Episode 29: Alex Kaminsky, VanderCook College of Music

Episode 29: Alex Kaminsky, VanderCook College of Music

I hope everyone is enjoying their first days back to school! Please enjoy this episode with Alex Kaminsky, Director of Bands at VanderCook College of Music. We talk about Alex’s musical upbringing, transitioning to a college band, and repeating success.

Music credit: special thanks to Harrison Collins for permission to use his composition O rose of May, premiered by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wind Symphony in 2018 under the director of Alex Kaminsky.


Alexander Kaminsky was appointed Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music at VanderCook College of Music in 2019 after a highly successful tenure at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. He holds degrees from the University of Florida and Indiana University, is active as an adjudicator, and is in demand as a guest conductor/clinician across the country. Throughout his 30-year career as a high school band director, Kaminsky’s ensembles consistently earned Superior ratings at all levels of evaluation. In addition to earning Superior ratings at the FBA State Concert Band Assessment for an unprecedented 23 consecutive years (the last 13 of those years being with both his first and second bands), he is the only director in the history of the Florida Bandmasters Association to have had three concert bands from one school earn straight Superior ratings at State, and he achieved this three times (2009, 2018 and 2019).

Kaminsky’s bands have performed at the Midwest Clinic (2005, 2009, 2014, and 2018), ABA Convention (2014), CBDNA/NBA Southern Division Conference (2004 and 2014), FMEA State Convention (2014), National Concert Band Festival (2002 and 2012), and the National Wind Band Festival at Carnegie Hall (2009 and 2018). In 2018, the Stoneman Douglas Wind Symphony was named a National Wind Band Honors winner as one of only ten 6A bands in the nation. His marching bands consistently placed in the Florida Marching Band State Championship Finals, winning consecutive FMBC State Championships (2013 and 2014, 2017 and 2018) as well as being named a finalist band at BOA regional competitions.

Kaminsky has presented his clinic “How Can I Get My Band to Sound Like That” at various conferences and workshops, and his annual “How To Fix It” series at the FMEA Convention has been received to high acclaim, with over 900 attendees in 2019. He is a ten-time recipient of the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence and has been recognized with numerous achievement awards for education including Florida’s 2019 FMEA Secondary Music Educator of the Year Award, FBA Oliver Hobbs Award, FBA Andrew J. Crew Award, National Honor Roll’s Outstanding American Teacher, Nobel Educator of Distinction, Teacher of the Year, and is listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Kaminsky is a Conn-Selmer Educational Clinician and is an elected member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and the American School Band Directors’ Association. He has served on numerous state and national committees, and currently serves on the ABA Sousa/Ostwald Award Committee and the ABA School Bands Task Force. He has been featured in several periodicals including The Instrumentalist, Teaching Music, School Band & Orchestra Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make A Difference” and Home Magazine’s “12 Exceptional Educators.”

Episode 28: Matt Temple, New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL

Episode 28: Matt Temple, New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL

Matt Temple discusses the music program at New Trier High School, philosophies on competition in music, and comprehensive musicianship.


Matt Temple was appointed Director of Bands at New Trier High School in 2007. He conducts the curricular Freshman Concert Band, Concert Jazz Ensemble, Varsity Wind Ensemble, and Symphonic Wind Ensemble. His extracurricular groups include Pep Band, Solo/Ensemble, Pit Orchestra for the Fresh/Soph Musical, and Lagniappe, New Trier's student-written musical. In 2008, he wrote a comprehensive wind ensembles curriculum that guides student instruction throughout the program. Mr. Temple earned a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree in conducting from Eastern Illinois University. He also completed an additional master's degree in educational leadership through Aurora University.

Under Mr. Temple's direction, the New Trier Symphonic Wind Ensemble has performed at the 2015 NBA Director's Workshop, 2012 Midwest Clinic, 2010 Western Illinois University Showcase of Bands, 2009 Music for All National Concert Band Festival, and the 2008 and 2009 University of Illinois Superstate Festivals. In 2014, the New Trier band department received national recognition as an inaugural recipient of the "Blue Ribbon Award" for Programs of Excellence from the National Band Association. Prior to his appointment at New Trier, Mr. Temple served as the Fine Arts Chair at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois, from 2000-2007, and as the music director at Flora High School from 1994-1998.

