Chance, John Barnes [Barney] (1932–1972)

By: William Pugatch

Type: Biography

Published: November 27, 2006

John Barnes (Barney) Chance, composer and arranger, was born in Beaumont, Texas, on November 20, 1932. Chance was purportedly a descendant of Robert Chance, a Mississippi gambler who settled in Southeast Texas in the late 1800s. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Floyd Chance, were natives of Southeast Texas. Chance was a prolific composer for band and wind ensemble. His music became known for its tonal and romantic style and its dependence on unique rhythms and a secure command of instrumentation. At the University of Texas, from which he earned the degrees of bachelor of music and master of music, he studied composition with James Clifton Williams, Kent Kennan, and Paul Pick. In 1956–57 he was honored with the Carl Owens Award for student composition. After college he played timpani for the Austin Symphony Orchestra before becoming an arranger for the Fourth and Eighth United States Army bands. While serving in Seoul, South Korea, as a member of the Eighth U.S. Army Band, Chance came across a pentatonic Korean folk song that served as the inspiration for his 1965 composition Variations on a Korean Folk Song, which became his best-known work. It featured gong, temple blocks, and other exotic equipment in the percussion section. The Northwestern University Band premiered the work in March 1966 at the American Bandmasters Association convention, where the composition won the Ostwald Award. Some of Chance's other important works include Incantation and Dance, Elegy, Blue Lake Overture, and Symphony No. 2. After leaving the army Chance held the position of composer-in-residence at the Ford Foundation Young Composers Project in Greensboro, North Carolina, from 1960 to 1962. He joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky in 1966 and taught there until his untimely death on August 16, 1972. He was accidentally electrocuted while working in the backyard of his home in Lexington, Kentucky.

Journal of Band Research, Autumn 1966. William H. Rehrig, The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1991). Stanley Sadie, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Washington: Macmillan, 1980; 2d ed., New York: Grove, 2001).


  • Music
  • Genres (Classical)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William Pugatch, “Chance, John Barnes [Barney],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 04, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 27, 2006

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