Kentuckians in Music
Professor and Band Director George Boulden
Who As an associate professor of music and the associate director of bands at the University of Kentucky, George Boulden serves as the director of the Wildcat Marching Band and Basketball Pep Band. His other duties include conducting the university’s symphony and concert bands, supervising student internships, and teaching other courses in the School of Music. Previously, he taught in public schools in South Carolina and Florida. He holds a Bachelor of Music in music education from UK and a Master of Music Education degree from the University of South Carolina. George has performed with the Lexington Brass Band and plays on its CD Good Company: The Lexington Brass Band, Live 1992-1996. Under his direction, the Wildcat Marching Band and Basketball Pep Band have served as the musical ambassadors for UK and have performed at the Outback Bowl, two Music City Bowl games, a Bands of America Regional Championship, and three NCAA Final Four Basketball Championships.
“My childhood was spent in Louisiana, where some of my earliest memories include the music. It was everywhere! In early high school, I was heavily influenced by the intense jazz curriculum. The band director was a big proponent of jazz and encouraged us to participate in many competitions and festivals. At that point, I also became acquainted with classical music. When I moved to Kentucky during high school, my band director in Harrison County, Bob Gregg, was a big influence and encouraged me to continue pursuing music.
“At the University of Kentucky, I studied with some great musicians and music faculty, such as Harry Clarke, Vince DiMartino, and Gordon Henderson—these directors had a huge influence on the direction I would take after graduation. After graduation, I attended the University of South Carolina and served as a band graduate assistant for two years. Then I moved on to teach high school in South Carolina and central Florida. In 1995, I came back to UK to serve as the associate director of bands, utilizing what I learned as a teacher in the classroom as well as a band director on the field and in the concert hall.”
“My time mostly consists of preparing for classes and concerts. With any ensemble, there’s never a ‘typical’ approach. Something interesting is bound to happen when one instructor must communicate with up to 65 individuals, directing them to achieve a musically satisfying performance. Through mostly nonverbal communication, I have been as efficient as possible while getting each element of the group ready to play, all while performing in a full listening environment. The students relate to me, to each other, and to themselves via their instruments, while I communicate to them via my baton and verbal instruction. I often use analogies instead of technical instructions to describe what needs to happen at certain steps in the preparation of music. Being more expressive helps convey the direction of the music and motivates the students’ understanding, as opposed to just delivering information and expecting it to stick. In the classroom we strive to create a dialogue through this constant interaction—the students are able to express themselves while making unified musical decisions. It’s guided expression, avoiding cacophony and anarchy as each member brings his or her talents to the performing ensemble.
“We do a lot of listening in rehearsals, and I’m constantly looking at new scores and checking out new recordings to consider for future performances. I’m also constantly talking to colleagues in public schools, as well as other universities, about new music. I’ve been able to create a great network of past students and teachers who are involved at all levels of instruction.
“While it is great to learn from my own experience, I find that I learn even more from the experiences of others. As a result, I’m constantly working with my colleagues in the UK School of Music. And, since this is basically a student-driven organization, I also learn a great deal from my own students, especially about ways to communicate. Learning to follow is just as important as directing the ensemble.
“Time is the biggest challenge. I’m spinning many plates at once, so I have to stay organized and plan things far in advance. Everyone is busy and there’s always more to do, whether it’s preparing for a class, a concert, or an event. I work to keep the ‘assembly line’ moving, and I’m never really doing just one thing.”
When “I’m usually working between 9:00 am and 10:30 pm, but that varies if there is a concert or an athletic event. Sometimes I don’t make it home until after midnight! While I look forward to classes and teaching very much, there’s still a lot of paperwork and other necessities required to keep the music machine going. I also find that beyond my work as a teacher and conductor, I may be called upon to serve as a psychologist, travel agent, and life coach. I enjoy the multifaceted nature of my job, and I’m glad there’s no ‘typical day’—it keeps things interesting.”
“I’ve always had to examine carefully how I do things and how to relate this process to my students, since everyone has a different learning style and brings a variety of experiences to the classroom. One facet of my teaching involves modeling various modes of communication used to instruct large music ensembles. In this case, in the music classroom and with the arts, the rules are definitely not in black and white—there’s not one ‘right way,’ so you have to learn several ways to convey information and guide students. Of course, I believe I learn as much from my students about teaching as they do from me about music. I also firmly believe that when that stops, it will be time for me to stop.
“It’s also very important to keep things vibrant and alive in the classroom. As a teacher, I encourage and support the talents of each member of the ensemble as well as a respect for new knowledge, such as learning more about music from other cultures and genres. The more we learn from each other, the easier it becomes to communicate as an ensemble. This carries over into my work with faculty in our department and around the campus—synthesizing different levels and areas of expertise to create an exciting and creative learning environment for everyone.”
Why “The best part about this job is the opportunity to play great music with great musicians. I love watching our students grow through rehearsals and performances. After they graduate, I stay in contact with many of them, and, along with my own teachers and mentors, I have created a wonderful network of friends and colleagues.”
“To prepare for a career in music education, especially as a conductor and teacher, you must be a great musician on your primary instrument. It’s crucial to understand your own music abilities in order to communicate knowledge to someone else. It’s also very difficult to teach without experience, and I really benefited from my time teaching in public schools—it’s learning to walk before you can run. You get a sense of the real world since you have to relate directly not only with students, but also with parents, administrators, and other teachers. For me, teaching at the public school level allowed me to enjoy many positive experiences and provided some insight into the craft of teaching that I now share with my students at the University of Kentucky.
“Aside from trying to become the best musician you can be and developing your listening skills, both of music and of people, I think it’s very important to find a good mentor. For anyone to survive in this profession, it’s beneficial to have someone to approach for advice and support.”