Performing Arts


John F. Colson is a distinguished music educator and conductor who has accrued more than 45 years of expertise in the fields of music performance and academia. Joining South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, in 1965, he served as a professor of music and the director of orchestra and brass in the School of Performing Arts until attaining emeritus status in 2002. During this time, he conducted and served as the music director of the university’s Civic Symphony Orchestra, where he also coordinated 142 performances of musicals. Teaching the trumpet and French horn at South Dakota State University, he previously served as a band director of the Iowa City, Garner and Lake Park High Schools in Iowa in the late 1950s and a brass instructor at Adams State University and Bettendorf Middle School in the early and mid-1960s.

Alongside his primary pursuits, Mr. Colson played trumpet professionally in the Tri-City Symphony and the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra for eight years at each institution, and was a coordinator of the Contemporary American Music Festival in Brookings for 10 years. Between 1975 and 2002, he served as a program coordinator for the Brookings Chamber Music Society, having also been a guest conductor for many orchestra and band festivals in the Midwest between 1965 and 2002.

Holding a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Arts from the University of Iowa in 1955 and 1956, respectively, Mr. Colson has also lent his considerate expertise to numerous publications, most recently authoring the unpublished book “It’s Really All About Collaboration and Creativity: A Textbook and Self Guide for the Instrumental Music Conductor.” Earlier, he wrote the books “Conducting and Rehearsing the Instrumental Music Ensemble,” “Rehearsing: Critical Connections for the Instrumental Music Conductor,” “Braces and Brass” and “Rhythm and Pulse.”

In light of his outstanding feats, Mr. Colson has earned myriad accolades and honors. In 1990, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from Phi Beta Mu, having also been named an Outstanding Music Educator by the National Federation of Interscholastic Association in 2001. In 2019, he earned the Governor’s Award for outstanding service in arts education from the State of South Dakota and, in 2020, he was inducted into the South Dakota Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame.

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