Clifford Towner, who received his D.M.A. in wind conducting from the School of Music in 2011, is the new Music Director for the Atlanta Wind Symphony. He begins his conducting duties Nov. 6, which is the start of rehearsals for their Holiday Celebration concert. He will guest conduct Percy Grainger’s “Colonial Song” on their Oct. 28 concert.
“I was honored to take the position and am looking forward to working with this talented ensemble,” Towner said. “What I am looking forward to most is getting in front of them and making music. I had a great time during my audition and am really eager to continue our music making.”
Finding the right fit
UNL Associate Professor and Director of Bands Carolyn Barber said Towner is a good fit for the Atlanta Wind Symphony.
“Cliff was an excellent student with a talent for creating clarity in otherwise murky situations,” Barber said. “He has a strong analytical mind and a talent for motivating musicians. The Atlanta Wind Symphony will enjoy working with him and will thrive under his leadership.”
Towner, who is the Director of Band Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga., wanted to get back to working with a community band.
“I have always enjoyed making music with adult musicians in community bands,” said Towner, who directed the Anderson Community Band in Cincinnati for three years; the All-American Concert Band in Sioux City, Iowa, from 2006-2009; and guest conducted the Lincoln Community Concert Band in December 2009. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Concert Bands from 2007-2009.
“When I heard that the Atlanta Wind Symphony was searching for a new conductor, I jumped at the opportunity to apply and get back working with a community band,” he said.
The Atlanta Wind Symphony is more than 30 years old and currently has around 60 members.
“They perform an annual concert series that consists of four concerts (October, December, March and May), in addition to annual Memorial Day and Independence Day celebrations,” Towner said.
As Musical Director, Towner is the principal conductor and will serve on the Board of Directors.
Towner's progression to conductor
With his interest and background in the American community band scene, coupled with the training and insight he brings from UNL, he will be able to build upon their impressive 30-year history,” Barber said. “This is a great opportunity for Cliff, and I am very proud of him. He represents the best of what our Big Red University can do.”
In addition to his D.M.A. from UNL, Towner holds a Master of Music degree in music education from Wright State University and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He also taught in the public schools for 10 years in Cincinnati.
His interest in conducting began during his Introduction to Conducting course at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with Dr. Terry Milligan.
“Until that moment, my musical life had been solely focused on trumpet playing,” Towner said. “However, Dr. Milligan revealed to me, over the course of that year, that joy is found in leading a group of musicians. Now, 20 years later, I view my conducting role as providing artistic leadership by influencing the overall sonority of the ensemble.”
It was during his time at the University of Nebraska when he really came to understand this role. Towner said his preparation at UNL came in three areas: the continual development of the technical skill of conducting, defining the role of the conductor in the performing process and the importance and enjoyment that can come from research and sharing knowledge.
“Dr. Barber was extremely influential in my development and helped me to not only be able to understand my role [as a conductor], but to also articulate it clearly.”