Skip to main content

At 100, Paul Bryan to Be Celebrated at Wind Symphony Concert Saturday

Alumni return to pay tribute to long-time Wind Symphony director

Paul Bryan conducts the Wind Symphony and alumni in a 2013 concert honoring him.
Paul Bryan conducts the Wind Symphony and alumni in a 2013 concert honoring him.

Paul Bryan, preparing to conduct at commencement. There’s no keeping Paul Bryan away from returning to Duke University this weekend to watch the Duke Wind Symphony, which he led for nearly four decades. Not even the fact that he’s about to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Bryan will be in attendance for a concert honoring his birthday and his legacy at 8 p.m.  Saturday, Feb. 29, in Baldwin Auditorium. He will be joined by more than 100 Wind Symphony alumni, some of whom will join the current symphony student performers in playing a program of music that Bryan promoted and loved while at Duke.

“Paul Bryan’s impact on his students, the Duke Wind Symphony, and Duke as a whole has been tremendously meaningful,” said Verena Moesenbichler-Bryant, associate professor of the practice of music and the current director of the Wind Symphony.

“On Saturday night we will gather to celebrate his incredible legacy and his upcoming 100th birthday. The repertoire of the concert reflects on PB’s (Paul Bryan’s nickname) time here at Duke, the composers he worked with and commissioned, as well as some new works dedicated to PB and his beloved Austria.”

Bryan was professor of music and conductor of the Wind Symphony from 1951-1988. He organized and led the Duke Wind Symphony's semester-long Programs in Vienna throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Under his leadership, the Duke Wind Symphony performed concerts in Austria, Italy, Hungary, Germany and Czechoslovakia.

His influence extended beyond performance: His scholarship helped restore prominence to composers such as Johann Baptist Wanhal, a Czech classical musician who was praised by Mozart and Beethoven but later fell into partial obscurity.

Also an enthusiastic supporter of the Durham music scene, Bryan served for several years as conductor for the Durham Civic Choral Society, the Durham Youth Symphony and the Durham Savoyards.

His legacy is carried on not just through the current Wind Symphony, but also through his students, including current Associate Professor of the Practice Anthony Kelley.

“P.B. has been such a significant part of my life for so long,” Kelley said. “He was my undergraduate mentor who allowed me to experience one of his coveted, life-changing study-abroad programs touring Vienna, Austria, with the Duke Wind Symphony. And even beyond graduation, he’s been one of the most cherished and remarkable friends anyone could ever imagine. P.B.’s Wind Symphony, and all of the camaraderie therein, served as the origin story of most of my best friends in life, as well.”

Bryan conducts in Baldwin Auditorium. The concert program will be filled from some of Bryan’s favorite pieces of music, including several works from his beloved Austria and from former students and colleagues, such as Robert Ward. 

Kelley has written a fanfare commissioned specifically for the concert.  Called “History’s Whispers,” Kelley said he wrote the “fanfare in blue” remembering the many conversations he had with Bryan about blues and vernacular music.

The concert is free. The full program can be found here. If you can’t attend, the performance will be streamed live on YouTube.