A Spotlight on Dr. Damon Talley

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

 

 I had the pleasure of observing Dr. Talley at the 2019 SFASU Conducting Symposium and found him to be incredibly well-spoken and hilarious.

 

Dr. Talley is currently the Manship Director of Bands for the Louisiana State University School of Music where he is responsible for managing all aspects of the band department, teaching graduate level conducting, and leading the Wind Ensemble. About his decision to teach at the LSU School of Music, Dr. Talley shared that the Band Department there “has an incredibly deep rooted tradition of excellence in artistry and music-making” which he is proud and daily humbled to represent. His professional affiliations include the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA), the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA), Phi Beta Mu, and being an honorary member of both Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma. Dr. Talley is a supporter of music education in public schools and regularly serves as a guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator throughout the United States and abroad.

Dr. Talley was born into a musical family and quickly found an appreciation for the arts. He is grateful to the terrific educators he has been fortunate enough to study with, but credits his love of music primarily to his supportive mother who “provided every opportunity possible for [him] to be successful.” After studying percussion in grade school, Professor Talley decided to major in music education at the University of Texas at Austin (1998). He then went on to earn a Master’s in Wind Conducting from the University of Michigan (2002) as well as his DMA in Wind Conducting from the University of Texas at Austin (2008), where he studied with world-renowned professor Jerry Junkin (LSU School of Music). Other notable musicians he had the opportunity to study under include Professor Michael Haithcock (University of Michigan) and H. Robert Reynolds (University of Southern California).  

In addition to his position at LSU, Dr. Talley has also served as a public school band director in Texas for Kealing Junior High School (1998-2000), LBJ High School (1998-2000), and on the faculties of the Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin (2006-2011), the University of Michigan School of Music (2000-2005), and the Shenandoah Conservatory at Shenandoah University in Virginia (2011-2014). During his time at the University of Michigan, Professor Talley served as the Music Director and Conductor of the Dodworth Saxhorn Band (2001-2005), an ensemble based in Ann Arbor, MI that employs only musical instruments from the 1800’s and performs across the country year-round (Dodworth Saxhorn Band, 2018). Under the leadership of Dr. Talley, the ensemble was recognized for the superior recording quality of the 2002 album “Home Sweet Home,” for which they were featured on Best Classical Records, in Gramophone Magazine, by the American Record Guide, the International Trumpet Guild, and as a 2004 “pick of the week” on NPR. Professor Talley has also collaborated on recording projects with Naxos, Klavier, Equilibrium, Longhorn Record Labels, and the Teaching Music Through Performance in Band series. His time at the Shenandoah Conservatory proved equally impactful. In addition to his responsibilities as the Director of Bands and teaching graduate level conducting, he also conducted the EDGE New Music Ensemble, established the Mid-Atlantic Invitational Honor Band and the summer Instrumental Conducting Symposium

Dr. Talley is also a huge proponent of new music and has participated in multiple world premieres including Song of the Telegraph by Ian Dickey, Mountain Lake Photograph and Concerto for Piano by Zach Stanton, Radiant Child by David T. Little, Perseids by Alexandra Gardner, Junk Band by Dan Visconti, Autumn, a Song Cycle for Baritone Voice and Chamber Winds by Franklin Gross, and Ohm by Steve Mackey. With the LSU wind ensemble, Dr. Talley premiered a piece at the 2019 CBDNA Convention in Arizona. The work, Songs from a Silent Land, was written by Grammy-winning composer Michael Daugherty and included a performance by Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann. About the project, Professor Talley shared that he was excited to collaborate with so many talented musicians (including LSU faculty) and said about his ensemble, “These students work hard every day, and it’s so great to see that work be recognized at the highest level.”

When it comes to his teaching philosophy, Dr. Talley is a jubilant force who literally sets aside time to smile before rehearsals every day. At the SFASU Conducting Symposium, he spoke to us about the importance of finding joy in the mundane or stressful parts of the job and in the power of having a positive outlook. This philosophy also directly relates to his ability to connect with his students on a personal level; “humor helps keep us human,” he shares, “and life is fun, which is what it’s supposed to be I think.” This past spring, the LSU Golden Band from Tiger Land marched in the Zulu Parade (Mardi Gras) for the first time in history. Unlike many program directors, who separate themselves from the marching band, Dr. Talley does not take himself too seriously and walked right alongside his students down the streets of New Orleans in a uniquely Louisiana experience.   

To young or struggling directors, Dr. Talley recommends getting organized prioritizing your program’s needs and your goals as an educator. “We’re all busy,” he concedes, “but if it’s truly important, find time to do it […] How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” It is also critical, he believes, to expose music students (of all ages) to high quality recordings as frequently as possible. Taking the time to appreciate or learn about something new allows for a break from the monotony of preparing a performance and also encourages the development of artistic opinions; “The more music that you know, and the greater that variety of music, the more depth you can bring to the music at hand.” About his music-selection process, Professor Talley shared that he has a set list of approximately twenty five impactful works that he presents to his undergraduate ensembles on a rotating basis. In addition to this list, he makes an effort to consider the integration of faculty concertos and visiting musicians when choosing a program. Above all else, he emphasized the importance of having a good work ethic saying, “I am convinced and truly believe that all of us are about as good as we decide we are going to be.”

In the future, Dr. Talley would like to continue to be a part of high quality music-making, work to foster great musicians through education, and continue to commission new works from great up and coming composers.

Follow Dr. Talley and the LSU School of Music here.

 

Sources  

Editors. (2017). About the Band. Dodworth Saxhorn Band Official Website.

<http://www.dodworth.org/home.php>

 

Interview completed through email. April 2019.

Lousiana State University. (2019). Damon Talley. Faculty Profile. School of Music. Louisiana State

University. Baton Rouge, LA. Web. 20 April, 2019.

<https://www.lsu.edu/cmda/music/people/faculty/talley.php>

 

School of Music. (2019). LSU Wind Ensemble to Perform World Premiere of “Songs From A Silent Land” at

National Conference. Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge, LA. Web. 20 April. 2019.

<https://www.lsu.edu/mediacenter/news/2019/01/24windensemble.eb.php>