Sacramento State Symphonic Wind Ensemble conductor Robert Halseth was recently honored by his peers for a lifetime of teaching music at all educational levels.
Halseth, who has directed the University’s Wind Studies program since 1993 and is an accomplished trombone player, received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the February convention of the California Band Directors Association.
The association is a nonprofit group comprising band directors from elementary, junior high and high schools. Its board has chosen Halseth to lead its all-star Honor Band three times – in 1991, ’98 and 2008.
In presenting the award to Halseth, the association noted that, “His deep knowledge, passion for teaching and learning, and genuine interest in helping people develop and rise to their full potential are an inspiration to all who have collaborated with him.”
“I was both honored and surprised to receive it,” says Halseth, who began his teaching career in 1964 at Fresno elementary schools, then moved on to stints at junior high and high schools in Oceanside, eventually taking his first university post at Carroll College in Wisconsin. He’s also played with bands and orchestras that gave him the chance to back up such performers as Cab Calloway, Vic Damone, the Manhattan Transfer and opera singer Beverly Sills.
And it all began with a Jimmy Stewart movie.
Just before Halseth entered eighth grade, he went to the theater and saw The Glenn Miller Story with Stewart and June Allyson. The biography of the big-band leader was a turning point. “I went home and said, ‘Dad, I’ve got to have a trombone.’”
Most people think of swing music or marches when they hear the word “band,” and it was the allure of “In the Mood” and “Little Brown Jug” that first caught the 12-year-old Halseth’s attention. “But as I got more into music, that got replaced by a love for wind band compositions by Gustav Holst and Percy Grainger and other music in the classical world, not the jazz world,” he says.
Those who have worked with Halseth refer to him as a “master teacher” and praise his passion for teaching.
“Great professors find ways to pass their heritage on to new generations, and Bob has devoted himself to the development of the next generation of great band directors,” says Sacramento State Music Department Chair Ernie Hills. “He is not only a great teacher, but he is someone who sees profound connections between our art and all of life.”
To that end, Halseth is particularly concerned about the cuts to school music programs across California because of the state budget.
“I’m very concerned about it,” he says. “I’ve spoken to many school boards, not very successfully I’m afraid, about the importance of music in the curriculum and in the development of a complete human being.”
Still, he says, young people considering a career in music should continue pursuing that goal. They may just have to look elsewhere. “There are jobs in other states. Don’t put your dreams on hold.”
For more information on Sacramento State’s Music Department, visit www.csus.edu/music or call (916) 278-5155. For media assistance, call the University’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.