix while retaining whatever hair you might have left on your head.

Ms. Shapiro is always happy to offer helpful feedback, so never hesitate to email her: JUST CLICK HERE.contact




School Band & Orchestra


"PAPER CUT produces an aural and visual experience that is unmatched for music at this grade level and is easily one of the most original and interesting pieces written at any grade level in recent memory."

— Jeffrey Gershman, School Band & Orchestra, July 2013

To read the full review,
please click here




The LGBAC ripping it up! Photo: Annemarie Bain

Photo: Annemarie Bain.








Email Alexis Lamb at the American Composers Forum for the password necessary to download the free accompaniment tracks for any purchased set of Paper Cut. You will receive two tracks: one for performance, and another that has a click track mixed in with it, to use in rehearsal, and for the conductor's earbuds. You'll also receive the amazing curriculum that the BandQuest series developed specifically for this piece.

As a bonus, the track with the click is available below, to enable musicians to practice the piece at home! Email Alex Shapiro for the access code.

Each file is large, and will take a few moments to download. PLEASE WAIT until the ENTIRE file has downloaded into your browser before attempting to download it to your computer. And remember: the password and access code are case-sensitive. Thank you!





.wav file of the CONDUCTOR accompaniment track recording for PAPER CUT, with click track.

Alex Shapiro, electronics.


WAV file of Paper Cut track with click







(email Alex for code access)

PERUSAL ONLY; not for performance or duplication.




The following copyrighted score, parts, and audio files have been made available to you by express permission of Alex Shapiro, Activist Music LLC, and BandQuest. They are for your sole use! You are hereby granted the right to download these files once. Under no circumstances may these files be forwarded, shared, loaned, leased or sold to any other entity. Activist Music tracks the usage of all files. Besides: Alex is a sweet person and worked really hard on this piece, and you wouldn't want to harm her business, would you? Of course not.



.pdf file of the CONDUCTOR SCORE for PAPER CUT.

Perusal score






Zoom or Skype are a wonderful tool for affordably bringing Alex into your rehearsal of PAPER CUT, without having to book a plane flight! She has a great time coaching students on becoming expert paper players, and the difference between their musicianship at the beginning of the rehearsal and that by the end less than an hour later, is remarkable. Best of all, webhearsals connect musicians to the real person-- and the funny stories-- behind the notes (and shreds) on the music stands.


The best way to reach Alex is through email,
by clicking here 
email Alex

You can even send a fax (what's THAT?) to:
(270) 916-0093.

To see some examples of webhearsals, and the view Alex loves to share from her desk, click here.


A December 2012 webhearsal with Alex
in her studio on San Juan Island, and band director
Mary Bauer and Mt. Mansfield Union High School
in Vermont, rehearsing PAPER CUT.








PAPER CUT ripped it up at the 2011 Midwest Clinic!

VanderCook performance at Midwest


The VanderCook College of Music Symphonic Band, conducted by Charles Menghini, performed PAPER CUT on December 16, 2011 at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic held at McCormick Place West in Chicago, Illinois.


Listen to an excerpt of PAPER CUT
from the live performance:


Conductor Charlie Menghini writes:

"Paper Cut is a must for any director wanting to expand the musical horizons of their ensembles. A crowd pleasing work, every young band needs to add this to their repertoire as soon as possible. Your crowds will LOVE it...and so will your students. Enjoy and BRAVO to Alex Shapiro for this great addition to the educational band repertoire."

PAPER CUT is among the pieces on VanderCook College's 2011 CD, The 65th Annual Midwest Clinic, on Mark Records. Click CD for more info.




Alex rehearsing Friday Harbor Middle School Band


Alex rehearsing with the students at Friday Harbor Middle School on San Juan Island, Washington.







Program note for Paper Cut

What do teenagers like? Video games, TV, and movies. What do all these media have in common? Music!

I was thrilled to have a chance to add to the educational band music repertoire, thanks to the American Composers Forum's terrific BandQuest series. In my desire to compose something relevant to younger players, I decided to create a piece that sounds somewhat like a movie soundtrack, to which the musicians can imagine their own dramatic scene. I also thought it would be fun to make the kids themselves part of the action, and so "Paper Cut" has the band doing choreographed maneuvers that look as compelling as they sound. In fact, the band members don't even play their instruments until halfway into the piece.

