University Director of Bands Steve Peterson ready for a challenge

Since becoming the director of bands and professor of music at the University, Stephen Peterson said he has realized the University truly values the band program.

“I feel a certain pressure and responsibility to make sure that continues in a positive way and continues to grow and keep it as vital as it has been,” Peterson said.

Peterson’s appointment was effective Aug. 16. He was previously the director of bands for 17 years at Ithaca College.

Peterson oversees all the concert and athletic bands, and he said he’s still getting used to the idea. Even though he has had the same title before, he said the program was much smaller.

He will conduct the Wind Symphony, the premiere ensemble of the University’s band program. Some of his responsibilities will include directing the graduate program in wind band conducting and teaching courses in advanced wind band rehearsal, literature and techniques.

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    According to Peterson, what got him interested in coming to the University was its tradition in excellence. He said it is exciting, as well as challenging, to be the next person in line to work to make the program thrive.

    Jeremy Loui, former band member and senior in Music, said he is thrilled to have Peterson as band director this year because “he brings a degree of credibility to the program.”

    “I believe the Illinois bands have been growing, and I believe Dr. Peterson will continue that growth this year,” Loui said.

    According to the Illinois Bands’ website, the University’s bands have more than 12,000 living alumni with degrees from every college on campus. The band program is one of the most historic and significant college band programs in the world.

    Lizah Doctor, alumna of the University band, said she hopes to see some additional changes to the instruments the band members use and the A.A. Harding Band Building under the direction of Peterson.

    While the band may have made the decision to start utilizing silver instruments in different sections, Doctor said she would like to see the band, as a whole, transition to silver instruments, because the band still uses outdated instruments. Additionally, she said silver instruments are aesthetically pleasing.

    Since the A.A. Harding Band Building is the “central hub” for storage, learning and practicing, Doctor said she believes it is important for students to utilize a setting they feel comfortable in.

    Jeffrey Magee, professor and director of the School of Music, said Peterson offers a mixture of exacting standards while also being down to earth.

    Magee said there were around several dozen applicants who applied for Peterson’s position. Although the final decision was up to Magee, he chose Peterson as per the committee’s recommendation.

    Magee said with the current faculty, there’s no limit to where the program could go.

    Peterson said this position is a nice capstone to what he called an incredible career, adding he has been incredibly lucky to have worked at these institutions.

    “I could have stayed where I was and taught another few more years and retired, but I was up for one more big challenge. And I got one,” Peterson said.

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