Traditional ensemble music education has historically been dominated by “the big three:” band, orchestra, and choir. Demographic shifts in student populations as well as long-time calls for expanded curricular offerings have led to the creation of alternative instrumental ensembles in schools. This review of literature will address the following questions: 1) What is an alternative instrumental ensemble? 2) What role(s) do alternative ensembles play in the larger school music program? and 3) What types of alternative ensembles exist currently? Alternative drum and percussion, guitar, marching band, mariachi, steel pan, string, and technology ensembles have been profiled in the literature. Further research is needed to determine how school demographic factors influence the inclusion of alternative ensembles, the role of teacher education, how the ensembles are formed, if regional trends exist, and what funding models are in place for the ensembles moving forward.