HSU Band Director Travels Internationally

August 14, 2019 Grace Sosa, Staff Writer

(ABILENE, Texas)–The World Famous Cowboy Band has performed in numerous countries, from Belgium to Iceland to Spain. This summer, Bill Harden, assistant professor of music and director of bands, traveled to Italy, Australia, London, and New York with multiple music groups.

Leading the Next Generation

Bill Harden explores the Cinque Terre
Bill Harden explores the Cinque Terre

Harden kicked off his summer travels with a trip to Italy with the HSU Choir from May 30—June 9. While Harden had responsibilities with the students, he also had free time to tour the Cinque Terre, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and Venice. He also attended the choir’s concerts in Florence and Verona.

“I enjoy traveling and seeing new places,” Harden said. “Getting to experience different cultures around the world is an amazing experience.”

Harden also served as a chaperone for the Honors Performance Series with the WorldStrides student travel company. The program selects students from all over the world to perform at Carnegie Hall. From June 18—26, he traveled to New York City with a middle school group. Harden made sure the band had their chairs, stands, and music in place for their performance. He also walked students to their meals, and directed their free time, including a Broadway show and a dinner cruise.

From July 14—21, Harden traveled to London with another Middle School Honors Performance Series. “I do believe that travels one of the best educational tools available,” he said. “If we could get more people to do it, it would help them have a better understanding of other people and cultures. Perhaps we could change a lot of what’s happening in the world right now.”

Bill Harden with H. Robert Reynolds
Bill Harden with H. Robert Reynolds

Harden’s final Honors Performance Series trip was with a high school group to Sydney, Australia from July 24—August 8. The group performed at the Sydney Opera House. During the week, Harden helped H. Robert Reynolds, one of the preeminent wind directors in the word. “He is a master teacher,” Harden said. “The energy that he puts into his rehearsals was incredible to watch. Getting to watch university conductors who have reputations for their successes is really neat.”

A Spirit of Adventure

Harden also made a much shorter trip to the Texas Cowboy Reunion Rodeo in Stamford, Texas for the Cowboy Band’s performance July 3—6. Harden is hoping to revitalize the Cowboy Band tradition of travel. Last year, he led the band to Branson, Missouri, and this year he has plans to take the band to New Orleans in February for Mardi Gras. The band has also been invited to a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland in 2021.

As a member of the Cowboy Band, Harden traveled to England, France, Switzerland, and Germany. “Those trips were a big reason that I want to give current HSU students the same experiences,” he said.

Harden's group of middle school students explore New York
Harden’s group of middle school students explore New York

When he was the band director of Odessa High School, Harden took his students on trips to New York and Washington D.C. “It was a joy to see their reactions,” he said. “There were always a good number of students who were on their first plane flight ever or even went on a train for the first time. It was a real joy to see students’ faces light up.”

Looking Forward

Harden says he is looking forward to having the students back from summer vacation and meeting first-year students. “It has been a joy getting to work with this age group and this type of student,” he said. “There have been some wonderful young people who have made this a really enjoyable transition year.”

The Cowboy Band’s first performance of the semester will be at the West Texas Fair Parade on Sept. 7 in downtown Abilene.