BYU music director retires after 35 years

Don Peterson will retire after 35 years of teaching at BYU. (Brigham Young University Music Department)

BYU Director of Bands Donald Peterson will retire at the end of the school year after 35 years at BYU.

Peterson has held positions as Wind Symphony conductor, associate director of bands, professor of music education and Cougar Marching Band director.

During his years at BYU, Peterson has impacted countless students whether they are a band member or in one of his classes.

“Dr. Don has been an incredible mentor to me in my time here. It’s hard to put into words. He is incredibly passionate about what he does as a director. His first priority is always being an educator. He takes every opportunity to teach us how to be better musicians, better members of an ensemble, and just better people in general,” said Caleb Hodson, an instrumental music education senior.

Prior to teaching, Peterson received both a bachelor’s and a master’s in music education from BYU. He then went on to earn a doctorate in instrumental music and conducting from Arizona State University.

Following his schooling, he spent nine years as director at American Fork High School. During his time there, the concert, marching and jazz bands were recipients of many awards and recognitions.

“From the time I was young, I knew I loved music and I loved working with people. I knew what I wanted to do in 9th grade.” Peterson said. Although some people discouraged him in regard to the practicality of earning a degree in music or working as a teacher, he knew that is where he’d be happiest. While his determination resulted in a long and successful career, it also resulted in the important task of making a positive influence on all of his students.

Students say Peterson goes the extra mile by noticing the well-being of his students and doing what he can to brighten someone’s day. “He often takes time to sit me down and talk about how rehearsals are going and asks me what I think we need to work on, just to help me as a future educator be able to recognize what to do. He notices when I am struggling with school and life and helps me put everything in perspective so that I can keep going.” Hodson said.

After retirement, Peterson plans to travel with his wife and relax with their soon-to-be 18 grandchildren. He also hopes to still have the opportunity to work in schools when possible. Peterson has already conducted musical groups in about 20 different countries, so when asked where he’d like to visit, he said, “Anywhere!”

Peterson said he has one piece of advice he wants to leave with his past music students and any students to come. “Pursue your dreams. Things work out. The future is very bright for the students of BYU.”

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