Conducting a Program of Excellence
When Gary Corcoran joined the Plymouth State University music faculty in 1991, he had a vision of making PSU the summer destination of choice for instrumental music educators throughout New England. This vision led him to establish the New England Band Directors Institute (NEBDI) in 1992; first conceived as a graduate course for band directors and instrumental music teachers.
Now the institute annually accepts up to 160 participants from all six New England states and beyond. The institute is the only one of its kind in the eastern United States. Each year internationally known conductors, composers, performers, and educators work with school band directors to enhance their knowledge and improve their skills.
NEBDI’s success is due to an evolution of Corcoran’s original vision. Offering band directors and music educators the opportunity to earn graduate credit for participating in the institute eventually led to the creation of a 33-credit master’s degree in instrumental music education.
“I was anxious to design a program that school band directors would regard as relevant to their daily work,” said Corcoran. “Their role is a very important one in the musical lives of their students, and they are eager to learn new skills that will help raise the students’ level of understanding as well as their performance. I don’t know of any other master’s program that meets that challenge in quite the way that Plymouth State’s does.”
Carl Benevides, ’08G, is the director of bands and music technology at Souhegan High School in Amherst, NH, and has been attending the institute every summer for years. “One of the things I find most valuable at NEBDI is the connections and conversations with other band directors. In addition to the great featured clinicians in attendance, NEBDI is a wonderful sharing and social event. Gary always does a fantastic job of finding the best clinicians for us. Every time I leave NEBDI, I’m anxious to return to school and try out what I’ve learned,” said Benevides.
The list of guest speakers and presenters reads like a Who’s Who in the field of wind band conducting and instrumental music education. Corcoran is excited about what he has lined up for this summer’s NEBDI, which will take place on July 8-10 at Silver Center for the Arts. Composer Frank Ticheli (University of Southern California) will be joined by conductor Michael Haithcock (University of Michigan), Edward Lisk (conductor/author from Oneonta, NY) and Scott Rush (band director/author from Mount Pleasant, SC).
“In addition to attending classes, band directors get to read through and rehearse music conducted by these inspiring musicians,” Corcoran said. “This experience often reignites the passion that drove these people to become music teachers! When band directors leave NEBDI they are excited about facing the next school year, and that gives me the impetus to set about planning the next year’s institute. I find it very rewarding that NEBDI has come to mean so much to so many people.”