Mr. Temple is a Contributing Editor for The Instrumentalist and completed a four-year term on the Advisory Committee for the Music Educator's Journal. He is currently serving his second term as a high school representative on the Board of Directors for the National Band Association. Mr. Temple is a co-founding member and President Elect of the Illinois committee for Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP). In 2015, Mr. Temple was recognized by his colleagues with the "Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator Award" presented by the Quinlan and Fabish Music Company. He is an elected member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and the honorary society, Phi Beta Mu.

Mr. Temple has presented multiple clinic sessions at the Indiana and Illinois State Music Conferences including, "Analyzing for Meaning," " Student-Centered Instruction in a Band Rehearsal," " Writing Innovative Curricula for Performance-Based Classes," and "The Impact of Music Selection on Student Learning." In December 2014, he presented a session at the Midwest Clinic, and he will present there again this year. Mr. Temple has also presented at Northwestern University, University of Illinois, Illinois State University, and Ball State University. He frequently serves as a clinician and guest conductor throughout the United States.

Episode 27: A.R. McAllister, Joliet Township High School, Joliet, IL, Part I

Episode 27: A.R. McAllister, Joliet Township High School, Joliet, IL, Part I

In 1913, A.R. McAllister, a manual arts instructor who played the cornet, was asked to organize a band for Joliet Township High School. Mr. McAllister, who grew up on a farm in Jackson Township, bought a cornet at age 14 with profits he earned from selling his pig at the Will County Fair. He studied music under James H. Ward, director of Ward's Boy Band in Joliet. Prior to directing the JT band, McAllister organized the Trinity Girl's Band in 1905 and performed with local ensembles, including the Dellwood Park Band and Joliet Steelworkers Industrial Band.

Under Mr. McAllister's leadership, the band won state championships from 1924-26 and national championships from 1926-28. In their hometown, the band received permanent possession of the trophy in 1928 and was praised by John Philip Sousa (see photo below). The band was exempt to play at the 1929 contest in Denver, but performed as an exhibition group. In 1931, the band regained the national title.

In 1936, McAllister lead his young musicians through a week of nine performances at Radio City Music Hall where the band performed an Easter show with the Rockettes, playing for a total of 160,000 people. The band played for draftees, and was known as "the minute men" because they were always ready - day or night to perform for soldiers traveling through Joliet.

Mr. McAllister became a nationally recognized leader of the school band movement and was known as "the father of the high school band program." McAllister helped organize the National School Band Association in 1926. He was elected vice-president the same year before serving as president for 14 years. On Sept. 30, 1944, McAllister died at age 63.

Episode 26: Dr. Rodney C. Dorsey, Indiana University

Episode 26: Dr. Rodney C. Dorsey, Indiana University

Let’s kick off summer with an interview with Dr. Rodney C. Dorsey, Director of Bands, Indiana University.

Dr. Dorsey discusses his musical upbringing, building connections with students, competition in music, and warns us of the dangers of not ordering buses for our band.

Special thanks to George Quinlan, Jr. for helping to set this interview up and for providing an interview space at Quinlan & Fabish in Burr Ridge, Illinois.

FULL BIO from info.music.indiana.edu

Rodney Dorsey was previously director of bands and conductor of the Wind Ensemble at the University of Oregon. Prior to that, he was associate director of bands at the University of Michigan, where he conducted the Concert Band and the Michigan Youth Band and taught undergraduate conducting. He served previously on the faculties of DePaul and Northwestern universities, and gained extensive experience teaching in the public schools of Florida and Georgia. Dorsey studied conducting with James Croft, John P. Paynter, and Mallory Thompson. He was a clarinet student of Fred Ormand and Frank Kowalsky. Ensembles under Dorsey’s direction have performed at several state and national events, including the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) Regional Conference and the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival. His numerous professional memberships include the CBDNA, National Association for Music Education, Midwest Clinic board of directors, and the American Bandmasters Association.

