UNI’s Danny Galyen earns “lifetime achievement award” for band directors

UNI’s Danny Galyen earns “lifetime achievement award” for band directors

Anna Flanders /
Danny Galyen conducting

For the last 18 years, Danny Galyen has had an undeniable influence on the sound of UNI’s School of Music. He started at UNI as the director of the Panther Marching Band and Symphonic Band and now serves as the director of bands in addition to his role as a professor of music. His storied career led to him being elected to the American Bandmasters Association (ABA) last year and formally being inducted into the group this month.

“There are some really outstanding, legendary conductors in our field who are members of the group,” said Galyen. “So for me to be inducted and to be a part of the group and spend some time with some of these people who have made really great contributions to the field, that's pretty special. My colleague Dr. Mertz, who directs the Panther Marching Band, told me this is like the lifetime achievement award for band people. I really never thought of it quite that way. But it is. It is nice to have your work be validated by such a prestigious group.”

Founded in 1929, the ABA honors outstanding achievement by invitation to membership and strives to enhance the concert band and its music by example and leadership. The invitation-only professional organization’s membership is comprised of only 300 band conductors and composers in North and South America. Election to the American Bandmasters Association involves a highly competitive and robust evaluation process that requires being nominated and sponsored by several current members, submission of performance recordings, and a review of professional contributions. Seventy minutes of recordings of the UNI Wind Ensemble under Galyen’s direction were evaluated by the ABA Membership. 

The ABA has a convention every year where they premiere new band music and invite ensembles to perform. This is also the time when new members are inducted. Galyen was given the honor of conducting the President’s Own Marine Band at this year’s convention in Washington D.C. There was only time for one 15-minute rehearsal ahead of the performance.  

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking just because you have a limited amount of time, and these are people that I think are the best performers in the field,” said Galyen. “On the flip side, they're the best performers in the field, so it's almost impossible to make a mistake. They're going to play really well no matter what happens.”

Danny Galyen conducting the Marine Band

Galyen, a Virginia native, can trace his musical roots back to the sixth grade when he first started playing the trumpet.

“I’m a product of public school music education,” he said.

While Galyen began his undergraduate studies as an undecided major, his passion for his instrument and the positive experiences he’d had in band eventually led him to switch to music education. Upon graduation, he taught high school band for six years in his home state. He then went on to get his master’s in New York. Initially, he planned on stopping his education there and using his advanced degree to continue teaching at the high school level. But an influential professor convinced him to go for his doctorate and pursue teaching at a college.

Galyen taught one year at a different college before coming to UNI. In his current role, he conducts the Wind Ensemble and provides administrative and artistic direction for the eight ensembles in the band area. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in conducting, wind literature and music education. He also does outreach with high schools and middle schools.

It’s been a great fit.

“I think the quality of the ensembles here is the very best,” he said. “They play at such a high level, and they play with such a great sense of musicianship and expressiveness. They're a special group of students.”

Danny Galyen conducting the Wind Ensemble

“I think the quality of the ensembles here is the very best. They play at such a high level, and they play with such a great sense of musicianship and expressiveness. They're a special group of students.”


Whether directing the Panther Marching or conducting the Wind Ensemble, Galyen has always loved the community that is created when musicians come together around a common goal.

“There are a number of things I think that set our School of Music apart, but the most essential thing is the way the students work together as a family,” said Galyen. “They're quite a close community of supportive people. They support each other really, really well. The same thing is true of the faculty. We have a faculty whose primary mission is to invest in students. Our faculty would rather invest in a student than their own projects or research. That commitment to students is pretty special.”

Galyen adds that the world-class facilities in Russell Hall and the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center also add to the quality of the School of Music.

Throughout his time with the School of Music, Galyen has received numerous awards. Yet, the highlights of his career are the performances he’s had with UNI students.

“The students in the Wind Ensemble and I have had some really spectacular performances, some really emotional performances,” he said. “There are a lot of special moments that have happened in the rehearsal and on the stage. That's what keeps me going is because we keep having these really great experiences. I also had a lot of great experiences when I was the director of the marching band. That's a pretty special group, and a lot of great performances and a lot of great students have come through that program as well.”

Galyen believes his students will benefit from his membership with ABA, as it gives him a new group to turn to for support and mentorship.

“Every project that I do off campus, including this one, all of those experiences should eventually benefit my students at UNI,” he said. “So if I can go to this convention, and I can learn a new piece or get some advice — I don't know if the students will see it directly, but it's all supposed to make me a better teacher and make the student experience a better one.”