Music isn't just melody; it's rhythm and texture as well. The unusual element of paper and the myriad sounds that can emerge from something so simple, offer a fresh view of what music-making can be and opens everyone's ears to the sonic possibilities found among everyday objects.

With a nod to environmentalism, "Paper Cut" might even remind people to avoid waste and recycle. Players can collect paper that would have otherwise ended up in the trash, and bring it to rehearsals. The piece might even be therapeutic, as students can take out their aggressions by ripping up bad grades and test scores!

Although "Paper Cut" was composed with middle schoolers in mind, it's also suited to more advanced musicians, since the paper techniques and the skill of playing against a prerecorded track are interesting for all ages. I'm delighted to introduce a new approach to concert wind band repertoire, and I hope that conductors and band members have as much fun with this piece as I had creating it.


Alex Shapiro
Summer, 2010





Teaching Music Through Performance

Two of Alex's unique electroacoustic wind band pieces for high school musicians, PAPER CUT, and TIGHT SQUEEZE, are featured in the field's best known book/CD series, Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Volume 10, edited by Eugene Migliaro Corporon and published by GIA Publications.






Eugene Migliaro Corporon and the North Texas Wind Symphony.


Eugene Migliaro Corporon conducting the recording of PAPER CUT in June 2014, for the CD included with Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Vol. 10.








Recording credits:

The University of Minnesota Symphonic Band, Craig Kirchhoff, conducting.

Alex Shapiro, electronics and mix engineering.
Jerry Luckhardt, session producer.











West Aurora Blackhawk Band, John Sierakowski, conducting.

October 20, 2015 in Aurora, Illinois.

(please note: the first edition of the piece had a tempo of
quarter = 88, heard here, and was later changed to quarter = 96).








Delaware Hayes High School Band, Andy Doherty, conducting.

May 2021, in Grove City, Ohio.








Jackson Middle School Symphonic Winds, Jonathan Rehmert, conducting.

February 5, 2018, at OMEA (the Ohio Music Education Association)
conference at Capital University.








Keokuk High School Symphonic Band, Jesse Deese, conducting.

March 3rd, 2023, All-City Band Concert, Keokuk, Iowa.






See the creative black-light treatment that band director Peter Guenther came up with when his students in the Owatonna 9th Grade Band performed "Paper Cut" at the Minnesota Music Educators Association Mid-Winter Clinic, at the Minneapolis Convention Center on February 18th, 2011 (the first edition of the piece had a tempo of quarter = 88, heard here, and was later changed to quarter = 96):






Peter Guenther started a trend! Here's another choreographed, black-lite performance of "Paper Cut" all the way from Singapore, with the Singapore American School Tiger Band conducted by Brian White, in May 2011 (the first edition of the piece had a tempo of quarter = 88, heard here, and was later changed to quarter = 96):




Want some advice for setting up your own black light performance? Here is a helpful guide from Peter Guenther:


pdf of notes





On October 16, 2022, the University of Alberta Concert Band teamed up with the honor band from École Archbishop MacDonald High School, and the result was a powerful performance of PAPER CUT--including many musicians playing from the balconys!--under the direction of conductor Meijun Chen. Here's the last half of the piece:






Here's an adult band, the LGBAC, conducted by Kelly Watkins, performing at Symphony Space in New York City, April 2015:





STREAMING MP3 file of the full recording of PAPER CUT (with original slower tempo of quarter = 88).


DOWNLOAD MP3 file of the full recording of PAPER CUT (with original slower tempo of quarter = 88).



Recording credits:

The University of Minnesota Symphonic Band was recorded on October 29th, 2010 at Ted Mann Concert Hall, with Craig Kirchhoff, conducting.

Alex Shapiro, electronics and mix engineering.
Jerry Luckhardt, session producer.





VanderCook rehearsal





Please note!


In late 2013, Alex Shapiro decided to slightly adjust the tempo, and speed the track up from quarter note = 88, to quarter note = 96, to make the music even more exciting and fun to play.


Subsequent published editions of PAPER CUT include the markings for the new tempo and track timings; nothing in the music itself has been altered. The total performance time is now 5:00.


