The Bienen School of Music has appointed Robert Taylor ’02 MMus, ’06 DMus as professor of conducting and director of bands, effective September 1, 2024. As the fourth person in Northwestern’s history to hold the director of bands position, Taylor will conduct the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, teach graduate and undergraduate conducting, and lead all aspects of the band program.

“Dr. Robert Taylor possesses the necessary skills, curiosity, care, and attention to detail that are required to lead the Bienen School's world-renowned wind ensemble program,” said Bienen School Dean Jonathan Bailey Holland. “His vision is rooted in tradition, while enthusiastically embracing new voices and methods of communicating through music.”

Taylor is currently professor of music and director of bands at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Previous appointments include the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and Eureka High School in northern California, where ensembles under his direction earned recognition by Downbeat Magazine, the Selmer Corporation, and Grammy Signature Schools.

He received master’s and doctoral degrees in conducting from Northwestern, where he studied with Mallory Thompson—the University’s third director of bands, who will retire at the conclusion of the 2023-24 academic year. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in trumpet and music education from Humboldt State University.

Known for innovative and immersive concert programming, Taylor maintains an active schedule as a guest conductor. Past engagements include performances with the Vancouver Brass Orchestra, U.S. Army Field Band, Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and the Chicago-based contemporary music group MAVerick Ensemble. Collaborations span a wide range of international artists—from virtuosi performers Barbara Butler (trumpet), Jose Franch-Ballester (clarinet), Larry Knopp (trumpet), Julia Nolan (saxophone), Daniel Perantoni (tuba), Jeff Nelsen (horn), Gail Williams (horn), and Allen Vizzutti (trumpet); to composers Mason Bates, Jodie Blackshaw, Steven Bryant, Raven Chacon, Michael Colgrass, John Corigliano, David Maslanka, Cait Nishimura, Joel Puckett, Alex Shapiro, Frank Ticheli, and Dana Wilson; to jazz, pop, and crossover performers Ingrid Jensen, Shruti Ramani, Manhattan Transfer, Kenny Werner, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

“His vision is rooted in tradition, while enthusiastically embracing new voices and methods of communicating through music.”

- Jonathan Bailey Holland

As a passionate advocate of music in the schools, Taylor is in high demand as a festival adjudicator, rehearsal clinician, and guest conductor throughout North America and internationally. His frequent appearances with young musicians include serving as principal conductor of the Puget Sound Youth Wind Ensemble and guest conductor of numerous honor groups, such as the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, National Youth Band of Canada, AMIS Asia Honor Band, California Orchestra Directors Association Honor Symphony, and many provincial and all-state bands across Australia, Canada, and the United States.

His research on wind literature, rehearsal techniques, integration of cutting-edge technology, and application of Ashtanga Yoga to improve body awareness and injury prevention in the training of nascent conductors and performing musicians has been featured in presentations at regional, national, and international music conferences, including appearances at the Midwest Clinic, College Band Directors National Association, and on several popular podcasts. Among numerous contributions in leading publications, recent research focuses on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging through contemporary, socially conscious programming. He is co-author of The Horizon Leans Forward, a book that amplifies the talent and voices of underrepresented communities in the wind band field.

Taylor is a Killam Laureate, Jacob K. Javits Fellow, and Thomas A. Davis Teaching Prize Winner, and has served on the executive boards of the British Columbia Music Educators Association and College Band Directors National Association (Northwest Region). He is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda National Honor Societies, World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, and National Association for Music Education.

Photo by Takumi Hayashi

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