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Episode 145 - John A. Thomson

Everything Band Podcast

Release Date: 01/20/2020

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John Thomson enjoyed a hugely successful 40-year career as a band director at New Trier High School (IL) and East Allegheny High School (PA). He is also a contributing author to the Instrumentalist Magazine.

Topics:

  • John’s early career including playing trumpet duets with his father, how he got his first job at East Allegheny High School, and how he came to write reviews for the Instrumentalist.
  • A discussion of his program at East Allegheny High School and his thoughts about selecting literature including playing transcriptions.
  • The program at New Trier High School including his emphasis on sight reading and chamber ensembles.
  • Thoughts about being patient in your career, the importance of fundamentals to the band, commissioning new music, and raising funds for big projects.

Links:

Biography:

John A. Thomson received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in trombone performance and music education from Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied with Richard Strange and Philip Catelinet.  While completing course work towards a PhD in Music Education at Northwestern University, he served for two years as a Teaching Assistant in both the Departments of Conducting and Performing Organizations and Music Education, where he studied with John Paynter and Bennett Reimer. 

Mr. Thomson was the Director of Bands at East Allegheny High School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1967 to 1981.  Under his direction, East Allegheny bands presented feature performances at the 1976 Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinic, the 1975 Music Educators National Conference Eastern Regional Meeting, two Mid-East Instrumental Music Conferences in 1973 and 1977, and three Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Conferences in 1970, 1975 and 1980.

From 1982 to 2007, Mr. Thomson was Director of Bands at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. During these years, his ensembles regularly performed with established guest conductors, accompanied well-known solo artists, and collaborated with various contemporary composers leading to sixteen world premiere performances.  In 1984, the wind ensemble completed a successful concert tour of Switzerland, Germany and Holland.  He conducted a New Trier Honor Band on a concert tour of Hawaii and Australia in 1998.  Under his direction, New Trier wind ensembles performed at the l985 and l990 Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinics, the 1994 Music Educators National Biennial In-Service Conference, the l989, l993, 1998 and 2007 Illinois Music Educators Association All-State Conferences, the l990 Western Illinois University Band “Showcase”, the 1996 Atlanta International Band and Orchestra Conference, the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Superstate Festivals at the University of Illinois and the 2003 Chicagoland “Invitational” Concert Band Festival.  The wind ensemble received the Downbeat Magazine Award for best classical instrumental ensemble (band) in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2004. 

For twenty-three summers, Mr. Thomson conducted student and staff bands at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan, and conducted the camp’s 1992 International Band on their four week performance tour in Europe.
     
Currently, Mr. Thomson is a Contributing Editor and New Music Reviewer for THE INSTRUMENTALIST Magazine and is active as a clinician, guest conductor and adjudicator.  Following his New Trier retirement, he served for 10 years as an adjunct professor in music education at Roosevelt University in Chicago and has observed student teachers in the field for Northwestern University and the University of Illinois.

Personal awards include several National Band Association Citations of Excellence, the American School Band Directors Association Stanbury Award, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Award (sponsored by Bob Rogers Travel), the Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator Award (sponsored by Quinlin & Fabish Music Company), the Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Illinois Bandmaster Award and the Phi Beta Mu Illinois Band Directors Hall of Fame at Northwestern University.

Mr. Thomson is an elected member of the American Bandmasters Association and serves as that organization’s Goldman Memorial Citation Committee Chair.  Additional professional affiliations include the National Band Association (Revelli Composition Award Committee), American School Band Directors Association (Past Illinois State Chair),  National Association for Music Education, Illinois Music Educators Association (Past District VII Band Chair and All-State Selection Committee), Phi Beta Mu and Phi Mu Alpha.