If you purchased the first edition of PAPER CUT, the pdf to the right includes a list of the changes that can be entered into your conductor score. Please email BandQuest’s Laura Krider at LKrider@composersforum.org with any questions.


pdf of tempo revision



Click on the icon at right for the Paper Cut instrumentation list, program notes, rehearsal suggestions, and a diagram of the audio setup. See what this piece is all about!


Please note that this is a REPLACEMENT for the notes published with the first edition of the score set, and we encourage you to download it. And, please substitute the references to "quarter = 88," with "quarter = 96".

pdf of notes




Here's something VERY useful: a complete guide to the software and hardware setup for your ensemble room and performance venue.


pdf of tech setup guide




For musicians making a virtual performance recording of their part at home: here's a guide to basic recording and filming techniques!


pdf of recording guide




For anyone mixing all the files for a virtual performance recording: here's a guide to basic mixing techniques!


pdf of mixing guide



Click the zip file icon at right to download the wonderful curriculum materials which BandQuest developed for PAPER CUT. These include rhythm practice and warm-ups, three lessons for creating music, interdisciplinary lessons and readings, and assessment strategies.


pdf of curriculum




LGBAC-Brian Luke.


Rainbow paper in place, for the LGBAC performance at Symphony Space in New York City, April 11, 2015! Photo by Brian Luke.





The addition of a drum set part is encouraged:

A drum set part was added to PAPER CUT in 2011. If your score and parts set does not include this part, you may download a pdf of the part below.

The drummer should feel free to add the equivalent of a rock-style drum set part beginning with an intro fill on toms starting at measure 52 that leads into a steady rock beat at measure 53 (when the instruments first enter). Additional fills can be played at phrase endings.

The part can be split between separate players on hihat, snare, and toms, but if you have a drum set handy and a solid player, that works best. Once the drummer is tied in well to the tempo and feel of the track, it helps keep the band together.




CLICK HERE for the drum set part!


pdf of drum set part




Rehearsal and performance suggestions:

MOST IMPORTANTLY: this is a VISUAL piece! It's VERY important that each time the musicians play the paper, unless otherwise indicated they should hold the paper VERY HIGH above their heads, so that the audience can SEE the effect! This also ensures that the paper techniques can be heard, since if they're played low and into the music stands, they won't have nearly the same impact!



During the paper playing sections beginning at bars 20 and 28, musicians often have a tendency to rush (no kidding-- see video below-- everyone does!). Here's a helpful technique: after the group that first raises the paper above their heads to play the initial tapping figure lowers their hands to their laps before raising them again, have them subtly continue to tap the "answer" figure as the responding players do so over their own heads. This may help to keep players from rushing to the next entrance, and therefore keep everyone aligned with the track.



When the "crescendo rip" section arrives at bar 37, musicians should ham it up, and physically exaggerate the drama of tearing through the paper. Again, this is something that will look very cool to the audience, even if it seems a little odd for the players.



PAPER CUT includes some very high, sustained phrases for the woodwinds that are meant to challenge younger musicians-- but not be TOO uncomfortable. So please allow any player of piccolo, flute and clarinet to play an octave lower if they desire. Specifically, if preferable:

The piccolo and flutes can play down an octave in bars 72- 103.

The clarinets can play down an octave in bars 84-87, and in bar 95.



As a band director, please feel free to be as experimental and creative as you wish with this piece! It naturally lends itself to any lighting, choreography or other multimedia additions you can think of!



If desired, the musicians can use their mouths and voices to imitate and bolster the sound of the paper being ripped in measures 36-43.



Please avoid converting the performance track file to a lower quality MP3 file.





Suggestions for an even better performance:

The synchronization of the band with the accompaniment track is paramount, and too often, if the percussion section diverts from the tempo, the rest of the band will naturally follow them because it's likely that they're louder than what's being heard on the stage monitors. THUS: if at all possible, please either have your percussionists wear earbuds playing back the track with the click, just as the conductor hears, or, set up one or two stage monitors (playing back the track without the click) very close to the percussion section, in addition to those that face the rest of the band.



It's imperative that the volume of the track equals that of the band, to create a seamless melding of sound. However, the added "washiness" and textures of an accompaniment track can cause the live instrumentalists to become too covered up and not sound as "present. " It's recommended that the musicians should over-emphasize the dynamic and articulation markings in their parts, to ensure the most musical result.



