Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2009 | People

Richard Heidel

By IAM Staff
Talk about a tough act to follow.

Richard Mark Heidel already knew he'd have big shoes to fill when he replaced longtime professor Myron Welch this year as the UI director of bands. Then this past summer's flood left Heidel and the rest of the School of Music scattered across campus without a reliable place to practice and perform.

Fortunately, Heidel is up for a challenge. The associate music professor has 22 years of experience, most recently as the director of bands at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. At the UI, he directs the 55 musicians in the symphony band, teaches graduate courses, guides the graduate band conducting program, and coordinates the UI bands.

Heidel sees himself as a facilitator rather than as a controlling leader, enabling and encouraging students to be personally responsible and contribute more individually to the total success of the band. Ultimately, though, he decides what music the band will play. "I like to select diverse styles of music to give students and audiences a well-balanced and enjoyable program," he says. "That way, students can feel as though they have grown in some way by experiencing the music."

FAVORITE COMPOSERS: 20th century American composers Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland.

FAVORITE MUSIC ERA: The 20th century. "Music went in so many directions, unbridled by tradition."

FAVORITE INSTRUMENT: The trumpet, which he's played since the sixth grade.

FAVORITE TRADITIONAL COMPOSITION: Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms.

FAVORITE MODERN COMPOSITION: The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. "Composed in 1913, it was the groundbreaking, signature piece that launched the modern period of music."

FAVORITE SONG: "With or Without You" by U2. "I remember hearing the song in the late '80s, and it has remained one of my favorites from the first time I heard it."

FAVORITE POPULAR ARTISTS: Josh Groban, John Mayer, and Sarah Brightman.

LAST BOOK I READ: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander.

FAVORITE MOVIE: The Dark Knight.

FAVORITE MUSICAL: West Side Story. "It's pivotal, because it changed the direction of the modern musical from a feel-good comedy, like Oklahoma and South Pacific, into a raw and highly charged story. West Side Story dealt with the serious social issues of the time—such as gang warfare, interracial love, and Puerto Rican immigration—a bit like Rent did in the '90s."