Episode 25: James F. Keene, University of Illinois

Episode 25: James F. Keene, University of Illinois

“With most people of my generation, and the generation that preceded me, we tend to be doom and gloom because everyone isn’t doing it the way we did it . . . , no matter what people tell you, bands are better today than they’ve ever been.”

James F. Keene took a break from conducting the ILMEA All-State Honors band at IMEC 2019 to sit down with R. Scott Barnas and I to talk about adapting music for ensembles, the role of a university director of bands, and commissioning new works. Professor Keene also speaks about his experience with international outreach and talks about identifying quality literature for bands.

Special thanks to R. Scott Barnas for connecting all of us and for guest-hosting on this episode. Special thanks to the Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) for helping to make this interview possible at the Illinois Music Education Conference.


From music.illinois.edu:

In 2008, Professor James F. Keene retired from the University of Illinois School of Music, where he held the titles of Director of Bands and Brownfield Distinguished Professor of Music. Appointed in 1985, he was only the fourth person to hold the Director of Bands position since 1905. During his 23-year tenure at Illinois, the UI Symphonic Band and Wind Symphony, under his direction, were selected to perform for every major music conference in the U.S., have toured internationally and have performed in many of America's most prestigious concert halls, including New York's legendary Carnegie Hall and several performances in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. The Illinois Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band have produced one of the most extensive bodies of commercial band recordings. These recordings have been broadcast on National Public Radio in the U.S., as well as radio programs in Asia, Australia, and several European countries.

Mr. Keene is a Past-President of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He is a Past-President of the National Band Association, having previously served in several other NBA offices, and is a Past-President of The Big Ten Band Directors Association. For several years he served as chairman of the ABA/Ostwald Composition Contest, and is currently a member of the Editorial Board of The Journal of Band Research.

In addition to membership in several professional and honorary societies, Mr. Keene is an Evans Scholar, Past-President of the Champaign Rotary Club, and a Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary International Foundation. In 1993, Professor Keene was named as an honorary member of the Board of Directors of the International Percy Grainger Society in recognition of his devotion to the music of Grainger and he also serves on the Board of Directors of the John Philip Sousa Foundation and the historic Goldman Memorial Band of New York City. Prior to his appointment at Illinois, Professor Keene taught at all levels, including building nationally recognized programs at East Texas State University (now Texas A and M-Commerce), and at The University of Arizona.

In 2002, Professor Keene was named Honorary Life Member of the Texas Bandmasters Association, becoming only the sixth person to be so honored in the 55-year history of that organization. He is in constant demand as conductor, clinician and adjudicator and has appeared in those capacities in forty-four states and on five continents. In 2009, Professor Keene conducted in Australia, China and Europe, in addition to a busy schedule of appearances in the United States.

Episode 24: Melissa Gustafson-Hinds, O'Fallon Township High School, O'Fallon, IL

Episode 24: Melissa Gustafson-Hinds, O'Fallon Township High School, O'Fallon, IL

Dr. Melissa Gustafson-Hinds was gracious enough to sit down for an interview at our recent Illinois Music Education Association State Conference. Dr. Gustafson-Hinds speaks about how she handles working with students that might move in or out of her school, balancing a schedule that includes band, choir, winter guard, jazz, and a family, and her goals of doing “all the things.”

Check out FloMarching’s feature on O’Fallon Township during the band’s recent BOA Grand National Championship Semi-Finals speech (which was filmed before they knew they would be performing in their first ever BOA Grand National Championship Finals later that night).

Special thanks to Rachel Maxwell for connecting us and co-hosting this episode.