Student encouragement:

The goal is for the track and the band to be at about the same volume level, so that the audience hears them as one instrument. However this balance will never be quite as apparent to the musicians! Playing to a track that is difficult to hear is a challenge, and it helps to encourage the students by reassuring them that, like movie actors who must perform on an empty stage in front of a green screen so that effects can later be added behind them, they are the musical equivalent of these actors!






Rehearsal track playback:

Band rehearsal rooms tend to emphasize the bass frequencies in the accompaniment track. If the playback system you use has a way to boost the treble response and somewhat lessen the bass response, please do so if desired.

A version of the accompaniment track with a click for rehearsal and for the conductor can be obtained here Article



Bring Alex right into your band room:

Alex Shapiro loves to use Zoom or Skype video sessions to interact with bands! These "webhearsals" allow her to talk with the students about the origins and creation of this unusual piece, answer any questions the musicians might have, and offer them a genuine connection with a living composer. The fee for one or more webhearsals is very reasonable-- email Alex if you would like to schedule one for your band. Read more about Webhearsals and see some examples, including the view Alex loves to share, here.










Errata from the initial 2010 printing:

Electric bass, measure 88: raise Eb up an octave assuming that the player's instrument doesn't go that low.

Alto saxophone part at bar 35: everyone who previously (at bar 32) crumpled paper, needs a new flat sheet to rip at bar 36. So it should say "TO NEW FLAT SHEET" at bar 35, and then at bar 36 the box should read, "NEW FLAT SHEET: crescendo rip down length of paper". Delete the "TO NEW FLAT SHEET" indication at bar 38, and change the box indication at bar 39 from "NEW FLAT SHEET: crescendo rip" to "SAME FLAT SHEET: crescendo rip".

Tuba, measure 93: can be taken down an octave if preferred.

Vibes, measure 72: hard mallets will sound best.



Errata from the second 2013 edition:

Tuba, m. 71: please crescendo the last two beats of the measure along with the rest of the band.

Everyone playing paper in bar 79 should also play a quarter note downbeat of paper at m. 80.

Trumpet 1: m. 86-87, please add a tie to the note (like the oboe).

Trombone 2, Cymbals, Snare, and Bass drum: m. 87, please add two 16th note paper-playing pick ups into m. 88., to match Bass clarinet and Baritone sax.

Electric bass and Vibraphone: m. 96, please add a tie into 96 to a half note, to match the rest of the band.








Saudi Arabia students say hello


In an adorable video from Saudi Arabia, made by band director Brian White's students in March 2014 at the Saudi Aramco Schools, the students promise Alex that they won't rush the paper playing at bars 20 and 28!




Alex at premiere


Alex addressing the audience at the Friday Harbor, WA premiere, 5/25/10.






Click to enlarge these pages from the conductor score for PAPER CUT.


page 1 of score 

First page


page 12 of score 

Page 12


last page of score

  Last page





Read Alex's feature article, Shredding with the 7th Grade: The Making of PAPER CUT, about her experience composing PAPER CUT, published in the summer 2010 issue of Sounding Board Article
LGBAC interview
Enjoy a conversation between Alex and conductor Kelly Watkins, prior to the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps performance of PAPER CUT at Symphony Space in New York City Article


Alex has written an extensive two-part article about electroacoustic band music and the uses of multimedia in the concert world. The essay, titled The e-Frontier: Music, Multimedia, Education, and Audiences in the Digital World echoes the presentations she has given at the 2013 Midwest Clinic, the 2014 TMEA convention, and countless other seminars, and appears in the June and September 2014 issues of the magazine of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, WASBE World. The pdf is offered here with the very kind permission of the organization.


Click here for the full .pdf file readThe e-Frontier





Michael Hatstatt conducts L'Orchestre d'Harmonie.


Michael Hatstatt conducts L'Orchestre d'Harmonie during an origami-decorated performance of PAPER CUT in Mulhouse, France, February 2020. CLICK HERE to watch the terrific performance!






Kirchhoff and Shapiro


Paper Cut conductor Craig Kirchhoff and Alex, crumpled ball of paper in hand, at the University of Minnesota recording session, October 2010.





Luckhardt, Shapiro, Guenther


Alex flanked by University of Minnesota conductor and Paper Cut recording producer Jerry Luckhardt, left, and Owatonna High School band director Peter Guenther, right.






