Mallory Thompson ‘79, ‘80 MMus is director of bands, professor of music, and coordinator of the conducting program at the Bienen School of Music. She is the third person in Northwestern’s history to hold the director of bands position.

Thompson maintains an active schedule as guest conductor, conducting teacher, and guest lecturer throughout the United States and Canada. She has served as a conductor or clinician at the College Band Directors National Association regional and national conventions, the Midwest Clinic, the Interlochen Arts Academy, numerous state music conventions, and the Aspen Music Festival. Her professional engagements include guest conductor appearances with the United States Air Force Band, the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” the United States Army Field Band, the United States Coast Guard Band, the United States Navy Band, the West Point Band, the Dallas Wind Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Monarch Brass Ensemble, and Banda Sinfônica in Sao Pãulo, Brazil

What made you choose the Bienen School of Music?

When I chose Northwestern, my intention was to become an orchestral trumpet player. There were several factors that influenced my decision: 1) I was drawn to Chicago to be able to learn from hearing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; 2) Vincent Cichowicz was a world-renowned member of the CSO and had an incredible reputation as a trumpet teacher; 3) I had played for John Paynter ‘50, ‘51 MMus (then director of bands at Northwestern) as a member of the Minnesota All-State Band; and 4) I was drawn to the academic standards, size, and location of the school.

Which professors influenced you most during your time at the Bienen School of Music?

Vincent Cichowicz (trumpet), John Paynter (conducting), and Leona Wilkins, who taught elementary methods, a required course for my music education major. Professor Wilkins was magic in the classroom, especially when she stepped in to work with elementary age children! She was tough, brilliant, and a wonderful role model.

Tell us about a particular experience that impacted you during your time at the Bienen School of Music.

I always appreciated the spirit of friendship, collaboration, support, and fun that existed among the students. We worked hard, celebrated each other's victories, and supported each other when things were difficult. We also played hard (a foolish highlight would be painting the rock with our bare hands because we forgot paint brushes).

What lessons did you learn at Bienen that have continued to resonate with you in your career?

Practice time comes first. Listen. Wind and Song. Keep it simple. Be a good colleague. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Top three of your Desert Island Discs (any genre)

Richard Strauss - Four Last Songs, Jessye Norman
Johannes Brahms - Violin Concerto, Itzhak Perlman and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle: 20th Century Orchestral Masterworks, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


Mallory Thompson leads an alumni ensemble – representing virtually every major orchestra and US military ensemble – in a June 9, 2019 performance honoring the Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s 50th anniversary. 

See Dr. Thompson's full Bienen School bio and more videos

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