From www.othsband.com:

Melissa Gustafson-Hinds is originally from Monmouth, Illinois. Melissa attended Illinois State University, earning a Bachelor's in music education. While at ISU, she played oboe and English horn in the Wind Symphony, Symphonic Band, Symphonic Orchestra, and Chamber Winds. In addition, Melissa was a drum major for the "Big Red Marching Machine" for five consecutive years.Melissa taught for four years for Unit 5 Schools in Normal, Illinois, where she instructed all levels of instrumental music. During this time, she earned her Masters in Music Education at the University of Illinois.Her next teaching position was at Belleville Township High School - West, where she instructed Chorus, Concert Band, Instrumental Music, and Marching Band.From 2001-2003, Melissa was the music director at Centralia High School, in Centralia, Illinois, where she instructed Concert Choir, Symphonic Band, The Marching Showcase, Centralia Winterguard, Flute Choir, Jazz Band, and Pep Band. In 2002, Melissa earned her Type 75-General Administrative Endorsement from SIUE.From 2003-2008, Melissa was the band director at Collinsville High School, instructing the Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Pep Band and Flute Choir. Currently, Melissa is the band director at O'Fallon Township High School and is looking forward to many years of providing excellent music education to the band students of OTHS.  In 2010, she earned her Doctorate in Teaching and Learning, emphasis in Music Education from the University of Missouri St. Louis.  She is also helping to create the O'Fallon United Community Music School to provide music education to the 5th-8th grade students of O'Fallon District 90.

Episode 23: Gary Smith, University of Illinois, and Cody Birdwell, University of Kentucky

Episode 23: Gary Smith, University of Illinois, and Cody Birdwell, University of Kentucky

Happy Belated New Year! My colleague R. Scott Barnas and I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Gary Smith at the Midwest Clinic. We also had the pleasure of having a “party-crasher” show up; Dr. Cody Birdwell from the University of Kentucky was a welcome surprise to this interview.

Professor Smith talks about growing up in an arts family, his teaching career, favorite pieces of music, The System, and reflects on some of his highlights with the University of Illinois Bands. Dr. Birdwell reflects on teaching together with Professor Smith and how they worked together as colleagues to provide the best musical experiences for students.

Special thanks to Washington Junior High and Joliet All-City Band director R. Scott Barnas for facilitating this meeting and interviewing our guests!


Gary E. Smith
From the University of Illinois Band Page:

BA, Butler University; MA, Ball State University

From 1976 to 1998 and again in 2004, Gary was the Associate Director of Bands at the University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign, where he conducted the nationally famous Marching Illini, Basketball Band, Symphonic Band II, and taught marching band procedures and band arranging in the School of Music. 

Previously he served as Assistant Director of Bands and Marching Band Director at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, Director of Bands at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana, and Director of Bands at Northside High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1988 Gary was elected to membership in the prestigious American Bandmasters Association.  In addition, he is a member of Phi Beta Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, and Kappa Kappa Psi music honorary fraternities and participates in the College Band Director's National Association, National Band Association, and the Illinois Music Educators Association.

Recent awards include the University of Illinois Alumni Association "Outstanding Educator", the Mary Hoffman “Outstanding Music Educator”, the "Spirit of the Illini" from the University of Illinois Athletic Association and the Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service to Music Medal.

Gary has served as a consultant, guest conductor and clinician throughout the United States, Singapore, China, Australia, Japan, Canada, Ireland and France.  In addition, he is the coordinator of the pre-game, halftime and parade festivities for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl) and assisted with the production of the 2005 Orange Bowl Halftime.  In 2007, Gary served as co director of the Oklahoma Centennial All State Marching Band, which was be featured during the 2007 Rose Bowl Parade opening ceremonies.  Presently he serves as the producer of the annual DISNEY THANKSGIVING PARADE OF BANDS held at Disney World in Orlando, FL. and head clinician for the 2011 Marching Band Directors and Drum Major Clinic in Singapore

Smith is former owner and director of the Smith Walbridge Clinics for drum majors, flags, rifles, marching percussion, marching band student leaders and directors. Since 1949, these clinics have attracted thousands of high school and college students from across the United States and several foreign countries.

Several of his articles have been published in The Instrumentalist, The School Musician and the Band Director's Guide.  This guide, The System, "Marching Band Methods," is used as a textbook in several University marching band courses and marching band clinics.

