Editor, McLerran Journal
Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Mesa at the 2017 Art of Band Conducting and Rehearsal Workshop at the University of Texas in Austin, TX. He is personable, humorous, and clearly passionate about his work.
Danny Mesa, from Miami, Florida, is currently a musician serving with the 25th Infantry Division Band (U.S. Army Music Hawaii) stationed on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Until recently, he served as the Senior Ceremonial Band Instructor at the U.S. Army School of Music (USASOM), and before that, was the Ensemble Rehearsal Director for the Student Concert Band. Mesa holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Florida International University (2004) and a Master of Music from Boston University (2007). For his service, he has earned several prestigious awards including the Cadre of the Quarter (USASOM), Basic Instructor Band and the Senior Instructor Badge (USASOM), the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Benjamin Harrison Regimental Medal for Excellence in Academics, Physical Fitness, and Leadership.
Mr. Mesa has always had an appreciation for the arts and enjoys the communal aspect of music, especially. Although his family has always supported and encouraged his musical aspirations, it was his high school band director who first inspired Mesa to pursue conducting. “Music education,” Mesa believes, teaches multiple valuable life skills including “leadership, camaraderie, work ethic, and responsibility” and for this reason, he proudly entered into the field to help others with the “growth process.” When the U.S. Army School of Music announced an opening, Mesa “applied as quickly as [he] could.”
Mesa’s duties at the U.S. Army School of Music included preparing the student Concert Band for two performances during a ten-week training course, teaching military traditions and marching fundamentals to the Ceremonial Band, organizing and instructing multiple chamber ensembles (known as “Music Performance Teams”), and directing the Faculty Brass Ensemble. Mesa has enjoyed opportunities to perform at countless festivals and ceremonies ranging from the Daytona 500 (NASCAR) race to events attended by former President Obama. Being a “history enthusiast,” Mesa appreciates the significance of celebrations like the anniversary of the U.S.S. Missouri (Pearl Harbor Memorial), at which he has had the pleasure of performing twice.
To music students who are considering the U.S. Army School of Music, Mesa advises, “if you have a passion for playing and want to serve your country, we encourage you to apply.” Prospective students must perform an audition with a Music Recruiting Liaison and complete basic training. After studying at the U.S. Army School of Music, graduates are assigned duty stations. For more information about the application process or career opportunities, visit http://www.ssi.army.mil/usasom/ or music.army.mil.
In order to make music sound emotional, Mesa states that it is the responsibility of the conductor to become “a part of the music” and to “tell its story.” As a musician in the ensemble would practice their individual part, Mesa advises extensive score-study and research about the composer’s intent; it is important to spend ample time with a score in order to develop an original interpretation of the piece and understand “how parts connect to one another.” Preparation is also a critical factor in Mesa’s teaching philosophy. As well as creating a positive learning environment, he believes that it is the director’s responsibility to provide students with as many resources as possible.
To aspiring musicians and educators, Mesa advises seeking out a mentor, attending conferences whenever possible, always being prepared, and employing patience above all else; “don’t try to accomplish everything at once.” He reminds educators to take a moment periodically to appreciate what has already been accomplished and to remember why we practice the art in the first place; “I enjoy sharing with the audience the emotion and art that is music […] and seeing the reaction.”
About his professional goals for the future, Mesa would like to continue to serve the U.S. Army, to improve as a conductor, and eventually, to enroll in a DMA program in order to teach at the collegiate level. Mesa is grateful for his wife, Nikki, for her understanding and encouragement and for his young son who “is always smiling, laughing, and cheering [him] on.”
Book Suggestions from Danny Mesa
“Beyond the Baton, What Every Conductor Needs to Know.” Diane Wittry
“The Rooster Bar” John Grisham
“The Gate Keepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency” Chris Whipple