One More Time


At the December 2017 Midwest Clinic in Chicago, Alex spoke with Sean Smith, the Assistant Director of Athletic Bands at the University of Illinois and the producer of its One More Time podcast series. The show focuses on women in the band world and features Alex describing how she came up with the idea for PAPER CUT (and proving that women are just as equally capable as men at suffering from writer's block!)


The link to the full show, beginning with interviews with Carol Berthold, Dr. Courtney Snyder, Dr. Andrea Brown, Prof. Paula Crider, and Dr. Emily Threinen, is HERE.


You can listen to Alex's segment about PAPER CUT, HERE. listen




In a September 2018 podcast with Britt Burns for The Indie Classical Podcast, Alex describes how she stumbled upon the idea of playing paper in PAPER CUT



"It means a lot to me to not only teach music, but to also teach values that I think are important. Your piece, PAPER CUT, has honestly been one of my favorites in my four years of teaching.

Not only did we create the music, but your piece opened the door for so much more. We had the age old, "What is music?" conversation. Is paper music? We created action plans about the school paper usage and recycling after bringing in a waste management professional to speak to the band. The conversation about reducing our ecological footprint is more critical than ever!

We also live in an area of Wisconsin where paper mills are everywhere. I took the students on a tour to learn about the jobs, learn how paper was made, and made our own recycled paper for the concert. The more I got into the piece, the more I wanted to teach. I could not think of another piece that can do so much, and I can't wait to teach it again very soon."

Jacob Martin
Band director
, Kaukauna High School
Kaukauna, Wisconsin










Want to learn the paper playing techniques? See Alex explain how to be a paper virtuoso (clip length: 4:48):




Alex demystifies the electronic element of PAPER CUT (clip length: 1:22):




Alex describes the process of working with a prerecorded track (clip length: 1:27):




Alex describes the process of conducting to a prerecorded track (clip length: 2:09):




Alex discusses the inspiration behind PAPER CUT (clip length: 00:34):




Alex talks about what students can learn from PAPER CUT (clip length: 1:31):




Guess what Alex would like to do next with PAPER CUT? (clip length: 1:41):




And finally, to complete the exploration of All Things Paper (and give you someone to laugh with), here's something that Eugene Migliaro Corporon shared with Alex after he conducted PAPER CUT in June 2014 for its inclusion in "Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Vol. 10" (clip length: 1:44):







Watch Alex work with the 7th graders at the Friday Harbor Middle school:







Watch Alex talk to the audience and introduce PAPER CUT at its Friday Harbor, WA premiere, May 25, 2010:







We've been collecting videos of PAPER CUT and adding them to a favorites list on Alex's YouTube channel. You can see and hear what other bands have done with the piece by clicking here.

Do YOU have an uploaded video of PAPER CUT to share? Let us know by emailing Alex: click here.








PAPER CUT was given its world premiere on May 25th, 2010 by the Friday Harbor Middle School Band, and was rewarded with a standing ovation from a packed house of over 300 people at the San Juan Island Community Theater (hey, that's a significant percentage of the tiny island's residents!). Thanks to all the students, and most of all to band director Janet Olsen!

Special thanks to Carey Nadeau, Suzanna Altman, Craig Carnahan and John Nuechterlein of the American Composers Forum for making this project possible, to Craig Kirchhoff and Jerry Luckhardt for making the recording a success, and to Thomas Duffy for his continuing vision for the BandQuest series.






Janet Olsen rehearsing Friday Harbor Middle School Band


Janet Olsen rehearsing with the students at Friday Harbor Middle School, San Juan Island, Washington.





Campagna and Shapiro


When Alex drove up to the entrance of Washington State's Kingston High School in June 2012 for her residency for their performance of Paper Cut, she was given a warm welcome by band director Adam Campagna and the students' efforts, both pictured above, thus making her a rock star-- at least for a few really fun days.








The VERY best way to reach Alex is through email, by clicking here Email Alex!

Email Alex!


For press information and licensing questions, please contact:

Alexis Lamb
American Composers Forum
(651) 251-2840
email: alamb@composersforum.org



Alex Shapiro at the Hal Leonard Booth at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, December 2014.

There's a lot more Shapiro
band music to hear!

Head on over to THIS PAGE for an overview of Alex's wind band pieces. You can listen to each one, read all about it via a link, and if desired, request a free pdf perusal score. Have fun!




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