Dr. John Cody Birdwell
From the University of Kentucky Fine Arts Page:

Dr. John Cody Birdwell is Director of Bands at the University of Kentucky, where his duties include conducting the University of Kentucky Wind Symphony, directing graduate programs in wind-band conducting, teaching graduate courses in instrumental conducting, history and literature, and supervising the administration of the University of Kentucky band program in the School of Music. Prior to his appointment at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Birdwell served as Director of Bands at Texas Tech University, Director of Bands at Utah State University, Assistant Director of Bands at the University of Illinois, and Director of Bands at Northern Michigan University.

Dr. Birdwell's ensembles have toured extensively throughout the United States, China, and Great Britain, and the University of Kentucky Wind Symphony was recently selected to perform at the 2013 National Convention of the College Band Directors National Association. Ensembles under Dr. Birdwell's direction have also performed at numerous CBDNA national and division Conferences, and have also performed for the Kentucky Music Educator’s Association, Texas Music Educators Convention, Texas Bandmaster's Association Convention, and the Utah Music Educators Association. In 2008 the UK Wind Symphony toured the People’s Republic of China, and performed to capacity audiences in the cities of Suzhou, Yangzhou, Changzhou, and Beijing.  

Birdwell has collaborated with and premiered works by a variety of celebrated artists, conductors, and composers including Arturo Sandoval, Michael Colgrass, Luis Serrano Alarcon, Tim Reynish, Frederick Fennell, Dan Welcher, Donald Grantham, John Mackey, Anthony Barfield, Bob Mintzer, Mike Mower, and Adam Gorb.  Several compact discs, including the University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble “Distilled in Kentucky – Premieres from the Bluegrass State”, and “GO! – The Music of Bob Mintzer”, along with the Texas Tech University Symphonic Wind Ensemble “LIVE!" and “Diversions” have received acclaim from composers and conductors throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Dr. Birdwell is an elected member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and holds degrees from The University of North Texas and West Texas A&M University.

Dr. Birdwell serves as President-Elect President of the College Band Directors National Association Southern Division, and holds memberships in the College Band Directors National Association, National Band Association, Kentucky Music Educators Association, National Association for Music Education, Phi Beta Mu, Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Mu Alpha. He remains active as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator throughout the United States and abroad.

Episode 22: Robert Herrings, Director of Bands, Henry Middle School, Cedar Park, TX

Episode 22: Robert Herrings, Director of Bands, Henry Middle School, Cedar Park, TX

Going out of town for Thanksgiving? Our interview with Robert Herrings would make for great listening on that long car ride. Robert has some fantastic advice about objectives in band, what new teachers should do when they don’t know what to do, and programming for every kid in your ensemble.

Mr. Herrings has hands down one of the most impressive bands I have heard. The intro and outro music is Robert’s band performing Candide Suite: The Best of All Possible Worlds arranged by Clare Grundman and Grainger’s Shepherd’s Hey, respectively. You can also search Henry Middle School Band on Youtube for more impressive video and recordings from Robert Herrings and the Henry Middle School Band.

Special thanks to Chip De Stefano for the connection and for co-hosting this interview.

“The biggest shoes you have to fill are your own.”


Robert Tyrome Herrings, III is entering his fifteenth year of teaching and has been teaching at Henry Middle School in Leander ISD since 2004. Prior to coming to Leander ISD, he was the Director of Bands at Rockdale Junior High in Rockdale, Texas.

In 2003, Mr. Herrings received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he studied under Michael Haithcock, Jeff Grogan, Dr. Kevin Sedatole and Barry Hopper. While in college, Mr. Herrings was a member of the Baylor University performing wind bands, as well as a member of the Baylor University Golden Wave Band.

At Henry Middle School, Mr. Herrings conducts the Honors Band, assists with the Symphonic Band, Concert Band and beginning trombone class. He also teaches beginning flute and trumpet. Mr. Herrings’ bands have consistently received UIL Sweepstakes ratings, as well as unanimous first division ratings, Best In Class, and Overall Outstanding Band honors at festivals around the state. In 2009-2014, the program at Henry earned distinction as a National Wind Band Honors Class AA winner, and in 2008 and 2013, the Henry Middle School Honors Band was selected to perform at the Western International Band Clinic in Seattle, Washington. The program was named the 2010, 2014 and 2018 TMEA Class CCC Honor Band and was also selected to perform at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 2010, 2012, and 2016. In June 2011, Mr. Herrings and his program were awarded the prestigious John Philip Sousa Foundation Sudler Silver Cup Award, and in July of the same year, Mr. Herrings was named the Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Young Bandmaster of the Year. In 2013, the Texas Chapter of the American School Band Director’s Association awarded the Artie Henry Middle School Band the Outstanding Band Program Award. The Percussion Ensemble at Henry Middle School was selected to perform at the 2014 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Most recently, the Henry Middle School Band Program was named the Texas Bandmasters Association's Exemplary Middle School Program of the Year for 2018.

An active clinician and adjudicator around the state, Mr. Herrings is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association and the Texas Music Adjudicators Association. Mr. Herrings also serves as the TMEA Region 32 Middle School Band Chair, as well as the Region 32 TBA representative. He is also a mentor to new-to-profession teachers at Henry Middle School.

Mr. Herrings enjoys motivating young musicians to achieve the highest level of performance by sharing his extreme love and passion for music with them on a daily basis. He feels honored, privileged and extremely blessed to have a loving mother and grandmother, many great mentors, band directors and close friends who have influenced his career thus far.

Above all, his students have been his greatest inspiration!

Episode 21: John Thomson, Retired, New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL

Episode 21: John Thomson, Retired, New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL

John Thomson made the drive to Joliet to talk about programming, commissioning new music, and comprehensive musicianship. Mr. Thomson goes into detail about his musical career including his assistantship with Mr. John Paynter and his time at East Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania and New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois.

This episode has great information music teachers. I especially enjoyed hearing Mr. Thomson speak about a programming method for band that was influenced by Mr. Paynter, and his description of a Unit Study Composition for in depth analysis and understanding of music. My band is looking at commissioning a new band work soon; Mr. Thomson’s advice on seeking out composers and finding resources will be especially helpful to me as we endeavor this goal. I have also found my new favorite term, which I will borrow from Mr. Thomson: “Sonic Architecture.”

I hope you enjoy and learn from this episode. You can learn from and about Mr. Thomson at his website: www.johnathomson.com.

FULL BIO from www.johnathomson.com:

John A. Thomson received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied with Richard Strange and Philip Catelinet. While completing course work towards a PhD in Music Education at Northwestern University, he served for two years as a Teaching Assistant in both the Departments of Conducting and Performing Organizations and Music Education, where he studied with John Paynter and Bennett Reimer. 

Mr. Thomson was the Director of Bands at East Allegheny High School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1967 to 1981.  Under his direction, East Allegheny bands presented feature performances at the 1976 Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinic, the 1975 Music Educators National Conference Eastern Regional Meeting, two Mid-East Instrumental Music Conferences in 1973 and 1977, and three Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Conferences in 1970, 1975 and 1980.

From 1982 to 2007, Mr. Thomson was Director of Bands at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois.  In 1984, the wind ensemble completed a successful concert tour of Switzerland, Germany and Holland.  He conducted a NewTrier Honor Band on a concert tour of Hawaii and Australia in 1998.  Under his direction, New Trier wind ensembles have performed at the l990 Western Illinois University Band “Showcase”, the l989, l993, 1998 and 2007 Illinois Music Educators Association All-State Conferences, the l985 and l990 Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinics, the 1994 Music Educators National Conference National Biennial In-Service Conference, the 1996 Atlanta International Band and Orchestra Conference, the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Superstate Festivals at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and the 2003 Chicagoland “Invitational” Band Festival.  The wind ensemble received the Downbeat Magazine Award for best classical instrumental ensemble (band) in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2004. 

For twenty-three years, Mr. Thomson was a conductor at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan, and conducted the 1992 Blue Lake International Symphonic Band on the ensemble’s four week performance tour in Europe. He has served the Illinois Music Educators Association as District VII Band Chair and as a member of the All-State selection committee.

Currently, Mr. Thomson is an adjunct professor in music education at Roosevelt University in Chicago, observes student teachers for Northwestern University, and is active as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator. He is a Contributing Editor and New Music Reviewer for THE INSTRUMENTALIST Magazine.

Personal awards include several National Band Association Citations of Excellence “for outstanding contributions to bands and band music”, the American School Band Directors Association Stanbury Award “for outstanding achievement in the advancement of school band programs”, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Award for “dedicating his life to his students so that they would not only be better musicians, but better people”, the Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator Award “in recognition of outstanding leadership and excellence in professional music education” and the Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Bandmaster Award “for consistently producing the highest quality performing ensembles”.  He has been inducted into the Phi Beta Mu Illinois Band Directors Hall of Fame at Northwestern University.

Professional affiliations include the American Bandmasters Association (Goldman Citation Award Committee), National Band Association (Revelli Composition Award Committee), American School Band Directors Association (Past State Chairman),  Music Educators National Conference, Illinois Music Educators Association (Past District VII Band Chair), International Association of Jazz Educators, Phi Beta Mu, and Phi Mu Alpha.

Mr. Thomson lives in Wilmette, Illinois, with his wife Susan and sons, Brian and Will.

Episode 20: Bruce Pearson, Author/Music Educator, Tradition of Excellence

Episode 20: Bruce Pearson, Author/Music Educator, Tradition of Excellence

Bruce Pearson is the first composer I ever played, so this was a particular treat to interview him.  Dr. Pearson outlines his career teaching at all levels, discusses learning theories, and speaks about his experience writing and publishing music, including the Best in Class, Standards of Excellence, and Tradition of Excellence Band Methods. Dr. Pearson was also gracious enough to be my first long distance guest over Skype - my special thanks to him for sitting down in this interview.


BRUCE PEARSON is a world-renowned music educator, author, composer, and clinician. He is the author of the Standard of Excellence Comprehensive Band Method which has been regarded as the most important contribution to the band music field in the last three decades and for his first contribution, Best In Class. His new contribution, co-authored with Ryan Nowlin, the Tradition of Excellence Comprehensive Band Method, is a performance-centered curriculum that seamlessly blends time-tested and innovative pedagogy with cutting-edge technology. He also co-authored, with Dean Sorenson of the Standard of Excellence Jazz Ensemble Method and the Standard of Excellence Advanced Jazz Ensemble Method.

In addition to his method books, Dr. Pearson is well-known as a composer of many widely performed compositions for concert band and jazz ensemble. He has led clinics in all fifty of the United States and has been guest conductor and clinician, by invitation, of countries throughout the Pacific Rim, the Orient, Europe, and the Canadian provinces.

Bruce Pearson has taught at the elementary, junior high, high school, and college levels for over thirty years. Twice nominated for the prestigious Excellence in Education Award, he was recognized as “most outstanding in the field of music” for the state of Minnesota. In December, 1998, Dr. Pearson, “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music education,” was awarded the prestigious Midwest International Clinic Band and Orchestra Conference Medal of Honor. In 2001, he was awarded St. Cloud State University’s Distinguished Service To Music Award “in appreciation for lifelong contribution to music and music education”. In 2007, Dr. Pearson received St. Cloud State University’s “Distinguished Alumni Award.” That same year he was recognized as the first Patron for the Maryborough Conference in Queensland, Australia. The American School Band Directors Association conferred on Dr. Pearson the 2014 Edwin Franko Goldman Award “as a symbol of high esteem and respect, and as a measure of appreciation and gratitude for outstanding personal contributions to the school band movement.” Additionally, Dr. Pearson has been recognized as a University of Northern Colorado “2017 Honored Alumni”.

Dr. Pearson continues to serve as a guest lecturer, clinician, and conductor in addition to his work as a composer, arranger, and author. He and his wife Dee have been married for over fifty years, have three children and nine grandchildren.

Visit Dr. Pearson's website at www.brucepearsonmusic.com.